The many lives we carry within us

Written by Paul on May 15th, 2013

Did you ever wonder why cows have 4 stomaches? Ruminants, animals with 4 stomaches, are able to eat and process forages with a high amount of cellulose very efficiently. They can do it by a relationship they have developed with bacteria that live in one of their stomaches called the rumen. These bacteria breakdown the cellulose into its carbohydrate components which the cow is then able to utilize for energy. In the course of evolution the cow, sheep and goat have evolved to be the most efficient utilizers of plant material and thereby, solar collectors. Animals like the pig and horse also can eat grasses but because they have a single stomache like us, they have evolved a much less efficient way of processing that cellulose in their large intestines. We also have a very complex bioshpere in our guts. In a recent NY Times article food and agricultural writer, Michael Pollan describes the recent work done at UC Boulder to identify some of these companions we only seem to know are there when they are not happy. His full article can be read at this link.


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