|Know your wildlife with Tsitsi S Maponga|
|Saturday, 30 June 2012 20:05|
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Coprophagia or coprophagy animals
THIS is just one word that was interesting to know and I tried looking it up but there was still relatively little information on it, in books and even on line but I still thought it was still interesting. Coprophagia or coprophagy is the consumption of faeces, from the Greek copros (“feces”) and phagein (“to eat”). Coprophagy refers to many kinds of faeces eating including heterospecifics, allocoprophagy, autocoprophagy.
Apparently the practice is common among rabbits, some rodents, and other herbivores that despite a cellulose-heavy diet lack the elaborate digestive plumbing of ruminants and thus must eat everything twice to obtain maximum nutritional benefit.
Coprophagia seems to be more associated with nutrient uptake in which most species ingest the faecal matter which is mostly undigested for a certain nutrient, for example apes have been observed eating horse faeces for the salt content. But coprophagia isn’t only for nutrients. Cat mothers are known to eat the faeces of their newborn kittens during the very earliest phase after birth, presumably to eliminate cues to potential predators and to keep the den clean. This is a unique anti-predatory behaviour.
In domesticated mammals, choosing not to offend the dominant owner, they eat or more prominently bury waste. But sometimes dogs eat faeces because they think that faeces taste nice.
Coprophagia is done by almost all the species including some carnivorous plants, such as pitcher plants of the genus Nepenthes, which obtain nourishment from the faeces of commensal animals. Even some insects consume and redigest the faeces of large animals. These faeces contain substantial amounts of semi-digested food (herbivores’ digestive systems are especially inefficient). The most notable faeces-eating insect is the dung-beetle and the most common is the fly. Of interest it’s said that termites eat their mother’s faeces as a means of obtaining their hindgut protists. Termites and protists have a symbiotic relationship that allows the termites to digest the cellulose in their diet via the protists. It has also been proposed that hormones are passed to offspring in this way.
Types of coprophagia
Autocoprophagy: This is when an individual consumes its own faeces such as Capybara, rabbits, hamsters and other related species as they do not have a complex ruminant digestive system. Instead they are hindgut fermenters that digest cellulose via microbial fermentation. In addition, they extract further nutrition from grass by giving their food a second pass through the gut. Soft faecal pellets of partially digested food are excreted and generally consumed immediately. The night time faeces of rabbits are soft and black, consisting of partly digested grasses and other leaves, and nibbled straight from the anus as a kind of breakfast. Consuming these cecotropes is important for adequate nutritional intake of vitamin B12. They also produce normal droppings, which are not eaten.
Hamsters, guinea pigs and chinchillas also eat their own droppings, which are thought to be a source of vitamins B and K, produced by bacteria in the gut. Gorillas also eat their own faeces and the faeces of other gorillas. Similar behaviour has also been observed among chimpanzees. Such behaviour may serve to improve absorption of vitamins or of nutritive elements made available from the re-ingestion of seeds.