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Carbohydrate digestion in the chinchilla Smith, Diana Claire

Abstract

Carbohydrase activity in the chinchilla (Chinchilla lanigera) was investigated from birth to post-weaning. Crude homogenates of the small intestinal wall and pancreas were prepared in order to study intestinal lactase, maltase and sucrase, and pancreatic amylase. The study was based on the assumption that, at different stages of growth, the carbohydrase levels reflect the ability of the animal to utilize specific carbohydrates. Small intestinal lactase activity was highest from birth to three weeks of age, at which time it decreased sharply reaching the fairly constant low levels found in the post-weaned animal by four weeks. Maltase activity at birth was appreciable, increasing significantly at four weeks of age and attaining maximum levels by twelve weeks of age. The adult animal retained this high activity. In contrast to maltase, sucrase activity was negligible at birth and did not increase significantly until five weeks of age, at which time a steady increase was noted to the adult levels attained by the twelve week old animal. Pancreatic amylase was similarly negligible at birth. The highest increase in activity occurred between three and eight weeks at a time when intestinal lactase activity was decreasing. This also corresponded to the time of most rapid increase in maltase activity. The digestion of more complex carbohydrates was also investigated in the adult chinchilla. Cellulose, comprising 18.7% of a pelleted ration, was 54% digestible, the main sites of cellulose breakdown being the cecum and large intestine. Total volatile fatty acids (VFA) throughout the alimentary tract of animals on a normal ranch ration of pellets and hay were quantitated, as were the individual acids. The cecum and large intestine were the only sites of VFA production, while the low levels found in the stomach were attributed to coprophagy.

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