• gut;
  • staruation;
  • morphology;
  • amphibian;
  • down-regulation


The effects of short-term fasting and prolonged fasting during aestivation on the morphology of the proximal small intestine and associated organs were investigated in the green-striped burrowing frog, Cyclorana alboguttata (Anura: Hylidae). Animals were fasted for 1 week while active or for 3–9 months during aestivation. Short-duration fasting (1 week) had little effect on the morphology of the small intestine, whilst prolonged fasting during aestivation induced marked enteropathy including reductions in intestinal mass, length and diameter, longitudinal fold height and tunica muscularis thickness. Enterocyte morphology was also affected markedly by prolonged fasting: enterocyte cross-sectional area and microvillous height were reduced during aestivation, intercellular spaces were visibly reduced and the prevalence of lymphocytes amongst enterocytes was increased. Mitochondria and nuclei were also affected by 9 months of aestivation with major disruptions to mitochondrial cristae and increased clumping of nuclear material and increased infolding of the nuclear envelope. The present study demonstrates that the intestine of an aestivating frog responds to prolonged food deprivation during aestivation by reducing in size, presumably to reduce the energy expenditure of the organ.