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Use of fibre-optic endoscopes in studies of gastric digestion in carnivorous vertebrates.

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Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, Private Bag Rondebosch, South Africa.


1. Two methods of assessing gastric digestion rates of three prey types fed to Sooty albatrosses Phoebetria fusca were compared: removal of stomach contents, using a water-flushing stomach pump (a technique used commonly in diet studies), and inspection using a fibre-optic gastroscope (a previously unused technique). 2. The stomach pump yielded quantitative information, but proved stressful and resulted in incomplete recovery of meals ingested 3-6 hr before pumping. Gastric morphology of the animals studied and digestion state of their stomach contents may influence the effectiveness of this technique. 3. Inspection using the gastroscope yielded qualitative information only but permitted serial inspection of the same animal, and was less stressful than the stomach pump. Times for total evacuation of the stomach were 6-12 hr less when estimated using the gastroscope than when using the stomach pump. 4. The specifications of endoscopes relevant to their use by biologists are given. 5. Previous non-medical biological uses of endoscopes are given. Potential uses include underwater observations, sampling of digestive juices and stomach linings for enzyme analyses, observations of ingested prey, and assessment of parasite infestation.

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