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Methane output of rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus) fed a hay-only diet: Implications for the scaling of methane production with body mass in non-ruminant mammalian herbivores


Franz, R; Soliva, C R; Kreuzer, M; Hummel, J; Clauss, Marcus (2011). Methane output of rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus) fed a hay-only diet: Implications for the scaling of methane production with body mass in non-ruminant mammalian herbivores. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part A: Molecular and Integrative Physiology, 158(1):177-181.

Abstract

It is assumed that small herbivores produce negligible amounts of methane, but it is unclear whether this is a physiological peculiarity, or simply a scaling effect. A respiratory chamber experiment was conducted with six rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus, 1.57 ± 0.31 kg body mass) and six guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus, 0.79 ± 0.07 kg) offered grass hay ad libitum. Daily dry matter (DM) intake and DM digestibility were 50 ± 6 g kg–0.75 d–1 and 55 ± 6 % in rabbits and 59 ± 11 g kg–0.75 d–1 and 61 ± 3 % in guinea pigs, respectively. Methane production was similar for both species (0.20 ± 0.10 L d–1 and 0.22 ± 0.08 L d–1) and represented 0.69 ± 0.32 and 1.03 ± 0.29 % of gross energy intake in rabbits and guinea pigs, respectively. In relation to body mass (BM) guinea pigs produced significantly more methane. The data on methane per unit of BM obtained in this study and from literature on methane output of elephant, wallabies and hyraxes all lay close to a regression line derived from roughage-fed horses, showing an increase in methane output with BM. The regression including all data was nearly identical to that based on the horse data only (methane production in horses [L d–1] = 0.18 body mass [kg]0.97 (95%CI 0.92–1.02)) and indicates linear scaling. Because feed intake typically scales to BM0.75, linear scaling of methane output translates into increasing energetic losses at increasing BM. Accordingly, the data collection indicates that an increasing proportion of ingested gross energy is lost because relative methane production increases with BM. Different from ruminants, such losses (1-2% of gross energy) appear too small in non-ruminant herbivores to represent a physiologic constraint on body size. Nevertheless, this relationship may represent a physiological disadvantage with increasing herbivore body size.

Abstract

It is assumed that small herbivores produce negligible amounts of methane, but it is unclear whether this is a physiological peculiarity, or simply a scaling effect. A respiratory chamber experiment was conducted with six rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus, 1.57 ± 0.31 kg body mass) and six guinea pigs (Cavia porcellus, 0.79 ± 0.07 kg) offered grass hay ad libitum. Daily dry matter (DM) intake and DM digestibility were 50 ± 6 g kg–0.75 d–1 and 55 ± 6 % in rabbits and 59 ± 11 g kg–0.75 d–1 and 61 ± 3 % in guinea pigs, respectively. Methane production was similar for both species (0.20 ± 0.10 L d–1 and 0.22 ± 0.08 L d–1) and represented 0.69 ± 0.32 and 1.03 ± 0.29 % of gross energy intake in rabbits and guinea pigs, respectively. In relation to body mass (BM) guinea pigs produced significantly more methane. The data on methane per unit of BM obtained in this study and from literature on methane output of elephant, wallabies and hyraxes all lay close to a regression line derived from roughage-fed horses, showing an increase in methane output with BM. The regression including all data was nearly identical to that based on the horse data only (methane production in horses [L d–1] = 0.18 body mass [kg]0.97 (95%CI 0.92–1.02)) and indicates linear scaling. Because feed intake typically scales to BM0.75, linear scaling of methane output translates into increasing energetic losses at increasing BM. Accordingly, the data collection indicates that an increasing proportion of ingested gross energy is lost because relative methane production increases with BM. Different from ruminants, such losses (1-2% of gross energy) appear too small in non-ruminant herbivores to represent a physiologic constraint on body size. Nevertheless, this relationship may represent a physiological disadvantage with increasing herbivore body size.

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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:January 2011
Deposited On:23 Dec 2010 17:02
Last Modified:09 Sep 2016 07:20
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:1095-6433
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cbpa.2010.10.019
PubMed ID:20971203

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