Ecological physiology examines how animals cope with changing environmental demands. In low-productivity desert habitats, small mammals should consume low-quality, high-fiber food as a consequence of necessity rather than by choice. Diet quality of populations can differ at both spatial and temporal scales. Nevertheless, spatial and temporal variation in the digestive system has not been extensively studied in the field. We captured individuals from 4 populations of Microcavia australis and measured their digestive morphological traits. Fieldwork was carried out in 4 localities belonging to arid and semiarid regions, in dry and wet seasons. We also estimated diet quality for each population and season. We found significant effects of sex, season, and site on the size of digestive organs. The concentration of fiber and nitrogen in the plants consumed differed between populations and varied seasonally: dietary fiber was higher in the dry season and nitrogen concentration was higher in the wet season. As predicted by theory, the cecum, the organ most closely related to cellulose fermentation, was significantly larger in animals facing the lowest quality diet. The other organs also were affected by reproductive state and water requirements. Intraspecific variation in the digestive morphology of M. australis probably helps this species cope with remarkable seasonal and geographical variability.
You have requested a machine translation of selected content from our databases. This functionality is provided solely for your convenience and is in no way intended to replace human translation. Neither BioOne nor the owners and publishers of the content make, and they explicitly disclaim, any express or implied representations or warranties of any kind, including, without limitation, representations and warranties as to the functionality of the translation feature or the accuracy or completeness of the translations.
Translations are not retained in our system. Your use of this feature and the translations is subject to all use restrictions contained in the Terms and Conditions of Use of the BioOne website.