Digestion of bamboo compared to grass and lucerne in a small hindgut fermenting herbivore, the guinea pig (Cavia porcellus)

Annelies De Cuyper*, Daniela E. Winkler, Thomas Tütken, Guido Bosch, Jürgen Hummel, Michael Kreuzer, Arturo Muñoz Saravia, Geert P.J. Janssens, Marcus Clauss

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Bamboo is an enigmatic forage, representing a niche food for pandas and bamboo lemurs. Bamboo might not represent a suitable forage for herbivores relying on fermentative digestion, potentially due to its low fermentability. To test this hypothesis, guinea pigs (n = 36) were used as model species and fed ad libitum with one of three forages (bamboo, lucerne, or timothy grass) in a fresh or dried state, with six individuals per group, for 3 weeks. The nutrient composition and in vitro fermentation profile of bamboo displayed low fermentation potential, i.e. high lignin and silica levels together with a gas production (Hohenheim gas test) at 12 h of only 36% of that of lucerne and grass. Although silica levels were more abundant in the leftovers of (almost) all groups, guinea pigs did not select against lignin on bamboo. Dry matter (DM) intake was highest and DM digestibility lowest on the bamboo forage. Total short-chain fatty acid levels in caecal content were highest for lucerne and lowest for grass and bamboo. Bamboo-fed guinea pigs had a lower body weight gain than the grass and lucerne group. The forage hydration state did not substantially affect digestion, but dry forage led to a numerically higher total wet gut fill. Although guinea pigs increased DM intake on the bamboo diet, the negative effects on fermentation of lignin and silica in bamboo seemed overriding. For herbivores that did not evolutionary adapt, bamboo as an exclusive food resource can be considered as inadequate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-140
JournalJournal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Ecological and Integrative Physiology
Issue number2
Early online date19 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • bamboo
  • digestion
  • fermentation
  • guinea pig


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