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Reingestion of feces in rodents and its daily rhythmicity

Summary

The ingestion of feces is widespread among rodent species and is an extensively employed component of the repertoire of feeding behaviors in some species. Coprophagy is thus a significant consideration in the nutrition and dietary ecology of many rodents. As certain fecal pellets pass from the anus, they are taken up directly into the mouth, chewed, and swallowed. The nocturnally active herbivorous kangaroo rat Dipodomys microps ingests about 1/4 of the feces it produces daily and the daily pattern of reingestion shows a consistent rhythm. For about 8 h of the daytime, during the non-foraging, resting phase of the day, D. microps reingests all fecal pellets produced; during the remainder of the day it leaves all feces produced. The reingested feces contain more nitrogen and water, and less inorganic ions than the non-reingested feces. The extent of reingestion varies among rodent species in relation to diet, and coprophagy is more important in the more herbivorous species. The granivorous kangaroo rat D. merriami ingests feces rarely. The herbivorous vole Microtus californicus ingests about 1/4 of its feces, as does D. microps. However, in contrast to D. microps, M. californicus shows a series of rhythmic, short-term (one to several hour duration) alternations between reingestion and non-reingestion during the course of the day and night. This pattern correlates with the pattern of foraging in M. californicus, which extends over both night and day.

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Kenagy, G.J., Hoyt, D.F. Reingestion of feces in rodents and its daily rhythmicity. Oecologia 44, 403–409 (1979). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00545245

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00545245

Keywords

  • Nitrogen
  • Fecal Pellet
  • Herbivorous Species
  • Rodent Species
  • Daily Rhythmicity