The values reported in the literature for the total gastrointestinal tract (GIT) content mass of elephants are lower than expected from interspecific mammalian regression. This finding agrees with theoretical considerations that elephants should have less capacious GITs than other herbivorous mammals, resulting in short ingesta retention times. However, the data on elephants was so far derived from either diseased zoo specimens or free-ranging animals subjected to an unknown hunting stress. In this study, we weighed the wet contents of the GIT segments of a captive African elephant that was euthanased because of a positive serological tuberculosis test, but that was clinically healthy, did not show a reduced appetite, and ingested food up to the time of euthanasia. The animal weighed 3,140 kg and its total gut contents were 542 kg or 17% of body mass. This is in close accord with the published mammalian herbivore regression equation of Parra (Comparison of foregut and hindgut fermentation in herbivores. In: Montgomery GG (ed) The ecology of arboreal folivores. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC, pp205–230, 1978) and contradicts the notion that elephants have comparatively less capacious gastrointestinal tracts. Data on the individual gut segments, however, do support earlier suspicions that elephants have a comparatively less capacious caecum and a disproportionally capacious colon.
Loxodonta africanaGastrointestinal tract Gut fill Body mass Digestive anatomy Digestive physiology