Too much to stom­ach

Mus­ings are thoughts, the thought­ful kind. For the pur­pose of these ar­ti­cles, a-mus­ings are thoughts that might amuse, en­ter­tain and even en­lighten.

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

Ahare ran across the road in front of our car to­day, and my wife, for some un­fath­omable rea­son, told me that hares do not have an ap­pendix, which set my mind a-ram­bling. Mus­ings of­ten ram­ble; this one cer­tainly does, but you know how it is: One thing leads to an­other, so here goes. Ac­cord­ing to The Guin­ness Book of Records the longest hu­man ap­pendix ever recorded mea­sured 10.24 inches when it was re­moved from 72-year-old Safranco Au­gust dur­ing an au­topsy in Za­greb in 2006. The fact that its owner was dead did not af­fect the ap­pendix's claim to fame. Now, as you well know, the phys­i­o­logic func­tion of the ap­pendix is not clearly es­tab­lished. The ver­mi­form ap­pendix is a tube that con­nects to the ce­cum, a struc­ture of the colon that re­sem­bles a pouch, close to the junction of the large in­tes­tine and the small in­tes­tine; this is so, whether you're in­ter­ested or not.

In Latin, the term "ver­mi­form" means worm-shaped. Usu­ally, it is lo­cated on the right side of the ab­domen in the lower quad­rant. Block­age of the ap­pendix can lead to ap­pen­dici­tis, a type of in­flam­ma­tion that is painful and po­ten­tially deadly. A blocked ap­pendix may burst, re­leas­ing dan­ger­ous bac­te­ria into the ab­dom­i­nal cav­ity. You might be in­ter­ested to hear that ap­pen­dici­tis is usu­ally treated by the sur­gi­cal re­moval of the ap­pendix through a pro­ce­dure called an ap­pen­dec­tomy.

You might also be in­ter­ested to hear, though you might won­der ‘why now?' (and I have no log­i­cal ex­pla­na­tion) that a hare is born with open eyes and a full coat of fur; a hare also has a dif­fer­ent tail from the rab­bit. The hare does not have a stom­ach with three or four cham­bers, as is typ­i­cal for all an­i­mals that chew the cud. How­ever, it does chew the cel­lu­lose food twice, so that the nu­tri­ents not con­sumed the first time are even­tu­ally di­gested. To do this the hare ex­cretes two dif­fer­ent kinds of drop­pings: nor­mal ex­cre­ment and an­other kind of pel­let, called Ce­cotroph, which it eats. As soon as the Ce­cotroph is well chewed and swal­lowed it is col­lected in the stom­ach to be di­gested a sec­ond time. It's re­ally amaz­ing to think of all the ways the cre­ator came up with to dis­pose of drop­pings. The Ce­cotroph is rich in Vi­ta­min B1 which is im­por­tant for the hare's nour­ish­ment. So the hare chews the food twice and, as in all ru­mi­nat­ing cloven-hoofed an­i­mals, bac­te­ria break down the cel­lu­lose.

The book of Leviti­cus tells us that it is for­bid­den to eat hare. "What­ever divides the hoof, and is cloven-footed, chew­ing the cud, among the an­i­mals, that you shall eat . . . And the hare, be­cause he chews the cud but does not di­vide the hoof; he is un­clean to you." Hares have clearly been around a long time.

Je­sus and His Apos­tles de­clared in Mark 7:18-19 that all foods were ‘clean'. “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don't you see that noth­ing that en­ters a per­son from the out­side can de­file them? For it doesn't go into their heart but into their stom­ach, and then out of the body.” (In say­ing this, Je­sus de­clared all foods clean). Again, in Acts 10: 10-15: “And he be­came hun­gry and wanted some­thing to eat, but while they were pre­par­ing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heav­ens opened and some­thing like a great sheet de­scend­ing, be­ing let down by its four cor­ners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of an­i­mals and rep­tiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: 'Rise, Peter; kill and eat.' But Peter said, 'By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten any­thing that is com­mon or un­clean.' And the voice came to him again a sec­ond time, 'What God has made clean, do not call com­mon.'"

An­i­mals that ‘chew the cud' are called ru­mi­nants. They scarcely chew their food when eaten the first time round but swal­low it into a spe­cial stom­ach where it is par­tially di­gested. Then it is re­gur­gi­tated, chewed again, and swal­lowed into a dif­fer­ent stom­ach. An­i­mals that do this in­clude cows, sheep and goats; they all have mul­ti­ple stom­achs. Hares are not ru­mi­nants in this sense. Hares prac­tise re­fec­tion, which is essen­tially the same prin­ci­ple as ru­mi­na­tion. The food goes right through the an­i­mal, is passed out as a spe­cial type of drop­ping, is re-eaten, and pro­vides nour­ish­ment.

An­other name for this re­fec­tion is ce­cotro­phy be­cause the ma­te­rial is taken in a pouch at the be­gin­ning of the large in­tes­tine called the ce­cum or ‘blind gut', where bac­te­ria help digest the food by break­ing down cel­lu­lose into sim­ple sug­ars. Please note that ce­cotro­phy is very dif­fer­ent from co­prophagy, which is eat­ing dung, prac­tised by pigs, and oc­ca­sion­ally by dogs.

They say the more things change, the more they re­main the same. Politi­cians come and politi­cians go, but the prob­lems re­main the same. So the ques­tions are, Dear Reader, do we put up with our politi­cians serv­ing us co­prophagic dung de­void of nour­ish­ment, or do we de­mand a ce­cotrophic feast that of­fers re­cy­cled good­ness and en­ergy? Given the choice be­tween po­lit­i­cal porcine and fleet-footed lep­orine, which do we choose? I warned you that this one was a bit of a ram­ble!

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