Project proposal details

Please look carefully through the proposal details below. If you are interested in the project then contact the supervisor, explaining why you are interested and any background which makes you a good fit for the project.

If this is an external project, the lead supervisor may have suggested someone at Imperial College or the NHM who could act as an internal supervisor and you should also contact them. If the project is external and no internal has been proposed then you must find an internal supervisor before starting the project.

Please pay close attention to any extra notes on requirements (such as being able to drive or to speak particular languages) or the application process. There may be specific limitations on the project availability: if there are then they will be clearly shown further down the page.

Project title
The effect of feeding an omega 3 enhanced diet on the fatty acid composition of whole crickets fed to zoo animals
Contact name
Amanda Ferguson (Diet Management Officer ZSL)
Project based at
Zoological Society of London
Project description
Commercially bred crickets used for feeding zoo housed insectivores have a different nutrition composition than wild invertebrates. Zoo feeder crickets have higher levels of fat and the fatty acid profile is altered with a notable higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. In humans a high ratio is thought to be a contributary factor in the pathogenesis of many chronic diseases in Western societies, whereas diets with a low ratio, and higher omega-3 levels, are thought to have health benefits. Good diet management practice for zoo animals aims to mimic the nutritional values recorded in the wild diet, so this obvious difference is a concern for species relying entirely on an insect diet and particularly for those playing an ex situ conservation role where health, longevity and reproductive success need to be maximised. Research on the critically endangered Mountain chicken found ratios of 2.4:1 and 17:1 wild and captive diets respectively. This may play a role in the high incidence of carcinomas seen in this species.
Feeding hens a diet rich in omega 3 results in enhanced levels in their eggs, embryos, chicks and body meat. This has never been trialled with crickets but we expect this to be possible. Black soldier fly larvae fed fish offal increased their omega 3 PUFA content.
We propose rearing young crickets, sourced from commercial suppliers, on an omega 3 enhanced diet (flax seed oil & poultry meal). At sub adult (and/or adult) instar stage the crickets will be euthansed and sent to an external laboratory, Sciantec, to determine the fatty acid profile.
The results will establish whether dietary manipulation can enhance the omega 3 fatty acid content and omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of feeder crickets. This has valuable application informing the diet management of feeder insects to gain higher quality feed that should translate into better health for insectivores of all taxa held ex situ. There could be a positive impact on conservation outcomes for species in conservation breeding programmes.
The student should be prepared to visit the London Zoo site on three days per week to assist with cricket colony maintenance in the Reptile house (1 hour max each day for x weeks). The student will need to assign their grant to pay for nutritional analysis, any costs exceeding the grant available will be paid for by ZSL.

Jayson S, Ferguson A, Goetz M, Routh A, Tapley B, Harding L, Michaels CJ, Dawson J. Comparison of the nutritional content of the captive and wild diets of the critically endangered mountain chicken frog (Leptodactylus fallax) to improve its captive husbandry. (2018) Zoo biology. Sep;37(5):332-46.
Kartikasaria LR, Hughes RJ, Geierb MS, Makrides M and Gibson RA. (2012). Dietary alpha-linolenic acid enhances omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid levels in chicken tissues. Prostoglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, Vol 87 pages 103-109.
St?Hilaire S, Cranfill K, McGuire MA, Mosley EE, Tomberlin JK, Newton L, Sealey W, Sheppard C and Irving S (2007). Fish Offal Recycling by the Black Soldier Fly Produces a Foodstuff High in Omega?3 Fatty Acids. Journal of the World Aquaculture Society, vol 38, issue 2 pages 309-313.
Additional requirements
Interest in nutrition. Need to be able to assist with cricket colony maintenance in London Zoo Reptile House (max one hour per day three days a week -training given)
Available support
If have a grant some/all of this may be needed for analysis costs but ZSL will pay for any analytical costs beyond this
Date uploaded

Project proposal limitations

The project proposer has indicated that there are some limitations to the availability of this project. It may only be available at certain times of year or suit a specific project length. It may also need skills taught to students on a particular course or courses.

Research project proposals are usually part of an active research programme. If supervisors have stated limitations to a proposal, then they are unlikely to have any flexibility. If you are very interested in the topic but have problems with the stated limitations, the supervisor may still be happy to talk to you about other options around the proposal, but you should not expect that any alternative arrangements can be made.

Project length limitations
3.5 months
Suitable for
Ecology Evolution and Conservation