Hindgut fermentation in the wombats: two marsupial grazers. Academic Article uri icon


  • The wombats Vombatus ursinus and Lasiorhinus latifrons have a capacious proximal colon with only a vestigial caecum. The pattern of microbial fermentation in the hindgut of both species was studied in captive animals fed a pelleted straw diet and in wild wombats feeding on their natural winter diets. Digesta pH was low in the stomach but near neutrality along the hindgut, indicating effective absorption and/or buffering of the colonic contents. Initial proportions and production rates of short chain fatty acids in vitro reflected the fermentation of plant cell walls. Proportions of isobutyrate, isovalerate and n-valerate increased towards the distal colon indicating proteolysis and subsequent fermentation of amino acids. The low ammonia content of digesta fluid suggested that ammonia released from these amino acids was absorbed and utilized by the wombats and their gut microbes. Wild wombats had higher concentrations and production rates of short chain fatty acids than captive animals, which was consistent with the higher apparent digestibility of their natural diet. The energy from short chain fatty acids in captive animals was 30-33% of digestible intake. Energy intakes were low and similar to resting metabolic rates estimated for marsupials. Actual resting metabolic rates of the wombats are probably lower than these estimates, and the proportion of energy derived from fermentation substantially higher than the 53-61% estimated in wild wombats. The energy from fermentation clearly enables wombats to utilize diets high in fibre.

published proceedings

  • J Comp Physiol B

altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Barboza, P. S., & Hume, I. D.

citation count

  • 24

complete list of authors

  • Barboza, PS||Hume, ID

publication date

  • September 1992