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The uneven weight distribution between predators and prey: Comparing gut fill between terrestrial herbivores and carnivores


De Cuyper, Annelies; Meloro, Carlo; Abraham, Andrew J; Müller, Dennis W H; Codron, Daryl; Janssens, Geert P J; Clauss, Marcus (2020). The uneven weight distribution between predators and prey: Comparing gut fill between terrestrial herbivores and carnivores. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. Part A, Molecular & Integrative Physiology, 243:110683.

Abstract

The general observation that secondary consumers ingest highly digestible food and have simple short guts and small abdominal cavities intuitively results in the assumption that mammalian carnivores carry less digesta in their gut compared to herbivores. Due to logistic constraints, this assumption has not been tested quantitatively so far. In this contribution, we estimated the dry matter gut contents (DMC) for 25 species of the order Carnivora (including two strictly herbivorous ones, the giant and the red panda) using the physical ‘Occupancy Principle’, based on a literature data collection on dry matter intake (DMI), apparent dry matter digestibility (aD DM) and retention time (RT), and compared the results to an existing collection for herbivores. Scaling exponents with body mass (BM) for both carnivores and herbivores were in the same range with DMI ~ BM0.75; aD DM ~ BM0; RT ~ BM0.11 and DMC ~ BM0.88. The trophic level (carnivore vs herbivore) significantly affected all digestive physiology parameters except for RT. Numerically, the carnivore DMI level reached 77%, the RT 32% and DMC only 29% of the corresponding herbivore values, whereas the herbivore aD DM only reached 82% of that of carnivores. Thus, we quantitatively show that carnivores carry less inert mass or gut content compared to herbivores, which putatively benefits them in predator-prey interactions and might have contributed to the evolution towards unguligradism in herbivores. As expected, the two panda species appeared as outliers in the dataset with low aD DM and RT for a herbivore but extremely high DMI values, resulting in DMC in the lower part of the herbivore range. Whereas the difference in DMI and DMC scaling in herbivores might allow larger herbivores to compensate for lower diet quality by ingesting more, this difference may allow larger carnivores not to go for less digestible prey parts, but mainly to increase meal intervals, i.e. not having to hunt on a daily basis.

Abstract

The general observation that secondary consumers ingest highly digestible food and have simple short guts and small abdominal cavities intuitively results in the assumption that mammalian carnivores carry less digesta in their gut compared to herbivores. Due to logistic constraints, this assumption has not been tested quantitatively so far. In this contribution, we estimated the dry matter gut contents (DMC) for 25 species of the order Carnivora (including two strictly herbivorous ones, the giant and the red panda) using the physical ‘Occupancy Principle’, based on a literature data collection on dry matter intake (DMI), apparent dry matter digestibility (aD DM) and retention time (RT), and compared the results to an existing collection for herbivores. Scaling exponents with body mass (BM) for both carnivores and herbivores were in the same range with DMI ~ BM0.75; aD DM ~ BM0; RT ~ BM0.11 and DMC ~ BM0.88. The trophic level (carnivore vs herbivore) significantly affected all digestive physiology parameters except for RT. Numerically, the carnivore DMI level reached 77%, the RT 32% and DMC only 29% of the corresponding herbivore values, whereas the herbivore aD DM only reached 82% of that of carnivores. Thus, we quantitatively show that carnivores carry less inert mass or gut content compared to herbivores, which putatively benefits them in predator-prey interactions and might have contributed to the evolution towards unguligradism in herbivores. As expected, the two panda species appeared as outliers in the dataset with low aD DM and RT for a herbivore but extremely high DMI values, resulting in DMC in the lower part of the herbivore range. Whereas the difference in DMI and DMC scaling in herbivores might allow larger herbivores to compensate for lower diet quality by ingesting more, this difference may allow larger carnivores not to go for less digestible prey parts, but mainly to increase meal intervals, i.e. not having to hunt on a daily basis.

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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
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Biochemistry
Life Sciences > Physiology
Life Sciences > Molecular Biology
Uncontrolled Keywords:Biochemistry, Physiology, Molecular Biology, Body size; Carnivore; Gut fill/content; Herbivore; Predator; Prey; Retention time
Language:English
Date:1 May 2020
Deposited On:27 Feb 2020 15:02
Last Modified:29 Jul 2020 14:46
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:1095-6433
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cbpa.2020.110683
PubMed ID:32097716

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