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What is a Digestive Diagram?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2016
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A digestive diagram is a diagram of the digestive tract of an organism. Nature is extremely diverse, and there are some very creative arrangements out there when it comes to digestion. Digestive diagrams can be useful for learning more about a specific organism, and for comparing anatomical differences across species. For example, some researchers are interested in the specifics of ruminant digestion, exploring how animals like cows and deer digest their food and why they developed the digestive system they use.

The level of detail and complexity in a digestive diagram can vary. A basic diagram might simply contain a rough overview of the digestive system in question, with the major parts labeled and the path which food takes through the digestive tract being outlined. This can get tricky in the case of animals which regurgitate as part of their digestive processes, in which case the digestive tract is not a one way street, as it is in humans.

Sometimes, a digestive diagram includes just the basic organs. Others will also include organs which are close by, or which play an auxiliary role in the digestive process. Some diagrams go for anatomical precision, showing organs in the right place and making sure that size and shape are true to life or true to scale. Others are more interested in representing the whole of the digestive tract in a way which is easy to read, in which case objects may be moved or resized as needed for clarity.

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It is also possible to make a detailed digestive diagram which covers just one area of the digestive tract. The stomach, for example, is a very complex organ, with a level of detail which may be missed on a generic diagram. A detailed diagram can point out the different areas of the stomach and talk about the different types of tissue present in the stomach.

The functions of various organs can also be discussed in a digestive diagram. The diagram may also discuss abnormalities and variations which are commonly seen in the species under discussion. Diagrams used in diagnosis and treatment can contain detailed medical information which is designed to assist care providers in making decisions.

Digestive tract diagrams can also be valuable tools for communication with younger human patients. Children who can't articulate their needs clearly may be able to point to an area on a drawing of the body to show where they experience pain, and a doctor preparing for a procedure or explaining a medical condition can use a digestive tract diagram to illustratively point at areas of interest while talking.

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