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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Explain the processes of digestion and absorption
  • Compare and contrast different types of digestive systems
  • Explain the specialized functions of the organs involved in processing food in the body
  • Describe the ways in which organs work together to digest food and absorb nutrients

Animals obtain their nutrition from the consumption of other organisms. Depending on their diet, animals can be classified into the following categories: plant eaters (herbivores), meat eaters (carnivores), and those that eat both plants and animals (omnivores). The nutrients and macromolecules present in food are not immediately accessible to the cells. There are a number of processes that modify food within the animal body in order to make the nutrients and organic molecules accessible for cellular function. As animals evolved in complexity of form and function, their digestive systems have also evolved to accommodate their various dietary needs.

Herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores

Herbivores are animals whose primary food source is plant-based. Examples of herbivores, as shown in [link] include vertebrates like deer, koalas, and some bird species, as well as invertebrates such as crickets and caterpillars. These animals have evolved digestive systems capable of handling large amounts of plant material. Herbivores can be further classified into frugivores (fruit-eaters), granivores (seed eaters), nectivores (nectar feeders), and folivores (leaf eaters).

Left photo shows a buck with antlers. Right photo shows a black, yellow, and white striped caterpillar eating a leaf.
Herbivores, like this (a) mule deer and (b) monarch caterpillar, eat primarily plant material. (credit a: modification of work by Bill Ebbesen; credit b: modification of work by Doug Bowman)

Carnivores are animals that eat other animals. The word carnivore is derived from Latin and literally means “meat eater.” Wild cats such as lions, shown in [link] a and tigers are examples of vertebrate carnivores, as are snakes and sharks, while invertebrate carnivores include sea stars, spiders, and ladybugs, shown in [link] b . Obligate carnivores are those that rely entirely on animal flesh to obtain their nutrients; examples of obligate carnivores are members of the cat family, such as lions and cheetahs. Facultative carnivores are those that also eat non-animal food in addition to animal food. Note that there is no clear line that differentiates facultative carnivores from omnivores; dogs would be considered facultative carnivores.

Top photo shows a lion. Bottom photo shows a ladybug.
Carnivores like the (a) lion eat primarily meat. The (b) ladybug is also a carnivore that consumes small insects called aphids. (credit a: modification of work by Kevin Pluck; credit b: modification of work by Jon Sullivan)

Omnivores are animals that eat both plant- and animal-derived food. In Latin, omnivore means to eat everything. Humans, bears (shown in [link] a ), and chickens are example of vertebrate omnivores; invertebrate omnivores include cockroaches and crayfish (shown in [link] b ).

Top photo shows a bear. Bottom photo shows a crayfish.
Omnivores like the (a) bear and (b) crayfish eat both plant and animal based food. (credit a: modification of work by Dave Menke; credit b: modification of work by Jon Sullivan)

Questions & Answers

guy I need the answer of this question what occurs during photosynthesis
REAL Reply
Photosynthesis is the process that plants use to convert light into food. During this process, plants create carbohydrates starting with only carbon dioxide and water. Sunlight provides the energy that makes photosynthesis possible.
Stanley
@Stanley,that's how I could as well put it
Evans
what are different between genotype and phenotype
Martha Reply
what is light microscope and electronic microscope
Martha
what occurs during photosynthesis
Martha
what are importance of biology
Martha
what is the meaning of computer science
Martha
what is ecology
Adeyemo Reply
what is zoology
Adeyemo
zoology branch of biology that study animals
Moses
a branch of biology which deals with the study of animals
Anita
A plant is a living thing that grows in the earth and has a stem, leaves, and roots
Bello Reply
what is a plant
dalitso Reply
A plant is a living thing that grows in the earth and has a stem, leaves, and roots
Bello
a plant is an is a living thing that is classified under autothrops because it makes its own food through the process of photosynthesis .
Joanne
a plant is also known as autotropic category and a plant have root & stem
Anita
what is plant
Odion Reply
Plants are autotrophic
Baramox
Then animal are heterotrophic
Iyiola
what are organisms
Godfred Reply
Living structures
Aryavarta
living and non living which charectrised by different properties
Anita
organisms living and nonliving components of the environment with distinct xtics
Tony
the diagram below show how the blood of a human embryo flows close to the mothers blood in the placenta . which substances are represent at x in higher concentrations than at y
Joyce Reply
what is ecology
Odion Reply
what is cell
Odion
what is cell
Odion
Is the basic unit of life
Agatha
what's biology
Okebe
biology is the study of life
Ali
What is a cell
Awal Reply
What are tissues
Awal
A cell is the smallest unit of living organisms.
hamidat
Tissues are group of similar cells performing a particular function.
hamidat
how to pronounce the word cyanobacteria
siva Reply
Cyano then bacteria. look that "cyano" is just like "ciyano".
hamidat
explain the term transpiration pull
Tank Reply
water is mainly " pulled" through the plant and that the driving force for this process is transpiration from the leaves .This is also referred to as the cohesion- tension -transpiration pull model transport.
Vanessa
explain TRANSIOCATION and GUTATION
Tank
what Is corona
INGIEBE Reply
My brother go and ask GOOGLE😷😷😷
hamidat
Google it for the right answer. Corona is a virus which causes Novel Covid-19 disease that has been declared by WHO as a global or world pandemic.
Katlholo
Why is it called Covid-19?
Katlholo
jjwhat is. condinative system
Odion
joy
Odion
condinative system is the system that harmonize all the. different. part. of. the. body and make. them function as a. specific unit
Odion
Describe the process of protein sythesis?
Kizito Reply
Ribosomes are responsible for protein synthesis in animals.
hamidat
What is a ploidy level
Francis Reply
Ploidy refers to the number of chromosomes. We have 23 pairs of chromosomes in somatic cells. Sex cells are haploid thus 23 chromosomes vs. 46 Chromosomes.
Eric
Evolution is evolvement according to one's environment. Let's use humidity as an example. A person from a very cold environment would not be used to hot humid weather. But over time their body would slowly, slowly adapt.
Eric
Give me (3) types of biodiversity
Jay
Hi guys 🇧🇪
Namutebi
hello boy
Tedi
hi
INGIEBE
yes
amani

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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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