The Secret Ingredient in Ruminant Spit | Summary and Q&A

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October 20, 2020
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The Secret Ingredient in Ruminant Spit

TL;DR

Ruminants like sheep and cows have evolved a way to recycle their urea by feeding it to their gut microbes, allowing them to make better use of nitrogen in their diet.

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Questions & Answers

Q: Why do humans excrete urea through urine instead of recycling it like ruminants?

Humans excrete urea because while recycling urea could provide additional nitrogen, it might lead to an accumulation of ammonia, which can be toxic and harmful to the body.

Q: How do ruminants recycle urea?

Ruminants recycle urea by feeding it to their gut microbes. The microbes convert urea into amino acids that the animal can use to meet its nutritional needs.

Q: What is the significance of urea recycling for ruminants?

Urea recycling is crucial for ruminants as it allows them to extract more nutrients from their diet, even if it lacks nitrogen-rich foods. This mechanism serves as an insurance policy for obtaining essential nutrients.

Q: How are researchers trying to modify the urea recycling system in ruminants?

Researchers are exploring ways to reduce the amount of nitrogen that ruminants excrete to minimize environmental issues such as the release of greenhouse gases like nitrous oxide in cow manure.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Urea, a compound containing nitrogen that is produced after digestion, is excreted in human urine, while ruminants can recycle urea and use it to their advantage.

  • Urea plays a vital role in preventing mammals from poisoning themselves by converting ammonia into a less toxic form.

  • Ruminants take advantage of urea recycling by feeding urea to their gut microbes, converting it into amino acids that can be utilized by their bodies.

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