Difference Between Alimentary Canal of Herbivores and Carnivores

Main Difference – Alimentary Canal of Herbivores vs Carnivores

Mammals are heterotrophic animals. Herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores are the three types of mammals based on the dietary patterns. Herbivores such as bovines, camelids, giraffes, and lagomorpha eat plant materials. Carnivores such as lions, tigers, cheetahs, and hyenas eat mainly or exclusively animal tissues. The alimentary canal is the passage along which the food passes through from mouth to anus during the digestion. The main difference between the alimentary canal of herbivores and carnivores is that herbivores have a longer alimentary canal whereas carnivores have a shorter alimentary canal. Herbivores take a longer time to digest and absorb nutrients while carnivores readily absorb nutrients.

Key Areas Covered

1. Alimentary Canal of Herbivores
      – Definition, Components, Role
2. Alimentary Canal of Carnivores
      – Definition, Components, Role
3. What are the Similarities Between Herbivores and Carnivores
      – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Herbivores and Carnivores
      – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms: Alimentary Canal, Caecum, Carnivores, Foregut Fermentation, Herbivores, Hindgut Fermentation, Stomach, Teeth

Difference Between Alimentary Canal of Herbivores and Carnivores - Comparison Summary

Alimentary Canal of Herbivores

The alimentary canal of herbivores refers to the organ system that digests plant materials in the herbivorous body. As the diet of herbivores contains a lot of cellulose, which is difficult to digest, the alimentary canal of the herbivores becomes a much longer system.

Herbivores possess flat, front teeth. Their jaws undergo molars grinding. Herbivores such as cows have four stomachs. The first three stomachs, the rumen, reticulum, and omasum are involved in the breaking down of plant fibers. The population of microflora is involved in this process. It breaks down cellulose through fermentation, producing volatile fatty acids such as acetate, butyrate, and propionate. These fatty acids are utilized by the cow as a nutrient. Digestive enzymes are secreted in the fourth stomach called the abomasum. This is called the foregut fermentation. The stomach of the cow is shown in figure 1.

Main Difference - Alimentary Canal of Herbivores vs Carnivores

Figure 1: Stomach of Cow

Some herbivores possess a large caecum in which the actual fermentation takes place. Caecum is a pouch connected to the junction of the small and large intestine. This is called the hindgut fermentation. In herbivores, 50% of the food passes through the alimentary canal without being absorbed by the body.

Alimentary Canal of Carnivores

The alimentary canal of carnivores refers to the organ system, which digests animal tissues in the carnivores’ body. Since animal tissues are easy to digest, the alimentary canal of the carnivores is short and simple. Carnivores contain strong and sharp teeth. They do not have digestive enzymes in their saliva. Lion’s teeth are shown in figure 2.

Difference Between Alimentary Canal of Herbivores and Carnivores

Figure 2: Lion’s teeth

 They possess a single stomach (monogastric). The stomach of the carnivores serves as a food reservoir, sterilizing chamber (due to the less pH), churning chamber as well as the initial site of protein digestion. The nutrients are absorbed in the small intestine while the water is absorbed in the large intestine.  

Similarities Between Alimentary Canal of Herbivores and Carnivores

  • Both herbivores and carnivores are mammals.
  • Both herbivores and carnivores comprise an alimentary canal with a mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine.
  • Both herbivores and carnivores possess adaptations in their alimentary canals based on the type of diet they eat.

Difference Between Alimentary Canal of Herbivores and Carnivores

Definition

Alimentary Canal of Herbivores: Alimentary canal of herbivores refers to the organ system, which digests plant materials in the herbivores’ body.

Alimentary Canal of Carnivores: Alimentary canal of carnivores refers to the organ system, which digests animal tissues in the carnivores’ body.

Dietary Type

Alimentary Canal of Herbivores: Herbivores eat plant materials.

Alimentary Canal of Carnivores: Carnivores eat animal tissues.

Time Taken for Digestion and Absorption

Alimentary Canal of Herbivores: Herbivores take longer time for digestion and absorption.

Alimentary Canal of Carnivores: Carnivores take less time for the digestion when compared to herbivores.

Length of the Digestive Tract

Alimentary Canal of Herbivores: The alimentary canal of herbivores is long.

Alimentary Canal of Carnivores: The alimentary canal of the carnivores is shorter than that of the herbivores.

Mouth

Alimentary Canal of Herbivores: Herbivorous animals have small mouths and muscular tongues.

Alimentary Canal of Carnivores: Carnivorous animals have wide mouths in relation to their head and highly-developed jaw muscles.

Teeth

Alimentary Canal of Herbivores: Herbivores teeth contain flat edges adapted for biting, crushing, and grinding.

Alimentary Canal of Carnivores: Carnivores teeth contain long, sharp, pointed teeth adapted for piercing into flesh.

Saliva

Alimentary Canal of Herbivores: Herbivorous saliva contains carbohydrate digestive enzymes.

Alimentary Canal of Carnivores: Carnivorous saliva lacks digestive enzymes.

Stomach

Alimentary Canal of Herbivores: Herbivores have a small stomach, which processes a small amount of food at a time.

Alimentary Canal of Carnivores: Carnivores have a large stomach.

Number of Stomachs

Alimentary Canal of Herbivores: Some herbivores have four stomachs.

Alimentary Canal of Carnivores: Carnivores have a single stomach.

Digestive Enzymes

Alimentary Canal of Herbivores: Herbivorous stomach secretes less powerful digestive enzymes.

Alimentary Canal of Carnivores: Carnivorous stomach secretes more powerful digestive enzymes.

pH

Alimentary Canal of Herbivores: The pH of the stomach is less than 1 in herbivores.

Alimentary Canal of Carnivores: The pH of the stomach ranges from 4-5 in carnivores.

Small Intestine

Alimentary Canal of Herbivores: Herbivorous small intestine is 10 to 12 times of their body.

Alimentary Canal of Carnivores: Carnivorous small intestine is 3 to 6 times of their body.

Liver

Alimentary Canal of Herbivores: Herbivorous liver eliminates less uric acid.

Alimentary Canal of Carnivores: Carnivorous liver eliminates ten times much uric acid than the herbivores.

Caecum

Alimentary Canal of Herbivores: Herbivores has a large caecum.

Alimentary Canal of Carnivores: Carnivores has a smaller caecum.

Actual Digestion 

Alimentary Canal of Herbivores: The actual digestion of herbivores occurs in the caecum.

Alimentary Canal of Carnivores: The actual digestion of carnivores occurs in the stomach.

Conclusion

Herbivores and carnivores possess adaptations in their alimentary canals depending on the type of food they take. Since herbivores eat plant materials that are difficult to digest, their alimentary canal is long, providing a longer time for the digestion. Carnivores eat animal tissues, which are easy to digest. Therefore, their alimentary canal is short. The main difference between the alimentary canal of herbivores and carnivores is their adaptations for the digestion of food.

Reference:

1. “Herbivore digestive system.” Evolving sciences, Available here.
2. “Carnivore digestive system.” Evolving sciences, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Abomasum (PSF)” By Pearson Scott Foresman (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “68421” (CC0) via PEXELS

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things

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