Interspecies differences in structure

The variation in relative dimension of the large intestine is largely correlated with diet. In herbivores, such as horses and rabbits, which depend largely on microbial fermentation for nutrition, the large intestine is very large and complex. Omnivores like pigs and humans have a substantial but smaller large intestine. Carnivores such as dogs and cats have a small and simple large intestine. The structure and function of the caecum varies in many animals. Vertebrates such as rabbits and horses, which live on a diet composed only of plant life, have a larger caecum that is an important organ of absorption, since it contains bacteria that help digest cellulose. Animals that eat only meat have a reduced or absent caecum. In cats and dogs, muscle contractions of the caecum are much more vigorous and are reversible. Materials already passed to the next region of the large intestine can be brought back to the caecum for mixing with new food substances.

Figure 7.2 Structure of the colon wall

Figure 7.2 Structure of the colon wall

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