Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
  • This chapter is unavailable for purchase
  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: December 2012

3 - Alimentary canal, digestion and absorption

from Part I - The head, ingestion, utilization and distribution of food

Summary

Introduction

The lumen of the alimentary canal is a portion of the external environment over which the insect has great control, and this control is exerted predominantly by the gut epithelium. The principal functions of the alimentary canal are to process ingested food, mostly by chemical modification but also, in some insects, by mechanical disruption, and then to assimilate the products of digestion. The alimentary canal also comes into contact with toxins and microorganisms, including pathogens, associated with the food. Some of these microorganisms become resident in the gut and are beneficial to the insect. It therefore has to combine three capabilities: to mediate chemical transformations involving enzymes capable of degrading the insect's tissues; to provide an absorptive surface for the assimilation of nutrients and water; and to protect against pathogens and noxious compounds. These diverse capabilities are achieved through regional differentiation of the alimentary tract and integration of structure and function at both the molecular and whole-organ levels. Furthermore, the insect alimentary tracts include spectacular examples of adaptation in structural organization and function to different insect diets and habits.

This chapter is divided into four sections. Section 3.1 describes the structural organization of the insect alimentary tract. It is followed by Section 3.2 on digestion and Section 3.3 on absorption of nutrients, ions and water, and concludes with Section 3.4 on the gut as an immunological organ. Throughout the chapter the variation in structure and function with insect phylogeny and diet is addressed.

Recommended reading
Clissold, F. J.Tedder, B. J.Conigrave, A. D.Simpson, S. J. 2010 The gastrointestinal tract as a nutrient-balancing organProceedings of the Royal Society of London B 277 1751
Hegedus, D.Erlandson, M.Gillott, C.Toprak, U. 2009 New insights into peritrophic matrix synthesis, architecture, and functionAnnual Review of Entomology 54 285
Horne, I.Haritos, V. S.Oakeshott, J. G. 2009 Comparative and functional genomics of lipases in holometabolous insectsInsect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 39 547
Jeffers, L. A.Roe, R. M. 2008 The movement of proteins across the insect and tick digestive systemJournal of Insect Physiology 54 319
Ohlstein, B.Spradling, A. 2006 The adult posterior midgut is maintained by pluripotent stem cellsNature 439 470
Tokuda, G.Watanabe, H. 2007 Hidden cellulases in termites: revision of an old hypothesisBiology Letters 3 336
Turunen, S.Crailsheim, K. 1996 Lipid and sugar absorptionBiology of the MidgutLehane, M. J.Billingsley, P. F.293LondonChapman & Hall
Watanabe, H.Tokuda, G. 2010 Cellulolytic systems in insectsAnnual Review of Entomology 55 609
References in figure captions and table
Anderson, M.Cochrane, D. G. 1978 Studies on the mid-gut of the desert locust : II. Ultrastructure of the muscle coat and its innervationJournal of Morphology 156 257
Baines, D. M.Bernays, E. A.Leather, E. M. 1973 Movement of food through the gut of fifth-instar males of (R. & F.)Acrida 2 319
Chapman, R. F. 1985 Structure of the digestive systemComprehensive Insect Physiology, Biochemistry and PharmacologyKerkut, G. A.Gilbert, L. I.165OxfordPergamon Press
Cheung, W. W. K.Marshall, A. T. 1973 Studies on water and ion transport in homopteran insects: ultrastructure and cytochemistry of the cicadoid and cercopoid midgutTissue & Cell 5 651
Cioffi, M. 1979 The morphology and fine structure of the larval midgut of a moth () in relation to active ion transportTissue & Cell 11 467
Clissold, F. J.Tedder, B. J.Conigrave, A. D.Simpson, S. J. 2010 The gastrointestinal tract as a nutrient-balancing organProceedings of the Royal Society of London B 277 1751
Davidson, D. W.Cook, S. C.Snelling, R. R.Chua, T. H. 2003 Explaining the abundance of ants in lowland tropical rainforest canopiesScience 300 969
Dow, J. A. T. 1981 Ion and water transport in locust alimentary canal: evidence from electrochemical gradientsJournal of Experimental Biology 93 167
Evans, W. A. L.Payne, D. W. 1964 Carbohydrases of the alimentary tract of the desert locust, Journal of Insect Physiology 10 657
Fain-Maurel, M. A.Cassier, P.Alibert, J. 1973 Étude infrastructurale et cytochimique de l'intestin moyen de Leach en rapport avec ses fonctions excrétrice et digestivesTissue & Cell 5 603
Irvine, B.Audsley, N.Lechleitner, R.Meredith, J.Thomson, B.Phillips, J. 1988 Transport properties of locust ileum : effects of cyclic AMPJournal of Experimental Biology 137 361
Lepier, A.Azuma, M.Harvey, W. R.Wieczorek, H. 1994 K+/H+ antiport in the tobacco hornworm midgut: the K+-transporting component of the K+ pumpJournal of Experimental Biology 196 361
Noirot, C.Noirot-Timothée, C. 1976 Fine structure of the rectum in cockroaches (Dictyoptera): general organization and intercellular junctionsTissue & Cell 8 345
Peters, W.Heitmann, S.D'Haese, J. 1979 Formation and fine structure of peritrophic membranes in the earwig, (Dermaptera: Forficulidae)Entomologia Generalis 5 241
Phillips, J. E.Audsley, N. 1995 Neuropeptide control of ion and fluid transport across locust hindgutAmerican Zoologist 35 503
Phillips, J. E.Hanrahan, J.Chamberlin, A.Thompson, B. 1986 Mechanisms and control of reabsorption in insect hindgutAdvances in Insect Physiology 19 329
Schmitz, M.Komnick, H. 1976 Rectal Chloridepithelien und osmoregulatorische Salzaufnahme durch den Enddarm von Zygopteren und Anisopteren LibellenlarvenJournal of Insect Physiology 22 875
Shanbhag, S.Tripathi, S. 2009 Epithelial ultrastructure and cellular mechanisms of acid and base transport in the midgutJournal of Experimental Biology 212 1731
Snodgrass, R. E. 1935 Principles of Insect MorphologyNew York, NYMcGraw-Hill
Snodgrass, R. E. 1956 Anatomy of the Honey BeeLondonConstable
Watanabe, H.Tokuda, G. 2010 Cellulolytic systems in insectsAnnual Review of Entomology 55 609
Williams, L. H. 1954 The feeding habits and food preferences of Acrididae and the factors which determine themTransactions of the Royal Entomological Society of London 105 423