Digestive System

Walter R. Terra and Clelia Ferreira

University of Sao Paulo, Brazil

The digestive system consists of the alimentary canal (gut) and salivary glands, and is responsible for all steps in food processing: digestion, absorption, and feces delivery and elimination. These steps occur along the gut. The anterior (foregut) and posterior (hindgut) parts of the gut have cells covered by a cuticle whereas, in the midgut, cells are separated from the food by a filmlike anatomical structure referred to as the peritrophic membrane. Salivary glands are associated with the foregut and may be important in food intake but usually not in digestion. Remarkable adaptations are found in taxa with very specialized diets, such as cicadas (plant sap), dung beetles (feces), and termites (wood), and in insects with short life spans, as exemplified by flies and moths. Digestion is carried out by insect digestive enzymes, apparently without participation of symbiotic microorganisms.

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