Natures wonders: earthworm digestion (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Tuesday, August 04, 2015, 19:19 (1702 days ago) @ David Turell

They digest fallen plant leaves despite polyphenols plants use to protect themselves:

"Earthworms are responsible for returning the carbon locked inside dead plant material back into the ground. They drag fallen leaves and other plant material down from the surface and eat them, enriching the soil, and they do this in spite of toxic chemicals produced by plants to deter herbivores.

"The scientists, led by Dr Jake Bundy and Dr Manuel Liebeke from Imperial College London, have identified molecules in the earthworm gut that counteract the plant's natural defences and enable digestion.

"Plants make polyphenols, which act as antioxidants and give the plants their colour; they also inhibit the digestion of many herbivores. Earthworms, however, are able to digest fallen leaves and other plant material, thanks to the ability of drilodefensins to counteract polyphenols. Dr Bundy and his team found that the more polyphenols present in the earthworm diet, the more drilodefensins they produce in their guts."

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