CZAAWE Resource Article

Differences in fecal particle size between free-ranging and captive individuals of two browser species
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
2008
Publication/Journal 
Zoo Biology
ISBN 
1098-2361
Abstract 
Abstract 10.1002/zoo.20161.abs Data from captive animals indicated that browsing (BR) ruminants have larger fecal particles—indicative of lesser chewing efficiency—than grazers (GR). To answer whether this reflects fundamental differences between the animal groups, or different reactions of basically similar organisms to diets fed in captivity, we compared mean fecal particle size (MPS) in a GR and a BR ruminant (aurox Bos primigenius taurus, giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis) and a GR and a BR hindgut fermenter (Przewalski's horse Equus ferus przewalskii, lowland tapir Tapirus terrestris), both from captivity and from the wild. As would be expected owing to a proportion of finely ground, pelleted feeds in captive diets, MPS was smaller in captive than free-ranging GR. In contrast, MPS was drastically higher in captive than in free-ranging BR of either digestion type. Thus, the difference in MPS between GR and BR was much more pronounced among captive than free-ranging animals. The results indicate that BR teeth have adapted to their natural diet so that in the wild, they achieve a particle size reduction similar to that of GR. However, although GR teeth seem equally adapted to food ingested in captivity, the BR teeth seem less well suited to efficiently chew captive diets. In the case of ruminants, less efficient particle size reduction could contribute to potential clinical problems like “rumen blockage” and bezoar formation. Comparisons of MPS between free-ranging and captive animals might offer indications for the physical suitability of zoo diets. Zoo Biol 27:70–77, 2008. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.