The energetics of coprophagy: a theoretical analysis



Lagomorphs, many rodents and some other small mammals eat their faeces during the part of the day when they are not foraging for fresh food. One of the possible benefits of this habit of coprophagy is that it may enable them to extract more energy from their food. A computer model is used to assess the likely benefits and explore their relationships to food, feeding rate and gut morphology. The predicted benefits are much larger for hindgut fermenters than for foregut fermenters, and especially large for hindgut fermenters with relatively small fermentation chambers. They are larger for poor foods (with lower proportions of cell contents) than for richer ones. At low feeding rates the energetic advantage of coprophagy may disappear if the faeces from food eaten during one feeding period emerge largely during the next, but this can be avoided by adjusting the rate of passage of gut contents during the intervening rest period.