Characterizing gastrointestinal transit time in four lemur species using barium-impregnated polyethylene spheres (BIPS)



Differences in dietary profiles and gastrointestinal (GI) morphologies observed across lemur species suggest that there may be variation in patterns of digesta flow through the GI tract related to the method of digesta processing. Using radio-opaque barium-impregnated polyethylene spheres (BIPS), we characterized such patterns in four lemur species: Varecia variegata (VV), Eulemur fulvus (EF), Propithecus verreauxi (PV), and Hapalemur griseus (HG) (n=2 per species). After an initial radiograph was taken under light sedation, the animals were fed the BIPS together with a small meal. A combination of 30 small (1.5 mm) and 10 large (5 mm) BIPS was administered. Radiographs were then taken on a species-dependent basis up to 48 hr post-dosage. For small BIPS, the gastric transit time (GTT; time of first exit of BIPS from stomach) was 0.25–2 hr for VV, EF, and HG, and approximately 10 hr for PV. The oro-rectal transit time (ORTT; time of first appearance in the rectum) was <2 hr for VV and EF, and 24.0 hr for PV and HG. The intestinal transit time (ITT, measured as ORTT – GTT) was <1.5 hr for VV and EF, and approximately 14 hr and 22 hr for PV and HG, respectively. These data suggest that the GTT of digesta as measured with BIPS was rapid for VV, EF, and HG. For VV and EF, the ORTT and ITT were also rapid, while for HG they were much slower. PV was characterized by delayed GTT, and a more rapid ITT compared to HG. Thus, patterns of flow for PV and HG, despite similar ORTT, differed in that HG emptied BIPS more rapidly and ITT was slower. The flow of BIPS did not differ for VV and EF. These data reveal new information in addition to the total tract transit time, and complement existing knowledge regarding anatomy and diet. Am. J. Primatol. 64:309–321, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.