What is the scientific name of herbivore

Microbiome: arm of the forest reveals evolutionary herbivore heritage

Baleen whales have been feeding on small crustaceans for millions of years, but the bacterial community in their intestines still resembles that of their vegetarian, land-living ancestors. This is the conclusion of a team of scientists led by Peter Girguis from Harvard University on the basis of autopsy findings on twelve baleen whales of three species. The microbiomes in the intestines of animals show clear and surprising parallels to terrestrial herbivores, both in their species structure and in terms of metabolic functions that are important for the digestion of food. The latter in particular is a surprise, as the composition of the food has changed so drastically. The result shows how much symbiotic communities adapt to new conditions without the partners having to separate.

The bacteria in the intestine, the microbiome, are not just passengers; they contribute important functions to digestion and metabolism that the body cannot perform itself. Therefore it depends very much on the diet which species are represented in the microbial community - carnivores have different metabolic needs than herbivores. Amazingly, however, there are examples that, even with a drastic change in diet, the original intestinal flora is not successively displaced by new species, as one should expect. The whales could even have been helped by their herbivore bacteria - they have learned to use the normally indigestible chitin, comparable to cellulose in herbivores. However, there are also clear differences. According to the study, the microbial community of whales is significantly impoverished, analogous to terrestrial carnivores.