Journal Articles

Evaluating indices of nutritional condition for caribou (Rangifer tarandus): which are the most valuable and why?

July 09, 2021

Canadian Journal of Zoology 99(7):596-613

Rachel Cook (NCASI), John A. Crouse, John G. Cook (NCASI), and Thomas R. Stephenson

Body composition studies are critical for evaluating the accuracy of nutritional condition indices for predicting body components. We evaluated >40 indices of nutritional condition for caribou (Rangifer tarandus (Linnaeus, 1758)) using 29 female caribou captured from three populations in Alaska (USA) that ranged in condition from 2.3% to 11.2% ingesta-free body fat (IFBF) and 6 captive female caribou that ranged in condition from 8.1% to 26.0% IFBF. Estimates of body fat, protein, and gross energy were regressed against each index of nutritional condition. Generally, indices with linear or slightly curvilinear relations to body fat and those based on multiple fat depots were the most accurate in predicting nutritional condition and the most useful over the full range of nutritional condition. A scaledLIVINDEX (a combination of subcutaneous fat thickness and a condition score), CONINDEX (a combination of kidney fat and marrow fat), and a subset of the Kistner score (pericardium and kidneys only) had the strongest relationship with body fat (r2 > 0.86) and were useful over the entire range of nutritional condition. If used properly and with adequate training, indices of nutritional condition can be a critical tool for understanding the severity and seasonality of nutritional limitations in wild caribou populations.

body composition, body condition score, caribou, condition, fat index, kidney fat, marrow fat, morphometric measurements, nutrition, Rangifer tarandus, ultrasound