We examined the effect of food quality on ingestion, digestion, and metabolic rate during pregnancy and lactation in Octodon degus, a precocial rodent, under laboratory conditions. We also examined standard energetics during reproduction in relation to litter size and litter mass. Resting metabolic rate increased significantly during lactation, and that increase resulted from variations in food quality. The highest increase (39%) in resting metabolic rate was found in lactating females maintained on high-quality food when compared with nonreproductive females. Although food intake was always higher during lactation, the maximum intake was observed among lactating females that were given high-quality food. A significant positive correlation also was found between resting metabolic rate and food intake during early lactation, which revealed an increase in energy processing during that demanding period. Significant positive relationships also were found between resting metabolic and ingestion rate relative to litter mass and size. Allocation of energy in O. degus during lactation did not follow the mode typical of precocial rodents. In contrast, conversion efficiency of metabolizable energy into tissue growth appears to be linked to environmental quality of food.
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