Digestive plasticity of the small intestine and the fermentative hindgut in a marsupial herbivore, the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii)
We investigated the effects of a ground, pelleted diet versus natural forage on the gross morphology of the gastrointestinal tract of a medium- sized (5 - 7 kg body mass) macropodid marsupial, the tammar wallaby ( Macropus eugenii). The empty wet mass ( g) of the small intestine of tammar wallabies maintained on a pelleted diet for 6 weeks was 22% greater than that of animals maintained on natural forage, once body mass was taken into account by ANCOVA. Similarly, the body-mass-adjusted length of the tammar wallaby caecum and proximal colon combined was 25% longer in animals maintained on the pelleted diet compared with those maintained on forage. Our data suggest that food particle size may be directly involved in controlling the size of the post-gastric alimentary tract in tammar wallabies, and thus in their diet choice and nutritional ecology. Notably, this is the first study that links phenotypic plasticity of the gut directly to diet in a marsupial and we conclude that the tammar wallaby is an excellent model for exploring the causes and consequences of digestive plasticity in macropodid marsupials.
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Munn, A. J., Banks, P. & Hume, I. D. (2006). Digestive plasticity of the small intestine and the fermentative hindgut in a marsupial herbivore, the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii). Australian Journal of Zoology, 54 (4), 287-291.