4 Wild Animals That Practice Coprophagy
Coprophagy is a technique practiced by different species around the world. It is a little known biological adaptation, which generates a lot of rejection in humans. In any case, animals that resort to eating their own faeces – or the faeces of others – do so for a specific reason.
In the natural world, each species specializes in a unique ecological niche. And some animals are responsible for transforming organic matter that no living being will reuse, that is, their feces. If you want to know more about coprophagy, read on.
What is coprophagy?
Coprophagy is defined as the ingestion of feces or excreta and is a common behavior in some animal species. The purpose of coprophagy is to ingest essential nutrients that were not digested passing through the digestive tract and would otherwise be wasted.
Only a few living beings practice coprophagy as a form of natural food. Among them, there are invertebrates and vertebrates. On the other hand, only animals that feed exclusively or almost exclusively on the droppings of others, such as certain beetles, are considered strict coprophagous.
On the other hand, there are occasional coprophages, that is, animals that eat other foods but sometimes ingest their own feces. This is because your intestines cannot completely break down food and extract all the nutrients at once. Therefore, they ingest the feces again and digest them once more.
In addition, dung animals, such as rabbits, expel two different types of feces, one that is food and one that is not. The feces that can be ingested are called cecotrophes or nocturnal stools .
Which animals practice coprophagy?
Below, some of the wild animals that practice coprophagy, both strict and occasional, will be explained. Check out!
Rabbits consume a portion of their own feces, specifically, so-called cecotrophes . These stools are soft and composed of partially digested food, from which they extract nutrients.
Some species related to rabbits – such as guinea pigs – do not have a sophisticated digestive system. Therefore, feces provide nutrients and vitamins, like hamsters, which reabsorb vitamins B and K thanks to coprophagy.
It has been observed that on some occasions, chimpanzees can feed on their feces. The reason they do this is the same as rabbits, which means that the seeds they eat do not allow them to get all the nutrients in the first digestion. Therefore, they ingest them again in order to extract all their benefits.
This behavior has also been observed in gorillas, which can ingest their own excreta or that of other gorillas. On the other hand, apes and monkeys often ingest the droppings of other species.
3. dung beetles
Dung beetles, on the other hand, feed on the droppings of other animals. Depending on whether they are young or old, they feed on one type of material or another. The chicks of dung beetles feed on raw material debris from solid droppings. That’s because they don’t have specialized mouthparts to suck the liquid from this raw material.
Some species of dung beetles can use manure to build their houses, where they lay their eggs. Furthermore, this behavior was also observed in other insects, such as flies and other dipteran larvae.
Coprophagy can be admitted as something normal when performed by wild beings. However, when practiced by domestic animals such as dogs, people may be shocked. Coprophagy is a natural behavior, even though it is not very common in dogs. While it sounds surprising, it is believed that this behavior may be a learned habit from mothers.
When mothers clean their pups, they stimulate the perineal region, which causes the pup to urinate or defecate. The mother cleans the puppy, a behavior that he learns and can repeat throughout his life.
If tutors are uncomfortable with this behavior, they can take steps to redirect it. For this, it is recommended to change the animal’s diet, collect its feces immediately or perform exercise routines for the dog.
Some species of mammals perform coprophagy sporadically to obtain bacteria they do not have. Elephant or koala cubs ingest their mother’s excreta to incorporate the normal microbiome into their digestive tract. In this way, young people can digest the food they eat.
Another example is pigs, which like to eat feces. It seems that this practice is beneficial for the soil and water, in other words, for the environment. When pigs ingest feces, they may be unconsciously putting in place a tactic to save food and also produce less organic waste.
Coprophagy is a common technique in the animal world, although the best known examples are the rabbit or rodents. Furthermore, this evolutionary strategy has a remarkable ecological importance, thanks to the action of coprophages that fertilize the soil and accelerate the decomposition of feces.