Chapter

Digestion

Dale F. Lott

in American Bison

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2002 | ISBN: 9780520233386
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520930742 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520233386.003.0005
Digestion

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A grassland's plants combine the energy from the sun with water and nutrients from the soil to grow and reproduce. These plants produce the stuff of life and growth for grass eaters. There are carbohydrates for energy and protein for growth and repairing body parts. Digesting anything is a strictly chemical matter of subjecting it to an enzyme that breaks certain molecular bonds. Bison don't secrete an enzyme that digests cellulose either, but they enlist colonies of bacteria. The front part of their stomach is segmented off by a fold (the rumen) in which newly swallowed food is kept for a while. It serves as a place where some very helpful bacteria put their enzymes to work digesting the cellulose. The ruminants have enlisted a powerful ally in their arms race with grass.

Keywords: digestion; grassland; cellulose; bacteria; ruminants; rumen; bison; grass

Chapter.  3738 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Biological Sciences

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