Changes in the morphology of the small intestinal mucosa and enterocyte dynamics were examined in posthatch chicks through 12 d. At hatch, enterocytes were round and nonpolar; however, within 24 h posthatch, enterocytes lengthened and exhibited more typical morphology. Crypts were rudimentary at hatch and by 48 h invagination was completed and crypt numbers increased by branching and fission, with the number of crypts per villus reaching plateau after 72 h posthatch. All epithelial cells were proliferative at hatch. In the crypts, the proportion of proliferating enterocytes decreased to 50 to 60% within 2 d posthatch, whereas along the villus the proportion of proliferating cells decreased to 10 to 20% by 6 d. Different patterns of temporal development of villi were observed in the duodenum, jejunum and ileum. Individual villus surface area increased steadily in the duodenum throughout the experiment, whereas individual jejunal and ileal villus surface areas increased more slowly after 4 d posthatch. The number of villi per cross-section of intestine increased in the duodenum and jejunum but not in the ileum. The total segment villus surface area increased similarly in all segments until 3 d posthatch, after which the jejunum increased considerably in absorptive area, whereas the duodenum and ileum increased more slowly. This study shows that, in the hatching chick, the small intestine matures in a manner similar to neonatal mammals, with specific ontogenetic timetables in the different small intestinal segments, however, the most dramatic changes occur within the first 24 h posthatch.
- Small intestine