Nutritional influences on enzyme activities in saliva of Asian and African elephants

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Asian and African elephants show morphological adaptations to their ecological niche including the oral cavity. Variety and preferences of forage plants differ between both herbivorous elephant species. Diet can affect salivary enzymes. Asian elephants were shown to have a higher salivary amylase activity than African elephants. Species-specific differences were presumed to be influenced by feeding during collection procedure. This study aimed to determine the influence of feeding on enzyme activities in saliva of both elephant species to differentiate from species-specific effects. Additionally, season and housing conditions on salivary enzyme activities in non-fed elephants of both species were investigated. Salivary amylase (sAA), lysozyme (sLYS) and peroxidase (sPOD) activity were measured photometrically or fluorometrically. Results of this study reinforce previous observations of higher basic sAA activity in Asian elephants compared to African elephants. Salivary LYS and sPOD activity showed neither species-specific nor housing-specific differences. Independent from season, most elephants of both species revealed a lack of or low sPOD activity. Feeding caused a temporary decrease of sAA, sLYS and sPOD activity in both elephant species kept in four of eight tested zoos. Furthermore, sAA activity in Asian elephants was higher and sLYS activity lower in Spring than in Autumn. This study summarizes that sAA and sLYS are components of Asian and African elephant saliva in an active conformation in contrast to sPOD. Diet varying between season and zoos might influence sAA and sLYS activities primarily in Asian elephants but temporary low effects suggest sufficient buffer capacity of elephant saliva of both species.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)955-970
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of comparative physiology. B, Biochemical, systemic, and environmental physiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

External IDs

PubMedCentral PMC8380575
Scopus 85109682572



  • Animals, Diet, Ecosystem, Elephants, Saliva, Seasons

Library keywords