Does diet influence salivary enzyme activities in elephant species?

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) and African elephants (Loxodonta africana) are herbivore generalists; however, Asian elephants might ingest a higher proportion of grasses than Africans. Although some studies have investigated nutrition-specific morphological adaptations of the two species, broader studies on salivary enzymes in both elephant species are lacking. This study focuses on the comparison of salivary enzymes activity profiles in the two elephant species; these enzymes are relevant for protective and digestive functions in humans. We aimed to determine whether salivary amylase (sAA), lysozyme (sLYS), and peroxidase (sPOD) activities have changed in a species-specific pattern during evolutionary separation of the elephant genera. Saliva samples of 14 Asian and eight African elephants were collected in three German zoos. Results show that sAA and sLYS are salivary components of both elephant species in an active conformation. In contrast, little to no sPOD activity was determined in any elephant sample. Furthermore, sAA activity was significantly higher in Asian compared with African elephants. sLYS and sPOD showed no species-specific differences. The time of food provision until sample collection affected only sAA activity. In summary, the results suggest several possible factors modulating the activity of the mammal-typical enzymes, such as sAA, sLYS, and sPOD, e.g., nutrition and sampling procedure, which have to be considered when analyzing differences in saliva composition of animal species.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-226
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of comparative physiology. B, Biochemical, systemic, and environmental physiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017

External IDs

Scopus 84984782941



  • Animals, Diet/veterinary, Elephants/metabolism, Female, Male, Muramidase/metabolism, Peroxidase/metabolism, Saliva/enzymology, Salivary alpha-Amylases/metabolism