Phenotypic flexibility of digestive morphology and physiology of the South American omnivorous rodent Akodon azarae (Rodentia: Sigmodontinae)

Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2004 Dec;139(4):503-12. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpb.2004.10.013.


We have determined the occurrence of responses at different levels (morphological, physiological and biochemical) in the omnivorous rodent Akodon azarae upon cold acclimation (15 degrees C). A short-term enhancement in food consumption appeared to account for the maintenance of both mass and body composition. At the morphological level, the main response was an increase in the dimensions of small intestine, which constitutes the section of the gut where absorption and secretion take place. An increase in sucrase specific activity was only found in small intestine. Sucrose independent maltase activity was very low since 99.8% of total maltase activity was due to sucrase-isomaltase (SI) complex. Protease specific activities were not affected. The fact that resting metabolic rates determined at 15 and 23 degrees C were similar in cold acclimated animals suggests a change in lower critical temperature. In conclusion, our results show that A. azarae exhibits different strategies to support cold environment that could lead to an enhancement in digestion and absorption efficiency. Furthermore, this work suggests that low temperature is an independent cue of other environmental factors to trigger the strategies allowing the maintenance of body condition in A. azarae.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basal Metabolism
  • Body Composition
  • Body Weight
  • Digestion* / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / drug effects
  • Intestines / anatomy & histology
  • Intestines / enzymology
  • Male
  • Muridae / anatomy & histology
  • Muridae / physiology*
  • Organ Size
  • Phenotype
  • South America
  • Temperature
  • Time Factors