All cervids are obligate herbivores with diets including grass, small shrubs, and leaves. In addition to the true stomach, or abomasum, cervids have 3 additional chambers, or false stomachs, in which bacterial fermentation takes place. In ruminants, the digestion of high-fiber, poor-quality food occurs via four different pathways. First, gastric fermentation extracts lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates, which are then absorbed and distributed throughout the body via the intestines. Second, large undigested food particles form into a bolus, or ball of cud, which is regurgitated and re-chewed to help break down the cell wall of ingested plant material. Third, cellulose digestion via bacterial fermentation results in high nitrogen microbes that are occasionally flushed into the intestine, which are subsequently digested by their host. These high-nitrogen microbes serve as an important protein source. Finally, cervids can store large amounts of forage in their stomachs for later digestion. All cervids chew their cud, have three or four-chambered stomachs, and support microorganisms that breakdown cellulose. Unlike many other ruminants, cervids selectively forage on easily digestible vegetation rather than consuming all available food.
Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore , Lignivore)
- Van Soest, P. 1994. Nutritional Ecology of the Ruminant, Second Edition. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
- Whitaker, J., W. Hamilton. 1998. Mammals of the Eastern United States. 1998: Cornell University Press.