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Comp Biochem Physiol A Physiol. 1997 Nov;118(3):625-30.

Feeding and digesting fiber and tannins by an herbivorous rodent, Octodon degus (Rodentia:Caviomorpha).

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  • 1Departamento de Ecología, Facultad de Ciencias Biológicas, P. Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago. fbozinov@genes.bio.puc.cl


Differences in feeding rates and digestive efficiency of alternative experimental diets differing in cellulose or fiber and a secondary metabolite (the hydrolyzable tannin, tannic acid [TA]) were assessed with the herbivorous burrowing caviomorph rodent Octodon degus (degu). Degus live in open scrub subjected to summer droughts. The in vitro activity of the digestive enzyme sucrase was not significantly different between treatments with high and low TA. Analysis of the whole organism allowed us to conclude that in vitro analyses of enzymatic digestive activity and plant defenses cannot be used to explain and fully understand the physiological and behavioral effects of plant defenses on mammalian herbivores. We observed no body mass reduction due to effects of dietary treatments. O. degus seemed to compensate for nutritionally poor food by increasing gut content volume. We conclude that fiber and secondary compounds may influence feeding and digestive strategies and vice versa.

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