The stomach of the hedgehog is a simple sac-like structure, and is divisible into three main regions based upon the histological structure of the gastric glands.
Peptic cells containing prominent Bowie positive granules are present at the bases of the rudimentary gastric glands at birth. A mucinogen component persists in these cells until about three weeks after birth.
Oxyntic cells differentiate from a non-mucoid cell type, they are far less numerous than petic cells throughout the suckling period.
Pepsin assays on the fundic mucosa reveal that pepsin is present in considerable amounts at nine days of age, and that near-adult levels are attained by about the end of the fourth week. Gastric pH declines during the suckling period, from near neutrality at birth to generally between 3.0 and 4.0 during the fourth and fifth weeks. Proteolytic digestion of antibody is delayed not through lack of enzyme but because the hydrogen ion concentration is generally inadequate for its action.
Evidence is presented to support the suggestion that the cessation of antibody absorption in the hedgehog and the rat is brought about, initially at least, by changes in the secretory activity of the gut, rather than by changes in the absorptive intestinal epithelium.