Comparative Biochemistry of Marsupial Erythrocytes: A Review

N. S. Agar1, N. B. Reinke1, I. R. Godwin1 and P. W. Kuchel2

1Division of Animal Physiology, University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia

2Department of Biochemistry, University of Sydney, NSW, Australia


Although extensive studies have been performed on human erythrocytes, there is a shortage of information on marsupial erythrocytes. Studies on haematology and biochemistry are useful in the ecomanagement of these animals especially those in wildlife parks and zoos. The present review summarises our findings from ~30 species of marsupials. As marsupials show great diversity in physical and behavioural characteristics, it is not surprising that examination of their red blood cells reveals variation in the biochemical features. Many variations in red cell biochemistry appear to be species specific and, although interesting, are too numerous to list here and have been discussed in the relevant sections. Red blood cells of several species of marsupial differ from those in placental mammals by having higher haemoglobin concentration and haematocrit, lower ATP and higher 2,3-diphosphoglycerate concentrations. These features are consistent across the majority of marsupial species, but the relevance of these variations from red cell metabolism in the placental mammals is unknown.