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Author Topic: The chinchilla digestive system  (Read 1117 times)

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Jenova

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The chinchilla digestive system
« on: May 20, 2012, 01:24:10 PM »

Hiya,

I'm wondering if anyone has any detailed information on how the chinchilla digestive system works? I've just been wondering about whether chinchillas are really rodents. They are classified as rodents according to the British Association of Rodentologists. Rabbits are not and it apparently has something to do with their digestive system which is more similar to horses (but rabbits eat a type of poo out of their bum, I don't think horses do). But having both rabbits and chinchillas I think they food they eat is very similar. I know that domestic chinchillas have a very different diet to wild ones though. But considering what domestic chinchillas eat it's almost identical to that of a rabbit. The pellets are slightly different, but they both need to eat hay primarily and can both eat the same sort of forage such as plantain, brambles and herbs. Rabbits do better on dried food as well. In England a lot more people feed their chinchillas fresh food, having introduced it slowly to get them used to it, which has to be done with rabbits too.

Anyway I'm just being curious and want to know if their digestive systems are similar.  :)

GrayRodent

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Re: The chinchilla digestive system
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2012, 05:08:14 PM »

I think the differentiation between lagomorpha and rodentia is the specifically because of the difference in the number of incisors. lagomorphs have four in each jaw and rodentia have two. I'm not a big fan of morphology especially in light of genomic data that seems to deviate substantially from it. I think there was some debate over whether caviomorphs should be removed from rodentia some years back in which currently chinchillidae reside.

Regardless both rabbits and chinchillas produce cecotropes at night which is partially digested poo that should go back through to get all the nutrients from it. For captive chinchillas I wonder how significant this is for its diet and digestive health. I would love to see some expert commentary on this. I am certainly not.

I did some comparisons with high quality diets recently. The chinchilla food seems to be higher in fiber and lower in phosphorus. It is significantly higher in Vitamin A compared to rabbit food. The ingredients tend to differ too. I'm not sure what the biggest differences are though. It seems to be the prevailing theory that rabbit food is dangerous to chinchillas but not all rabbit foods are equal.

I would not feed a chin anything other than high quality chinchilla pellets and hay. Fresh vegetables can cause diarrhea which can be fatal in a manner of hours.

Even if you can get them to tolerate it their systems are created for living in dry desert conditions where there is an abundance of dry grass. Introducing compounds other than what you expect to find in that environment I would think can cause liver and kidney problems over time and certainly will cause tooth problems because of the decreased chewing and roughage.

The chinchilla has intestines that are about the same length as a rabbit. (For some reason I thought they were a bit longer) but they are way slower. Transit time through the guts for a rabbit is around 8 hours, and for the chinchilla about 15. There are other anatomical and chemical differences to facilitate thriving in a dry desert environment with a restricted diet such as the size of the caecum. I'm sure there's plenty of other interesting differences too.

Hope this helps.
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Jenova

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Re: The chinchilla digestive system
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2012, 07:17:01 PM »

That's very interesting thanks.
I don't feed fresh food to my chinchillas, just to clarify, but they share the dry forage my rabbits have such as plantain.

I had no idea chinchillas had a cecum and produced cecotropes. Going to have to do some more research now. I have an ill rabbit who can't eat hay and produces a lot of excess cecals so I'm used to seeing those.

It seems their digestive systems are very similar, so if the reason rabbits aren't rodents is due to that then it makes no sense if chinnies are. The teeth are also interesting. I know chinchillas teeth are very different anyway. They have a coating of iron which gives them the orange colour. Rabbit have peg teeth which grow behind the incisors. I don't know what purpose they have other than to annoy me. My ill rabbit had his front teeth removed and one peg tooth continues to grow. If it's the teeth that cause the difference in classification then that makes more sense.

All very interesting.  :)

GrayRodent

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Re: The chinchilla digestive system
« Reply #3 on: May 21, 2012, 07:56:06 AM »

Unfortunately inbreeding and other bad breeding practices can result in rabbits with malocclusion just like chins and I am sorry to hear your pets are affected by this. What the function of peg teeth are is an interesting question. Perhaps its to support the function of the incisor if something happens to it. I would love to see some comments on this as info on the net is scant.

Although rabbits and chins used to share the same classification does not mean there cannot be significant differences. Although parts of their digestive systems operate on similar principles you could be looking at two very different schemes. It's kind of like looking at a volkswagen and a formula-one car and saying both are cars and have gas powered engines so we can expect they take the same kind of gas.

The simplistic ways in which evolutionary biologists classify animals morphologically are blind to potentially significant physiological differences. I think with advances in genomics this will become more and more evident and hopefully result in replacing the current system with something that makes more sense.
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