The Damara mole-rat (Cryptomys damarensis) leads a strictly subterranean existence in an extensive maze of plugged burrows and eats a strictly herbivorous diet. An obvious source of vitamin D3 (D3), an important hormone in mineral homeostasis, therefore is lacking in this mammal. The effects of orally ingested D3 on mineral balance were investigated. In the normal D′ status group of mole-rats, the apparent fractional intestinal absorption of calcium (91.1%), magnesium (91.2%), and inorganic phosphorous (91.2%) was high and increased slightly, (calcium, 94.5%; magnesium, 93.2%; inorganic phosphorous, 92.9%) after D3 administration. The amount of element absorbed was positively correlated with the amount ingested (P < 0.001), suggesting that absorption occurs via a nonsaturable process. This might be an adaptation to the sparseness of natural food. The observed positive retention of calcium (94%), magnesium (85%), and inorganic phosphorous (99.9%) is attributed to their evergrowing teeth. These teeth are constantly worn down during digging and it is speculated that they represent a mineral "sink", assisting in the maintenance of mineral homeostasis. It is also hypothesized that mole-rats have adapted to an environment devoid of D3 and can attain sufficient calcium for their needs via nonvitamin D3-dependent processes. Although mole-rats have the "machinery" to use D3 and D3 can affect mineral balance, this effect may be disadvantageous if invoked.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Animal Science and Zoology