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Digestive physiology of captive giant anteaters (Myrmecophaga tridactyla): determinants of faecal dry matter content


Gull, J M; Stahl, M; Osmann, C; Ortmann, S; Kreuzer, M; Hatt, J-M; Clauss, Marcus (2015). Digestive physiology of captive giant anteaters (Myrmecophaga tridactyla): determinants of faecal dry matter content. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition, 99(3):565-576.

Abstract

Giant anteaters (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) are specialized insectivores and consume mainly ants and termites in the wild. In captivity, giant anteaters are either fed a complete diet, or a combination of a domestic carnivore diet with leaf eater pellets, or a traditional gruel-type diet. Soft faeces are a frequently encountered problem with this type of feeding. In the present study, we analysed diet and faeces composition, calculated digestibility and measured mean retention time on various diets in eight giant anteaters (total of n = 64 experiments). The results suggest that the digestive physiology of giant anteaters is similar to that of domestic dogs and cats in terms of nutrient digestibility and digesta retention. When testing correlations between faecal dry matter content and other variables, no relationship with dietary crude fibre content or mean digesta retention time could be detected. However, acid insoluble ash intake was significantly and positively correlated with faecal dry matter content. The amount of acid insoluble ash excreted with the faeces was higher than that ingested with the diet offered, indicating that the giant anteaters ingested soil from their enclosure of up to 93 g per day. This finding is consistent with observation of faeces of wild giant anteaters that contain soil or sand most likely due to indiscriminate feeding. It also corresponds to reports that indigestible materials such as peat, soil, chitin or cellulose contribute to a firmer faecal consistency in various carnivore species. Therefore, offering giant anteaters the opportunity to voluntarily ingest soil from their enclosure might be beneficial.

Giant anteaters (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) are specialized insectivores and consume mainly ants and termites in the wild. In captivity, giant anteaters are either fed a complete diet, or a combination of a domestic carnivore diet with leaf eater pellets, or a traditional gruel-type diet. Soft faeces are a frequently encountered problem with this type of feeding. In the present study, we analysed diet and faeces composition, calculated digestibility and measured mean retention time on various diets in eight giant anteaters (total of n = 64 experiments). The results suggest that the digestive physiology of giant anteaters is similar to that of domestic dogs and cats in terms of nutrient digestibility and digesta retention. When testing correlations between faecal dry matter content and other variables, no relationship with dietary crude fibre content or mean digesta retention time could be detected. However, acid insoluble ash intake was significantly and positively correlated with faecal dry matter content. The amount of acid insoluble ash excreted with the faeces was higher than that ingested with the diet offered, indicating that the giant anteaters ingested soil from their enclosure of up to 93 g per day. This finding is consistent with observation of faeces of wild giant anteaters that contain soil or sand most likely due to indiscriminate feeding. It also corresponds to reports that indigestible materials such as peat, soil, chitin or cellulose contribute to a firmer faecal consistency in various carnivore species. Therefore, offering giant anteaters the opportunity to voluntarily ingest soil from their enclosure might be beneficial.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:05 Vetsuisse Faculty > Veterinary Clinic > Department of Small Animals
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
630 Agriculture
Language:English
Date:2015
Deposited On:24 Apr 2015 06:43
Last Modified:27 Oct 2016 07:36
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0931-2439
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/jpn.12223
PubMed ID:25041215
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-110492

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