Publication Details

Vendl, C., Clauss, M., Stewart, M., Leggett, K., Hummel, J., Kreuzer, M. & Munn, A. J. (2015). Decreasing methane yield with increasing food intake keeps daily methane emissions constant in two foregut fermenting marsupials, the western grey kangaroo and red kangaroo. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 218 (21), 3425-3434.


Fundamental differences in methane (CH4) production between macropods (kangaroos) and ruminants have been suggested and linked to differences in the composition of the forestomach microbiome. Using six western grey kangaroos (Macropus fuliginosus) and four red kangaroos (Macropus rufus), we measured daily absoluteCH4 production in vivo aswell asCH4 yield (CH4 per unit of intake of dry matter, gross energy or digestible fibre) by open-circuit respirometry. Two food intake levels were tested using a chopped lucerne hay (alfalfa) diet. Bodymass-specific absoluteCH4 production resembled values previously reported in wallabies and non-ruminant herbivores such as horses, and did not differ with food intake level, although there was no concomitant proportionate decrease in fibre digestibility with higher food intake. In contrast, CH4 yield decreased with increasing intake, and was intermediate between values reported for ruminants and non-ruminant herbivores. These results correspond to those in ruminants and other non-ruminant specieswhere increased intake (and hence a shorter digesta retention in the gut) leads to a lower CH4 yield.We hypothesize that rather than harbouring a fundamentally different microbiomein their foregut, the microbiome ofmacropods is in a particular metabolic state more tuned towards growth (i.e. biomass production) rather thanCH4 production. This is due to the short digesta retention time inmacropods and the known distinct 'digestawashing' in the gut of macropods, where fluids move faster than particles and hence most likely wash out microbes from the forestomach. Although our data suggest that kangaroos only produce about 27% of the body mass-specific volume of CH4 of ruminants, it remains to be modelled with species-specific growth rates and production conditions whether or not significantly lower CH4 amounts are emitted per kg of meat in kangaroo than in beef or mutton production.



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