Why vultures can eat carrion

This video is called Feeding a Vulture – Vultures: Beauty in the Beast – Natural World – BBC Two.

From Wildlife Extra:

A super-gut allows vultures to eat disgusting carcasses

Vultures are able to eat rotting carcasses covered in bacteria that could kill other creatures because their super-digestive tract is able to kill, or tolerate, dangerous bacteria like Clostridia, Fuso- and Anthrax-bacteria without ill-effects, a new study has found.

Co-author Michael Roggenbuck from University of Copenhagen explains: “Our results show there has been strong adaptation in vultures when it comes to dealing with the toxic bacteria they digest. On one hand vultures have developed an extremely tough digestive system, which simply acts to destroy the majority of the dangerous bacteria they ingest.

“On the other hand, vultures also appear to have developed a tolerance towards some of the deadly bacteria — species that would kill other animals actively seem to flourish in the vulture lower intestine.”

The scientists investigated the DNA of bacteria living on the face and gut of 50 turkey and black vultures from the USA and found the facial skin of vultures contained DNA from 528 different types of micro-organisms, whereas DNA from only 76 types of micro-organisms were found in the gut, meaning a staggering 452 have been got rid of along the way.

“Apparently something radical happens to the bacteria ingested during passage through their digestive system,” says fellow co-author Lars Hestbjerg Hansen from Aarhus University in Denmark.

Gary Graves of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History observed: “The avian microbiome is terra incognita but it is not unreasonable to suppose that the relationship between birds and their microbes has been as important in avian evolution as the development of powered flight and song.”

2 thoughts on “Why vultures can eat carrion

  1. Pingback: ‘Extinct’ Mexican shrew rediscovered | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Greek lizards and food shortages, new research | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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