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Milk composition and growth in wild and captive Tasmanian bettongs, Bettongia gaimardi (Marsupialia)

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 14:01 authored by Rose, RW, Morahan, TM, Mulchay, JE, David RatkowskyDavid Ratkowsky
Changes in milk composition (total solids, carbohydrate, protein, lipid and calculated gross energy content) during lactation in three groups of Tasmanian bettongs (Bettongia gaimardi): free-living animals (wild group), captive animals offered a diet of dry dog food and apples ad libitum (ad lib group), and captive animals fed restricted amounts of the same diet (maintenance group) were related to growth rates (measured as body mass and head length) of their young. There were no significant differences in the concentration of milk solids among the three groups, but the wild group had higher lipid concentrations and the maintenance group had higher carbohydrate but lower protein concentrations. For all three groups, milk total solids increased through lactation from ca. 25% to ca. 45% and carbohydrate concentrations decreased from ca. 18% to about 3%. Protein concentrations increased from ca. 5% to ca. 10% in the wild and ad lib groups, but only from 4% to 8% in the maintenance group. Lipid concentrations increased in the wild and ad lib groups from ca. 4% to ca. 18%, but in the maintenance group only to ca. 7%. Calculated gross energy content of milk increased through lactation in the wild and ad lib groups (from ca. 500 kJ.100 ml-1 to ca. 1,000 kJ. 100 ml-1), but there was no significant increase in the maintenance group. The volume of milk produced increased to a peak just prior to permanent pouch vacation by the young, when the gross energy output in milk was 120-150 kJ.3 h-1 in the wild and ad lib groups. On a daily basis this is equivalent to the milk energy output of larger wallabies, and helps to explain the relatively high growth rates of young Tasmanian bettongs. There were significant differences in growth rates among the groups, with the heaviest young always in the ad lib group. Thus differences in milk composition resulting from different planes of nutrition can lead to differences in growth rates of marsupial young.


Publication title

Journal of Comparative Physiology B=Biochemical Systemic and Environmental Physiology








School of Natural Sciences



Place of publication

New York, USA

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Unprocessed or minimally processed milk

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