Fibre utilization by Kalahari dwelling subterranean Damara mole-rats (Cryptomys damarensis) when fed their natural diet of gemsbok cucumber tubers (Acanthosicyos naudinianus)

Rochelle Buffenstein, Shiomo Yahav

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4 Scopus citations


Kalahari dwelling Damara mole-rats (Cryptomys damarensis) naturally feed on a high fibre diet of underground gemsbok cucumber tubers, Acanthosicyos naudinianus. We investigated the degree of fibre utilization and fermentation on this diet by measuring caecal characteristics (namely temperature, pH and weight) and in vitro rates of gas and short chain fatty acid (SCFA) production in these underground dwelling hind-gut fermentors. Rectal temperatures (33.8±0.6°C) were consistently higher than caecal temperatures (33.3 ± 0.6°C). Furthermore, a 0.8°C gradient of temperatures existed within the caecum, with the lowest temperature occurring in the corpus caeci. Both rates of gas production (4.74 ± 0.6 ml/g dry matter/hr) and SCFA production (266.80 ± 9.251 /i mol/caecum per hr) were high, with proportionately more acetic acid produced than any other SCFA. Nevertheless, the initial concentrations of SCFAs present in the caecum were low (52 ±17 mM) implying a rapid rate of absorption of these SCFAs. The high rates of fermentation provide a considerable amount of energy that would otherwise be trapped in fibre and thus unavailable to the animal. This highly efficient caecal fermentation enables the Damara mole-rat to maximally exploit the underground food resources in the arid-zone ecotope.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)431-436
Number of pages6
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology -- Part A: Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1994



  • Bathyergidae
  • Caecal fermentation
  • Caecal temperature
  • Cryptomys damarensis
  • Fibre fermentation
  • Higher fibre
  • Mole-rats
  • Short chain fatty acids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology

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