Last updated on February 4th, 2022
The animal kingdom, when observed closely, will undoubtedly produce numerous surprises. For example, you must have heard of herbivores, but what about animals that eat twigs, tree bark, and other similar parts of the tree.
Leaves are parts of a tree that you associate with, a stiff twig! But several animals enjoy eating twigs and tree bark. The primary reason for this is that twigs and bark are potential sources of nutrients that animals need.
Animals that eat twigs:
The animals that eat twigs use their teeth to break down the twig into smaller pieces. The twigs are then swallowed and digested in the animal’s stomach.
Some of the animals that eat twigs as a regular part of their diet are as follows:
The first animal that’ll come to your mind that continuously chews on wood and twigs are rabbits.
Anyone who has a pet rabbit will tell you that to ensure the good health of this pet, one would have to ensure that there is a good supply of bark and twigs along with other food.
Some of the reasons why rabbits have to feed to twigs are as follows:
Rabbits usually chew on bark and twigs to wear down their teeth.
You must have observed the frontal teeth of rabbits that need to be worn down and kept within a particular size to prevent these from becoming a problem.
A rabbit’s teeth continue to grow throughout its life, which can be a problem if these aren’t worn down.
In the case of pet rabbits, you can take your pet to the veterinarian and have your rabbit’s teeth burred or trimmed.
But in the wild, a rabbit does the same by chewing on twigs and bark. The hard outer surfaces of twigs act like cutters and wear down the rabbits’ teeth, keeping these within a certain length.
Rabbits also need to chew on twigs and bark for the health of their gut.
Rabbits are herbivorous animals, but they require a good amount of roughages for a healthy gut.
The twigs contain chemicals that aid in the digestion and movement of the feces within their stomach.
Wild rabbits eat twigs belonging to willow, maple, birch, and spruce trees, especially during winter.
Not only does this aid in digestion, but the twigs from willow, maple, birch, and spruce trees prevent numerous diseases that rabbits are known to suffer during winter.
Thus, even though it seems unlikely, rabbits do like to chew on twigs.
It’s not just something they do to ensure that their teeth do not become outsized, but also to prevent diseases and ensure they have a healthy digestive system.
Deer is another animal that’s known to feed on twigs. If you think about it, all animals belonging to the ruminants family feed on twigs.
This means deer, antelope, sheep, goats, cattle, and giraffes will supplement their regular diet of leaves, grass, and other plant materials with twigs.
Some of the reasons why deer eat twigs are as follows:
1. Deer, like other members of the ruminant family, have a four-chambered stomach.
They can fill up their stomach in a matter of hours. But to aid the microorganisms in the stomach to digest the food consumed, they need to chew the cud.
The microorganisms, which can be bacteria, protozoa, and fungi, have a symbiotic relationship with the ruminants.
The deer eat twigs to make it easier to chew the cud and simplify the digestion process.
2. During the fermentation process, the re-swallowing of food sends it back to the second chamber of the stomach.
Here the twigs play an essential role in the extraction of the necessary nutrients.
During winter, deer depend primarily on twigs for vital nutrients due to the lack of foliage.
Therefore, the twigs will not only aid in digestion but also act as food that’s rich in essential nutrients.
3. The twigs also provide the necessary roughage that aids the movement of food.
Like other ruminants for the deer, it’s required to ensure that the food can move quickly through the entire intestine of the deer.
The twigs aid in this movement through the gut of the deer into its intestines.
The stomach of the deer is designed to squeeze out all the nutrition from twigs.
In many parts of the world, not just in winter but in other seasons as well, deer often choose to survive on twigs.
Porcupines belong to the rodent family and are known to consume the bark of trees and twigs.
Belonging to the rodent family, porcupines have the same teeth growing throughout their lives.
Being a wild animal, a porcupine must grind its teeth down; otherwise, it can prove to be dangerous to its health.
One of the easiest ways for doing so would be to gnaw at the bark of a tree or to chew twigs. This is one of the primary reasons why porcupines chew twigs.
Some of the other reasons as to why porcupines chew twigs are as follows:
1. Porcupines usually look for high-potassium and low-sodium foliage. This is typical for most porcupines.
However, finding foliage that provides such a balance of chemicals can be challenging.
Therefore to balance this foliage-based diet, porcupines often consume the bark of trees or twigs to help with their digestion.
2. Porcupines have twenty teeth that continue to grow throughout their lives, and these teeth are potent.
Moreover, porcupines are known to reduce their food to dust-like conditions. Hence, to keep their teeth sharpened, porcupines have been known to chew on twigs.
3. The large intestine of a porcupine is exceptionally long. Hence, it takes food a long time to pass through the large intestine.
By chewing twigs, a porcupine tries to supply sufficient roughage to the large intestine to ensure smooth movement of food and feces through the stomach and the large intestine.
The twigs are an aid to digestion and one of the easiest ways to control the growth of its teeth.
Beavers are semi-aquatic rodents that are well known for building dams. But these animals are also known for consuming wood, twigs, and bark of trees.
If you’ve seen a beaver cutting twig from a tree, you can be assured that these will be used for consumption, not for building dams.
Some of the reasons why beavers consume twigs or bark are as follows:
1. The digestive systems of beavers have microorganisms that can extract cellulose and glucose from twigs and bark.
This makes the beavers uniquely equipped to extract the necessary nutrients from the driest of twigs or barks of plants.
The tannins in the twigs supply the protein required to the beaver. Protein is essential for the health of the beaver along with the carbohydrate.
As the animal is dependent only on wood, which may be in the form of twigs and bark for nutrition, it needs to ensure a continuous supply of it.
This is done by consuming both twigs and the bark of trees.
2. During winter, a beaver can store the twigs and the wooden logs, which it can consume when there is a lack of other food.
This means that even if there is heavy snow, there is no lack of protein or cellulose. The steady diet of twigs and wood keeps beavers healthy even during the coldest winter months.
3. To ensure that the beaver can easily consume twigs and wood, the lower jaw of a beaver is rugged.
The bone structure is such that it can easily break off a branch and chew any twig with ease.
In addition, the lower jaw muscles are designed to help it quickly chew on twigs and tree barks.
The beaver is a unique animal because it primarily lives in water, unlike other creatures that follow a diet based on wood and twigs.