While you are learning about how enzymes work in human digestive systems, have a look at the digestive system of other animals!
Everyone knows that the sloth is really slow, but did you know that their digestive system is also very slow. So slow – it can take up to a month for it to digest its food! This is by far the longest digestive rate recorded for any mammal. Compare this to the adult mayfly, most of which do not have a digestive system at all. Their sole purpose is to mate, and then they die. Their adult lifespan is so short they have no need to eat at all.
Squid digest food using a small stomach and large caecum. However, they have to be careful what they eat, as their digestive system passes through their brain. If they eat something too big – it could result in brain damage! Owls cannot chew their food at all, therefore swallow it whole, bones included. Everything edible is digested, and indigestible parts, such as fur, bones, teeth & feathers are compressed into a pellet. These pellets remain in the owl for up to 10 hours before they regurgitate them. As the pellets block the digestive system, owls are not able to swallow new prey until they get rid of the pellet out of the mouth!
You may consider horses lucky – as they are unable to vomit. Their oesophagus only allows movement one way. As they are very picky about what they eat – this does not usually pose a problem for them! Elephants have a fairly ordinary digestive system. Because their diet is primarily vegetation, they are non-ruminant herbivores. Unlike cows, they do not chew cud, but they do produce massive amounts of methane gas. They can produce 2000 litres per day – enough to run a car for 20 miles!! Elephants eat a lot – feeding for up to 16 hours per day. As they are less than 50% efficient in digesting food, and eat so much – they also produce a lot of manure. A single elephant will defaecate around 15 times a day, producing 250 pounds of manure!
GCSE scientists you need to be able to explain how enzymes are needed in the digestive system. You also need to describe how to investigate enzyme activity. Try Part 2 of our “How to work with Enzymes” revision guide. It includes exam questions, and answers for you to check your understanding.
Click on the picture below to see the guide:
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