Digestive System of Mammals

Abstract

Mammalian digestive systems share many common characteristics, but also feature numerous species‐specific adaptations to diet and habitat.

Keywords: digestion; absorption; nutrients; bacteria; diets; herbivores

Figure 1.

Range of variation in the gross structure of the mammalian digestive tract. Most species have a simple stomach, but the stomach of some herbivores, such as the sheep, is enlarged and multicompartmental. The hindgut of most carnivores, such as the mole and dog is short and may or may not include a caecum. Omnivores tend to have a longer hindgut, which may be haustrated partially as in the rabbit or throughout its length, as in the domestic pig. The hindgut of most herbivores that lack a forestomach includes either a large caecum such as that of the rabbit or a large colon, as seen in the horse. Dog, rabbit, pig, pony and sheep, from Stevens (1977) with permission of the Cornell University Press; mole from Stevens and Hume (1995) with permission of the Cambridge University Press.

Figure 2.

Bacterial fermentation of carbohydrates (a) and metabolism of nitrogenous compounds (b) in the hindgut of mammals. From Stevens and Hume (1995) with permission of the Cambridge University Press.

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Further Reading

Allison MJ (1984) Microbiology of the rumen and large intestines. In: Swenson MJ (ed.) Duke's Physiology of Domestic Animals, 1st edn, pp. 304–350. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Cloudsley‐Thompson JL (1972) The classification and study of animals by feeding habits. In: Fiennes RNT‐W (ed.) Biology of Nutrition, vol. 18, pp. 439–470. New York: Pergamon Press.

Marshall CL and Stevens CE (1999) Digestive strategies in the evolution of vertebrate herbivores. Paleontology.

Hume ID (1999) Marsupial Nutrition, 2nd edn. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Stevens CE (1977) Comparative physiology of the digestive system. In: Swenson MJ (ed.) Duke's Physiology of Domestic Animals, 9th edn, pp. 216–232. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Stevens CE and Hume ID (1995) Comparative Physiology of the Vertebrate Digestive System, 2nd edn. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Stevens CE and Hume ID (1998) Contributions of microbes in the vertebrate gastrointestinal tract to production and conservation of nutrients. Physiological Reviews 78: 393–427.

Vonk HJ and Western JRH (1984) Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology of Enzymatic Digestion. New York: Academic Press.

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How to Cite close
Stevens, C Edward(Aug 2001) Digestive System of Mammals. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0001840]