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Bone digestion and intestinal morphology of the bearded vulture


, : Bone digestion and intestinal morphology of the bearded vulture. Journal of Raptor Research 28(2): 73-78

The diet of the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) consists largely of bone. Two experimental birds fed a diet of sheep ribs had a mean digestive efficiency of 50%, with most of the food being digested within 24 hr. The digestive tract of bearded vultures is not unusually long for a scavenging bird of its size, and does not contain a region for mechanical breakdown of the food. The stomach contains a high concentration of acid-secreting cells, and experiments with bone fragments in acid solutions suggested that this is the chief mechanism for decalcification. A bone diet may have a higher caloric content than an equivalent weight of soft tissues. The ecological consequences of this unusual diet are that this species is able to survive in areas with a very low availability of carcasses.

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