Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 157, Issue 3, pp 355–362 | Cite as

Digestion and energy metabolism in a small arboreal marsupial, the Greater Glider (Petauroides volans), fed high-terpeneEucalyptus foliage

  • W. J. Foley


The digestion and metabolism ofEucalyptus radiata foliage was studied in a small (1–1.5 kg) arboreal marsupial, the greater glider (Petauroides volans). Mean dry matter intake was 44 g·kg−0.75·d−1 and mean cell wall digestibility was 34%; these values fall within the range of other marsupials fedEucalyptus foliage. Digestible energy content ofE. radiata was high compared to other eucalypts because of the high content and digestibility of essential oils. However, excretion of essential oils and their metabolites in the urine meant that greater gliders retained only 55% of their digestible energy intakes (0.61 MJ · kg−0.75· d−1) as metabolizable energy (ME). Low ME intakes were not offset by low standard metabolic rates (2.39 W · kg−0.75), but the efficiency with which ME substituted for tissue energy was high (94%), so that greater gliders were able to maintain energy balance and body mass onE. radiata foliage.


Cell Wall Human Physiology Energy Balance Metabolic Rate Metabolizable Energy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



metabolizable energy


digestible energy


respiratory quotient


fasting heat production


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Baker RT, Smith HG (1920) The eucalypts and their essential oils. Government Printer, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  2. Blaxter KL (1971) Methods of measuring the energy metabolism of ruminants and interpretation of results obtained. Fed Proc 30:1436–1443Google Scholar
  3. Brouwer E (1965) Report of subcommittee on constants and factors. In: Blaxter KL (ed) Third symposium on energy metabolism. EAAP Publ 11, Butterworths, London, pp 441–443Google Scholar
  4. Buttery PJ, Boorman KN (1976) The energetic efficiency of amino acid metabolism. In: Cole DJA, Boorman KN, Buttery PJ, Lewis D, Neale RJ, Swan H (eds) Protein Metabolism and Nutrition. EAAP Publ 16, Butterworths, London, pp 197–206Google Scholar
  5. Chilcott MJ, Hume ID (1984) Digestion ofEucalyptus andrewsii foliage by the commou ringtail possum,Pseudocheirus peregrinus. Aust J Zool 32:605–613Google Scholar
  6. Chilcott MJ, Hume ID (1985) Coprophagy and the selective retention of fluid digesta: their role in the nutrition of the common ringtail possumPseudocheirus peregrinus. Aust J Zool 33:1–15Google Scholar
  7. Cook CW, Stoddart LA, Harris LE (1952) Determining the digestibility and metabolizability of winter range plants by sheep. J Anim Sci 11:578–590Google Scholar
  8. Cork SJ, Hume ID, Dawson TJ (1983) Digestion and metabolism of a natural foliar diet (Eucalyptus punctata) by an arboreal marsupial, the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus). J Comp Physiol 152:443–451Google Scholar
  9. Cork SJ, Pahl L (1984) The possible influence of nutritional factors on diet and habitat selection by the ringtail possum. In: Smith AP, Hume ID (eds) Possums and Gliders. Australian Mammal Society, Sydney, pp 269–276Google Scholar
  10. Dawson TJ, Hulbert AJ (1970) Standard metabolism, body temperature, and surface areas of Australian marsupials. Am J Physiol 218:1233–1238Google Scholar
  11. Degabriele R, Dawson TJ (1979) Metabolism and heat balance in an arboreal marsupial, the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus). J Comp Physiol 134:293–301Google Scholar
  12. Degabriele R, Harrop CJF, Dawson TJ (1978) Water metabolism of the koala. In: Montgomery GG (ed) Ecology of arboreal folivores. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC, pp 163–171Google Scholar
  13. Dellow DW, Harris PM (1984) Interdependence of energy and protein metabolism — a comparative marsupial-eutherian approach. In: Smith AP, Hume ID (eds) Possums and Gliders. Australian Mammal Society, Sydney, pp 107–113Google Scholar
  14. Eberhard IH, McNamara J, Pearse RJ, Southwell IA (1975) Ingestion and excretion ofEucalyptus punctata D.C. and its essential oil by the koalaPhascolarctos cinereus (Goldfuss). Aust J Zool 23:169–179Google Scholar
  15. Eisenberg JF (1978) The evolution of arboreal folivores in the class mammalia. In: Montgomery GG (ed) Ecology of Arboreal Folivores. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC, pp 135–152Google Scholar
  16. Emmons LH, Gentry AH (1983) Tropical forest structure and the distribution of gliding and prehensile-tailed vertebrates. Am Nat 121:513–524Google Scholar
  17. Farrell DJ (1972) An indirect closed circuit respiration chamber suitable for fowl. Poultry Sci 51:683–688Google Scholar
  18. Foley WJ (1984) The utilization ofEucalyptus foliage by the greater glider (Petauroides volans) and the brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula). PhD thesis, University of New England, ArmidaleGoogle Scholar
  19. Foley WJ, Hume ID (1986) Digestion and metabolism of hightanninEucalyptus foliage by the brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula). (Marsupialia: Phalangeridae). J Comp Physiol B 157:67–76Google Scholar
  20. Foley WJ, Hume ID (1987a) Passage of digesta markers in two species of arboreal folivorous marsupials — the greater glider (Petauroides volans) and the brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula). Physiol Zool (in press)Google Scholar
  21. Foley WJ, Hume ID (1987b) Nitrogen requirements and urea metabolism in two arboreal marsupials, the greater glider (Petauroides volans) and the brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula), fedEucalyptus foliage. Physiol Zool 60:241–250Google Scholar
  22. Freeland WJ, Winter JW (1975) Evolutionary consequences of eating:Trichosurus vulpecula and the genusEucalyptus. J Chem Ecol 1:439–455Google Scholar
  23. Gipps JM (1980) Functional dental morphology in four Australian possums. BSc(Hons) thesis, Monash University, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  24. Gipps JM, Sanson GD (1984) Mastication and digestion inPseudocheirus. In: Smith AP, Hume ID (eds) Possums and Gliders. Australian Mammal Society, Sydney, pp 237–246Google Scholar
  25. Goering HK, Van Soest PJ (1970) Forage fiber analyses. Agriculture Handbook 379, United States Department of AgricultureGoogle Scholar
  26. Grand TI (1978) Adaptations of tissue and limb segments to facilitate moving and feeding in arboreal folivores. In: Montgomery GG (ed) Ecology of arboreal folivores. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC, pp 231–241Google Scholar
  27. Hinks NT, Bolliger A (1957) Glucuronuria in a herbivorous marsupialTrichosurus vulpecula. Aust J Exp Biol Med Sci 35:37–46Google Scholar
  28. Holter JB, Tyler G, Walski T (1974) Nutrition of the snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus). Can J Zool 52:1553–1558Google Scholar
  29. Hume ID, Foley WJ, Chilcott MJ (1984) Physiological mechanisms of foliage digestion in the greater glider and ringtail possum (Marsupialia: Pseudocheiridae). In: Smith AP, Hume ID (eds) Possums and Gliders. Australian Mammal Society, Sydney, pp 247–251Google Scholar
  30. Jung HG, Fahey GC Jr (1983) Nutritional implications of phenolic monomers and lignin: a review. J Anim Sci 57:206–219Google Scholar
  31. Kinnear A, Shield JW (1975) Metabolism and temperature regulation in marsupials. Comp Biochem Physiol 52A:235–245Google Scholar
  32. London CJ, Macauley BJ (1987) Characterisation of the microflora from the caecum and colon of the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus). Aust J Biol Sci (in press)Google Scholar
  33. Mace GM, Harvey PH, Clutton-Brock TH (1981) Brain size and ecology of small mammals. J Zool Lond 193:333–354Google Scholar
  34. McLennan DG (1984) The feeding behaviour and activity patterns of the brushtail possum,Trichosurus vulpecula, in an open eucalypt woodland in southeast Queensland. In: Smith AP, Hume ID (eds) Possums and Gliders. Australian Mammal Society, Sydney, pp 155–161Google Scholar
  35. Marples TG (1973) Studies on the marsupial gliderSchoinobates volans (Kerr). IV. Feeding biology. Aust J Zool 21:213–216Google Scholar
  36. McNab BK (1978) Energetics of arboreal folivores: physiological problems and ecological consequences of feeding on an ubiquitous food supply. In: Montgomery GG (ed) Ecology of arboreal folivores. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC, pp 153–162Google Scholar
  37. McNab BK (1986a) The influence of food habits on the energetics of eutherian mammals. Ecol Monogr 56:1–19Google Scholar
  38. McNab BK (1986b) Food habits, energetics and the reproduction of marsupials. J Zool Lond (A) 208:595–614Google Scholar
  39. Müller EF, Kamau JMZ, Maloiy GMO (1983) A comparative study of basal metabolism and thermoregulation in a folivorous (Colobus guereza) and an omnivorous (Cercopithecus mitis) primate species. Comp Biochem Physiol 74A:319–322Google Scholar
  40. Nagy KA, Martin R (1985) Field metabolic rate, water flux, food consumption and time budget of koalas,Phascolarctos cinereus (Marsupialia: Phascolarctidae) in Victoria. Aust J Zool 33:655–666Google Scholar
  41. O'Brien TP, Lomdahl A, Sanson G (1986) Preliminary microscopic investigations of the digesta derived from foliage ofEucalyptus ovata (Labill.) in the digestive tract of the common ringtail possum,Pseudocheirus peregrinus (Marsupialia). Aust J Zool 34:157–176Google Scholar
  42. Parra R (1978) Comparison of foregut and hindgut fermentation in herbivores. In: Montgomery GG (ed) Ecology of Arboreal Folivores. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC, pp 205–229Google Scholar
  43. Pehrson A (1983a) Caecotrophy in caged mountain hares. J Zool Lond 199:563–574Google Scholar
  44. Pehrson A (1983b) Digestibility and retention of food components in caged mountain hares,Lepus timidus in winter. Holarct Ecol 6:395–403Google Scholar
  45. Reid JT (1974) Energy metabolism in the whole animal. In: Sink JD (ed) The control of metabolism. Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, PA, pp 113–151Google Scholar
  46. Reid JT, White OD, Anrique R, Forton A (1980) Nutritional energetics of liverstock: some present boundaries of knowledge and future research needs. J Anim Sci 51:1393–1415Google Scholar
  47. Robbins CT (1983) Wildlife feeding and nutrition. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  48. Rübsamen K, Hume ID, Foley WJ, Rübsamen U (1984) Implications of the large surface area to body mass ratio on the heat balance of the greater glider (Petauroides volans: Marsupialia). J Comp Physiol B 154:105–111Google Scholar
  49. Sadler CHS (1983)Eucalyptus foliage as a food source: the effects of low nutrient content and high secondary compound content on gut microbial digestion with special reference to essential oils. BSc(Hons) thesis, University of EdinburghGoogle Scholar
  50. Snedecor GW, Cochran WG (1967) Statistical methods. Iowa State University Press, AmesGoogle Scholar
  51. Ullrey DE, Robinson PT, Whetter PA (1981) Composition of preferred and rejectedEucalyptus browse offered to captive koalas,Phascolarctos cinereus (Marsupialia). Aust J Zool 29:839–846Google Scholar
  52. Webster AJF (1980) The energetic efficiency of growth. Livestock Prod Sci 7:243–252Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. J. Foley
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and NutritionUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia

Personalised recommendations