Oxalate, calcium and ash intake and excretion balances in fat sand rats (Psammomys obesus) feeding on two different diets

Niv Palgi, Itzick Vatnick, Berry Pinshow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Fat sand rats Psammomys obesus feed exclusively on plants of the family Chenopodiaceae, which contain high concentrations of chloride salts (NaCl, KCl) and oxalate salts. Ingestion of large quantities of oxalate is challenging for mammals because oxalate chelates Ca2+ cations, reducing Ca 2+ availability. Oxalate is a metabolic end-point in mammalian metabolism, however it can be broken-down by intestinal bacteria. We predicted that in fat sand rats microbial breakdown of oxalate will be substantial due to the high dietary load. In addition, since a high concentration of soluble chloride salts increases the solubility of calcium oxalate in solution, we examined whether a change in the intake of chloride salts affects microbial oxalate breakdown and calcium excretion in fat sand rats. We measured oxalate, calcium and other inorganic matter (ash) intake and excretion in fat sand rats feeding on two different diets: saltbush (Atriplex halimus), their natural diet, and goose-foot (Chenopodium album), a non-native chenopod on which fat sand rats will readily feed and that has a similar oxalate content to saltbush but only 2/3 of the ash content. In animals feeding on both diets, 65-80% of the oxalate ingested did not appear in urine or feces. In animals consuming the more saline saltbush, significantly more oxalate was apparently degraded (p < 0.001), while significantly less oxalate was excreted in urine (p < 0.01) and in feces (p < 0.05). We propose, therefore, that fat sand rats rely on symbiotic bacteria to remove a large portion of the oxalates ingested with their diet, and that the high dietary salt intake may play a beneficial role in their oxalate and calcium metabolism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-53
Number of pages6
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - A Molecular and Integrative Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2005


  • Ash
  • Calcium
  • Diet
  • Excretion
  • Fat sand rats
  • Oxalate
  • Oxalobacter
  • Saltbush

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Molecular Biology


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