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Gastrointestinal tract of the brown kiwi (Apteryx mantelli)


M. A. Potter, INR, Massey University, Private Bag 11222, Palmerston North, New Zealand.


The caeca of the brown kiwi Apteryx mantelli increased in length isometrically with body mass, but wall mass and thus mucosal thickness increased allometrically. Kiwi caeca are sacculate, with greater thickness of mucosa in the proximal portions. The caecal mucosa is similar to the small intestinal mucosa, with well-developed mucosal folds, villi, and crypts of Lieberkühn or intestinal glands. The solid matter in caecal digesta contained disproportionately large quantities of material that was not retained by a 75 μm sieve. The per cent of incombustible material (total ash) within the caeca digesta did not differ significantly from those within adjacent small intestinal or rectal segments. The fine particles within the caeca were not composed of fine crystalline uric acid; chemical analyses showed only low levels of uric acid in caecal digesta. These findings indicate that the caeca of this flightless insectivorous ratite are a site for the sequestration and fermentative digestion of fine particulate material, such as plant fibre, fragmented chitin or uric acid crystals.