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The caecal ecosystem and the nutrition of the rabbit : interaction with digestive health

INRA Prod. Anim., 21 (3), 239-250.


1 INRA, Université de Toulouse INPT-ENSAT, ENVT, UMR 1289 Tissus Animaux, Nutrition, Digestion, Ecosystème et Métabolisme, F-31326 Castanet-Tolosan, France

2 INRA, UR 1282 Infectiologie Animale et Santé Publique, F- 37380 Nouzilly, France

3 Dpt de Producción Animal, ETSI Agronómos, Univ. Politécnica de Madrid, Ciudad Universitaria, 28040 Madrid, Espagne

4 CreSA, Uab-IRTA, Campus de Bellaterra, Edifici V, 08193 Bellaterra, Barcelona, Espagne


The rabbit, which is herbivorous and monogastric, harbours in distal parts of the gut an active and abundant symbiotic microbiota, which plays a key role in its digestive physiology, both for health and digestive efficiency. In the caeco-colic ecosystem, there are complex interactions among the biotope (i.e. the caecum) and the biocenosis (the microbiota), and its functioning still remains poorly known.

This review will first summarise the data concerning the caecal biotope and its physico-chemical characteristics, which were subjected to numerous studies. Our knowledge of the caecal biocenosis, obtained by traditional culture based methods will then be presented, and then those obtained recently using molecular microbiology tools. Lastly, this review will described the effect of some main nutrients and of some feeding strategies on the function of this ecosystem, and the relationships with the digestive health of the young rabbit.

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