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Testing predictions on body mass and gut contents: dissection of an African elephant Loxodonta africana Blumenbach 1797


Clauss, Marcus; Robert, N; Walzer, C; Vitaud, C; Hummel, J (2005). Testing predictions on body mass and gut contents: dissection of an African elephant Loxodonta africana Blumenbach 1797. European Journal of Wildlife Research, 51(4):291-294.

Abstract

The values reported in the literature for the total gastrointestinal tract (GIT) content mass of elephants are lower than expected from interspecific mammalian regression. This finding agrees with theoretical considerations that elephants should have less capacious GITs than other herbivorous mammals, resulting in short ingesta retention times. However, the data on elephants was so far derived from either diseased zoo specimens or free-ranging animals subjected to an unknown hunting stress. In this study, we weighed the wet contents of the GIT segments of a captive African elephant that was euthanased because of a positive serological tuberculosis test, but that was clinically healthy, did not show a reduced appetite, and ingested food up to the time of euthanasia. The animal weighed 3,140 kg and its total gut contents were 542 kg or 17% of body mass. This is in close accord with the published mammalian herbivore regression equation of Parra (Comparison of foregut and hindgut fermentation in herbivores. In: Montgomery GG (ed) The ecology of arboreal folivores. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC, pp205-230, 1978) and contradicts the notion that elephants have comparatively less capacious gastrointestinal tracts. Data on the individual gut segments, however, do support earlier suspicions that elephants have a comparatively less capacious caecum and a disproportionally capacious colon.

The values reported in the literature for the total gastrointestinal tract (GIT) content mass of elephants are lower than expected from interspecific mammalian regression. This finding agrees with theoretical considerations that elephants should have less capacious GITs than other herbivorous mammals, resulting in short ingesta retention times. However, the data on elephants was so far derived from either diseased zoo specimens or free-ranging animals subjected to an unknown hunting stress. In this study, we weighed the wet contents of the GIT segments of a captive African elephant that was euthanased because of a positive serological tuberculosis test, but that was clinically healthy, did not show a reduced appetite, and ingested food up to the time of euthanasia. The animal weighed 3,140 kg and its total gut contents were 542 kg or 17% of body mass. This is in close accord with the published mammalian herbivore regression equation of Parra (Comparison of foregut and hindgut fermentation in herbivores. In: Montgomery GG (ed) The ecology of arboreal folivores. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC, pp205-230, 1978) and contradicts the notion that elephants have comparatively less capacious gastrointestinal tracts. Data on the individual gut segments, however, do support earlier suspicions that elephants have a comparatively less capacious caecum and a disproportionally capacious colon.

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6 citations in Web of Science®
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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:2005
Deposited On:23 Apr 2008 12:23
Last Modified:07 Sep 2016 08:42
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:1439-0574
Publisher DOI:10.1007/s10344-005-0113-0
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-2415

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