2020 Volume 69 Issue 1 Pages 70-79
Chinchillas are herbivores, but wild chinchillas may occasionally consume animal-based foods. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of fish meal (FM) and mealworm meal (MWM) included in complete pelleted diets on nutrient digestibility and gastrointestinal function in chinchillas. The experiment was performed on 24 male, divided into three groups, n=8. Control group (C) was fed a diet containing 10% soybean meal (SBM). In the experimental group FM, chinchillas received a diet containing 3% fish meal, and the diet administered to the experimental group MWM was supplemented with 4% dried mealworm larvae meal. The nutrient digestibility of diets was determined. At the end of the experiment animals were euthanized and their digestive tracts were removed to analyze gut activity. FM group animals were characterized by lower crude fat digestibility, whereas both alternative protein sources improved the digestibility of acid detergent fiber (ADF). A considerable increase in the activity of cecal intracellular and extracellular bacterial enzymes (in particular β-glucosidase, β-galactosidase and β-xylosidase) was noted in the FM group, which however did not increase the concentrations of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). The inclusion of MWM in chinchilla diets shifted the bacterial fermentation site from the cecum (lowest SCFA pool) to the colon (highest SCFA pool), thus enabling to derive additional energy from less digestible dietary components. In conclusion, chinchilla diets can be supplemented with small amounts of animal protein such as fish meal and dried mealworm larvae meal.