Recent research suggests that foods eaten during laying and incubation play a greater role in supplying energy and nutrients to arctic-nesting geese than previously believed. We conducted food-supplementation experiments with Ross's Geese (Chen rossii) and Lesser Snow Geese (C. caerulescens) geese to evaluate: (1) if supplemental food was consumed by laying and incubating geese, (2) how food consumption influenced mass dynamics of somatic tissues of breeding geese, (3) if patterns of mass loss were consistent with fasting adaptations, and (4) whether energetic constraints would cause smaller Ross's Geese to consume more food relative to their body size than would larger Snow Geese. Quantity of supplemental food eaten by both species during laying and incubation was highly variable among individuals. Consumption of supplemental food during laying resulted in differences in overall body composition between control and treatment females. Treatment female Ross's Geese completed laying at a higher mass and with more abdominal fat than controls, whereas treatment female Snow Geese completed laying with heavier breast muscles and hearts. Overall body composition did not differ between control and treatment geese (both sexes and species) at the end of incubation, but treatment geese had heavier hearts than control geese. This suggests that treatment females did not rely to the same extent on metabolic adaptations associated with anorexia to meet energetic costs of incubation as did controls. Stable-nitrogen isotope analysis revealed patterns of protein maintenance during incubation consistent with metabolic adaptations to prolonged fasting. Our prediction that energetic constraints would cause smaller Ross's Geese to consume more food relative to their size than would Snow Geese was not supported. Mass-specific food consumption by Ross's Geese was 30% lower than that of Snow Geese during laying and 48% higher during incubation.
Additional publication details
Use of supplemental food by breeding Ross's Geese and Lesser Snow Geese: Evidence for variable anorexia