Nutritional status and functional digestive histology of the carnivorous Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii)
Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) are the largest carnivorous marsupial in Australia. Currently many animals are being held in captivity as a management procedure to combat Devil Facial Tumor Disease. Only one published study thus far has investigated nutrition in Tasmanian devils, determining their maintenance energy requirements and digestibility on a rodent diet. More information is needed on Tasmanian devil nutritional and gastrointestinal function to aid in their management. Our study aimed to investigate the current nutritional status of Tasmanian devils in a captive population and functional morphology and histology of their gastrointestinal tract. Animals were maintained on a diet of kangaroo, rabbit, quail and chicken wings and digestibility of these items by the devils was high (>85% for dry matter, protein and lipid). Kangaroo and rabbit were high protein diet items while the quail and chicken wings provided high lipid to the diet, and carbohydrates were minimal (@?3% energy). Maintenance energy requirements were determined to be 620kJkg -0.75 d -1 with no significant difference between males and females. Opportunistic samples for gastrointestinal morphology were obtained from captive specimens. Tasmanian devils have a simple digestive tract similar to other dasyurid species. Both the morphology and histology of the gastrointestinal tract show specialization for a high protein carnivorous diet.
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