Biodiversity

Friday, May 12, 2006

DOES HERBIVORES DIET IMPOSE CERTAIN PROBLEMS FOR DIGETION?

Herbivores diet impose problem on them because they only eat plants, but animals have some mechanism to cope with this problem. Herbivores are animals which eat only plants. Different types of plants contain different nutrients and the nutritional content varies from fresh leaves to old leaves. Fresh leaves have high nutritional content and are the favourite for animal consumption, while old or matured leaves are less palatable and contain hard cellulose and have low energy content (1).

Plants that are rich in cellulose pose some problems in the digestive system of certain animals such as elephants. Once high content of cellulose is eaten, animals have to depend on the microorganisms to fully digest that cellulose on their stomach. Other mechanism includes the development of long digestive tract to sort out the digestion problem. Once the food is in the stomach, it undergoes a process called fermentation. This is a process of breaking down the cellulose by bacteria called symbiotic bacteria (6). These bacteria also help in the extraction of energy from the food to be available for absorption by the body of an animal (7).

The physical appearance of herbivores animals is mostly determined by the type of food they eat. Animals such as elephant that feed by browsing branches have large bodies and are heavily built. Branches are hard to digest and have low nutrients (5). Elephants have to eat slowly so that they can be able to chew their food and as a result they have a slow metabolic rate (“is the rate at which cells of the body use energy” [8]). Because of that elephants deal with digestive problem by developing a long digestive tract. Nevertheless, about a quarter of food in the stomach of elephant is digested and the rest is excreted undigested with dung/waste (4).

Other species such as the Ruminants have a stomach with four chambers “rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasums” to facilitate digestion (2). In the first two chambers (rumen and reticulum); food is mixed with saliva and separated into two layers (solids and liquid) of material. Solid material is put together to form a bolus which is then regurgitated. The food is then mixed with the saliva and then broken down into fibres especially cellulose (2). The symbiotic bacteria and protozoa break down this cellulose into glucose (2). After the fibre is broken down; which would be in the form of liquid, it is passed to the next stomach chamber, the omasum where water is removed. After the food is digested it is then moved to the last chamber, the abomasums and then to the small intestine where nutrients are absorbed (2).

Herbivores are the healthiest animals on earth because they eat raw plants which contain a lot of enzymes and nutrients (7). Herbivores have different digestion mechanisms to digest their food. Herbivores have slow metabolic rate because of it they start to have large stomachs in order to accommodate the food that is in the stomach (1).



Reference:

1. Wikipedia contributors. Herbivores [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopaedia; 2006 Apr 30, 00:26 UTC [cited 2006 May 12]. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbivorous
2. Wikipedia contributors. Ruminants [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopaedia; 2006 Apr 22, 23:58 UTC [cited 2006 May 12]. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruminants
3. Wikipedia contributors. Bovid [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopaedia; 2006 May 2, 05:19 UTC [cited 2006 May 12]. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bovid
4. Wikipedia contributors. Elephant [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopaedia; 2006 May 11, 23:26 UTC [cited 2006 May 12]. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elephant
5. Lindroth, L.R. Food conversion efficiencies of insect herbivores [Internet] Updated 1993 Mar, Cited 2006 May 25. Available from: www.hollowtop.com/finl_html/conversion.htm
6. Olsen, L. Digestion and anatomy of the canine. [Internet] Updated 2005 Sept, Cited 2006 May 25. Available from: http://b-naturals.com/Sep2005.php
7. Muiioz, V. Natural diet versus Traditional diet [Internet] Updated 2000 Aug 23, Cited 2006 May 25. Available from: http://www.blogger.com/www.artisticliving.com/LivingfoodsvsSADdiets.htm
8. Google Web definitions: for metabolic rate. [Internet] updated anon, Cited 2006 May 25. Available from: www.kentuckyawake.org/templates/glossary/

Lethabo Mosomane
CSIR
Pretoria
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Tel: 27 12 841 2133
Fax: 27 12 842 3676
Mail: http://www.blogger.com/lmosomane@csir.co.za
http://lmosomane.blogspot.com/

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