Energy requirements of fat sand rats (Psammomys obesus) and their efficiency of utilization of the saltbush Atriplex halimus for maintenance

A. Allan Degen, M. Kam, Debbie Jurgrau

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27 Scopus citations


The fat sand rat (Psammomys obesus; Gerbillinae), a diurnal gerbillid rodent, is herbivorous and able to thrive while consuming only the saltbush Atriplex halimus (Chenopodiaceae), a plant relatively low in energy content and high in ash and water. We measured the basal metabolic rate offat sand rats, their energy requirements in captivity when they were offered only A. halimus, and their efficiency of utilization of this diet for maintenance. Before consuming A. halimus leaves, the fat sand rats scraped off the surface layers with their teeth. This behavioural activity removed 6.4% to 8.5% of the dry matter of the leaf, but increased the gross energy and organic matter content of the leaf by only approximately 3.1%. Basal metabolic rate of the fat sand rats was 167.9‐O 7s d‐′, approximately 57% of that expected for an eutherian mammal of its body mass, and energy requirements for maintenance, or average daily metabolic rate, were 498.7‐0′7s d‐′, approximately 90% of that expected for a rodent of its body mass. Dry matter digestibility of the consumed A. halimus averaged 67% and apparent digestible energy and apparent metabolizable energy averaged 65.3% and 63.4% of the gross energy, respectively. The efficiency of utilization of A . halimus for maintenance energy (k,) by the fat sand rats was 0.32 and the heat increment of feeding (HIF) was 0.68. The k, of A. halimus appeared to be low compared to other feeds, and this characteristic plus its low energy value and high water content forced the fat sand rats to consume large quantities of forage for maintenance. It was concluded that although A. halimus has a low energy and high ash content, there are several advantages for fat sand rats consuming mainly this diet. Among them are: (1) it provides a more stable diet throughout the year than do seeds; (2) fat sand rats have no competition for this food resource from other rodents; and (3) their burrows are at the base of the

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-452
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Zoology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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