Digestive enzyme activities and gastrointestinal fermentation in wood-eating catfishes
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Digestive enzyme activities and gastrointestinal fermentation in wood-eating catfishes

  • Author(s): German, Donovan P.;
  • Bittong, Rosalie A.
  • et al.

To determine what capabilities wood-eating and detritivorous catfishes have for the digestion of refractory polysaccharides with the aid of an endosymbiotic microbial community, the pH, redox potentials, concentrations of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), and the activity levels of 14 digestive enzymes were measured along the gastrointestinal (GI) tracts of three wood-eating taxa (Panaque cf. nigrolineatus “Marañon”, Panaque nocturnus, and Hypostomus pyrineusi) and one detritivorous species (Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus) from the family Loricariidae. Negative redox potentials (−600 mV) were observed in the intestinal fluids of the fish, suggesting that fermentative digestion was possible. However, SCFA concentrations were low (<3 mM in any intestinal region), indicating that little GI fermentation occurs in the fishes’ GI tracts. Cellulase and xylanase activities were low (<0.03 U g−1), and generally decreased distally in the intestine, whereas amylolytic and laminarinase activities were five and two orders of magnitude greater, respectively, than cellulase and xylanase activities, suggesting that the fish more readily digest soluble polysaccharides. Furthermore, the Michaelis–Menten constants (K m) of the fishes’ β-glucosidase and N-acetyl-β-d-glucosaminidase enzymes were significantly lower than the K m values of microbial enzymes ingested with their food, further suggesting that the fish efficiently digest soluble components of their detrital diet rather than refractory polysaccharides. Coupled with rapid gut transit and poor cellulose digestibility, the wood-eating catfishes appear to be detritivores reliant on endogenous digestive mechanisms, as are other loricariid catfishes. This stands in contrast to truly “xylivorous” taxa (e.g., beavers, termites), which are reliant on an endosymbiotic community of microorganisms to digest refractory polysaccharides.

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