Comparative Avian Nutrition.—Kirk K. Klasing. 1998. Oxford University Press, New York, N.Y. 350 pp., numerous figures and tables. ISBN 0-85199-219-6. $95.00 (cloth).
This volume is a comprehensive review of all aspects of avian nutrition, and touches on other subjects, such as ecology, morphology, and physiology. Organized in textbook fashion, the volume begins with an overview chapter of avian dietary patterns, followed by chapters on anatomy and physiology, digestion, nutritional strategies and requirements of different avian taxa. Five of the remaining six chapters are more detailed studies of the various nutritional components of food items (amino acids, lipids, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins) and their nutritional pathways and fates in an avian body. A chapter on energetics is also included. Dr. Klasing, a professor at the University of California, Davis, is an obvious expert in many areas of nutrition and appears to be well qualified to author this text. His own work has focused largely on poultry nutrition, especially regarding amino acid and protein metabolism and partitioning.
Dr. Klasing's obvious strength is his knowledge of aspects of nutrition once food has been obtained and digested. This reviewer is definitely more familiar with the topics covered in the initial chapters of the book, which deal mainly with adaptations for obtaining and digesting food. In general, I found the latter chapters of the book to be more in depth, almost certainly due to the author's strength in these areas. Earlier chapters varied in quality, though all hold useful information. The chapter on dietary patterns (chapter 1) in particular is brief and obviously meant as an overview. This in no way detracts from the book, which is focused on internal nutrition, but does force the reader to go elsewhere for details regarding external factors affecting diet. All other chapters are sufficiently in-depth to give at least a detailed overview of the subject matter, and in many cases are quite comprehensive. Organization of each chapter centers around the major topic, with variously detailed subsections or paragraphs for different physiological and behavioral processes. For example, migration is addressed in subsections of one or two paragraphs in 5 different locations, 3 in the chapter on lipids, 1 (on flight muscle) in the amino acids chapter, and 1 in the energy chapter. Other topics covered in like fashion include molt, egg-laying, reproduction, and development. Overall those subsections give a good basic review of the topic as it relates to nutrition and vice versa. That sort of organization makes it easier for someone to review other literature to address a specific behavioral or physiological process, however. Aspects not directly related to nutrition are often poorly addressed or mentioned briefly. For example, timing and periodicity of molt were mentioned only in a single sentence; “Most adult birds molt several times a year,” and with only a single citation for reference. This is despite good reviews of molt patterns in other literature, such as found in Avian Biology Vol. II (1972).
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this publication is the large amount of literature cited. These citations come from journals with a wide range of topics, including ecology, nutrition, physiology, poultry science, and wildlife biology. I am familiar with few recent citations directly related to the subject matter that were not included in at least one chapter of the book. This impressive review makes this text an excellent resource for researchers familiar with only one or two of these areas of literature, and can lead readers to other sources of information for topics that are poorly covered or tangential to the general focus of the text.
Overall, I found the book to be well organized and well written. The tables and figures included as visual aids are simple, well organized, and easy to understand. The focus of the text on aspects of nutrition once food has been digested is obvious, and makes the book more useful to those involved in research or teaching about specifics of nutrition. The price of $95.00 (cloth) will also probably make it somewhat less appealing to individuals not specifically involved in nutritional research or teaching a class in nutrition. Nevertheless, this should be a valuable resource for scientists in many areas of biology.—JOHN W. PRATHER, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701, firstname.lastname@example.org