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Nutrient sensing, taste and feed intake in avian species

  • Shahram Niknafs (a1) and Eugeni Roura (a1)


The anatomical structure and function of beaks, bills and tongue together with the mechanics of deglutition in birds have contributed to the development of a taste system denuded of macrostructures visible to the human naked eye. Studies in chickens and other birds have revealed that the avian taste system consists of taste buds not clustered in papillae and located mainly (60 %) in the upper palate hidden in the crevasses of the salivary ducts. That explains the long delay in the understanding of the avian taste system. However, recent studies reported 767 taste buds in the oral cavity of the chicken. Chickens appear to have an acute sense of taste allowing for the discrimination of dietary amino acids, fatty acids, sugars, quinine, Ca and salt among others. However, chickens and other birds have small repertoires of bitter taste receptors (T2R) and are missing the T1R2 (related to sweet taste in mammals). Thus, T1R2-independent mechanisms of glucose sensing might be particularly relevant in chickens. The chicken umami receptor (T1R1/T1R3) responds to amino acids such as alanine and serine (known to stimulate the umami receptor in rodents and fish). Recently, the avian nutrient chemosensory system has been found in the gastrointestinal tract and hypothalamus related to the enteroendocrine system which mediates the gut–brain dialogue relevant to the control of feed intake. Overall, the understanding of the avian taste system provides novel and robust tools to improve avian nutrition.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Associate Professor Eugeni Roura, fax +61 7 3365 1188, email


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Nutrient sensing, taste and feed intake in avian species

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