An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

How Beavers Digest Cellulose

12-26-14 beaver sign 125Some beavers are still managing to find openings in their ponds which give them access to fresh cambium, the soft layer of wood just under the bark of a tree. Cambium contains a lot of cellulose, in addition to starches and sugars. Like all herbivores, beavers do not possess enzymes that are capable of breaking down the large cellulose molecules (cellulases). In their place, beavers employ micro-organisms, such as bacteria, that can break down cellulose.

These bacteria are located in a pouch called a cecum, located at the beginning of the large intestine. (Ruminants such as moose and deer have rumens in place of ceca.) Colonies of these microorganisms in a beaver’s intestines digest up to 30% of the cellulose from the woody material that it eats. Further nutrients are recovered in the form of fecal pellets that the beaver re-ingests.

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com and click on the yellow “donate” button.

Advertisements

2 responses

  1. Hmmm, do you think that’s why dogs eat feces, too? Nutrient deficiency? It is an unpleasant aspect of their behavior, though thankfully not all do it!

    December 26, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    • You might have something there, Eliza…I know rabbits and hares do this as well, for the same reasons, but I think it has to do with the cellulose diet/microbial fermentation and the resulting need to extract as much of nutrients as possible…can’t imagine any other feasible reason to do this!

      December 26, 2014 at 10:59 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s