Mouth Structure Dentition And Gastrointestinal Morphology

Mouth structure and dentition tend to be specialized to accommodate efficient capture and consumption of particular types of prey. Classical carnivores, such as lions and tigers, have well-developed incisors and carnassial teeth that facilitate effective grasping of terrestrial vertebrate prey and shearing of flesh. Simple pointed teeth for grasping and holding fish prior to swallowing are found in pinnipeds such as dolphins. The tusks of walruses are used to dislodge crustaceans from their underwater locations. Small insectivores, such as shrews, have teeth with cusped surfaces that efficiently grasp the rigid exoskeletons of insect prey. Dentition is much reduced in carnivores that consume colonial insects, such as anteaters, which have a long manipulable tongue used to catch and ingest ants and termites from tunnels and cavities. Whales that consume zooplankton have baleen rather than teeth platelike structures that project downward from either side of the upper interior mouth surface and that trap zooplankton while allowing release of water ingested with their food.

Although the dentition of carnivores is quite diverse, the gastrointestinal systems of those species that have been studied tend to be similar and relatively simple, presumably because carnivorous diets are quite digestible. There are seldom compartments in the stomach or large intestine that delay movement of digesta and that house microorganisms that assist digestion of refractory compounds, as in herbivores. If the cecum is present, it is often small; in many species, both the small and large intestines may be rather short. Nevertheless, there are a number of distinct species differences, the functions of which are not yet understood.[4]

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