The sugar preferences of 10 Namaqua rock mice, Aethomys namaquensis, were assessed using pairwise combinations of 30% (w/w) solutions of sucrose, glucose, fructose, xylose, and a mixture of equal parts of glucose and fructose. The tests were designed to control for side biases that were apparent in preliminary experiments. The mice preferred sucrose to fructose and glucose. Xylose, although the least preferred sugar, was willingly consumed by the rodents (up to 5.8 mL in 24 h). This contrasts with the strong rejection of xylose by nectarivorous birds on which similar preference tests were performed. The efficiency of xylose absorption and metabolism by A. namaquensis was investigated by measuring dietary intake, blood xylose levels, and urinary and fecal xylose output. Again in contrast to the birds, the apparent absorption efficiency of xylose was found to be very high at 97%, but exactly how the xylose is metabolized requires further study. Xylose is thought to be only slowly metabolized by mammals, and it is possible that intestinal bacteria may serve this purpose, like the ruminal bacteria that break down xylans in plant tissue.
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