Digestive Systems

Free Response

How does the polygastric digestive system aid in digesting roughage?


Animals with a polygastric digestive system have a multi-chambered stomach. The four compartments of the stomach are called the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum. These chambers contain many microbes that breakdown the cellulose and ferment the ingested food. The abomasum is the “true” stomach and is the equivalent of a monogastric stomach chamber where gastric juices are secreted. The four-compartment gastric chamber provides larger space and the microbial support necessary for ruminants to digest plant material.

How do birds digest their food in the absence of teeth?


Birds have a stomach chamber called a gizzard. Here, the food is stored, soaked, and ground into finer particles, often using pebbles. Once this process is complete, the digestive juices take over in the proventriculus and continue the digestive process.

What is the role of the accessory organs in digestion?


Accessory organs play an important role in producing and delivering digestive juices to the intestine during digestion and absorption. Specifically, the salivary glands, liver, pancreas, and gallbladder play important roles. Malfunction of any of these organs can lead to disease states.

Explain how the villi and microvilli aid in absorption.


The villi and microvilli are folds on the surface of the small intestine. These folds increase the surface area of the intestine and provide more area for the absorption of nutrients.

Name two components of the digestive system that perform mechanical digestion. Describe how mechanical digestion contributes to acquiring nutrients from food.


The stomach and the teeth both perform mechanical digestion, which is physically (as opposed to chemically) breaking the food into smaller components. This exposes a larger surface area for chemical digestion and release of nutrients. The teeth are vital to mastication, which breaks large bites of food down into smaller pieces that are easily swallowed. The stomach’s muscle contractions churn the food to expose all particles to the acid and digestive enzymes.