The Top 5 Most Amazing Stomachs

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Unless you are a gastroenterologist or are currently digesting a hot-sauce drenched monster burrito, chances are you’re not devoting much thought to the stomach. And why would you? After all, it’s only an amazing, acid-filled, muscular organ charged with breaking down foodstuffs into a form your body can use as sustenance, responsible for reducing potentially toxic materials into passable form and generally playing a major role in keeping your ungrateful self alive. Even if all that doesn’t make you more appreciative of your own humble stomach, perhaps you’ll still be amazed at some of the other wonderful tummies out there in the animal kingdom. Because these bizarre bellies do indeed make yours look like a boring ol’ burrito factory.

5 The Big Blue Whale’s Big Ol’ Tummy

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It should come as no surprise to you that the blue whale, the biggest animal to ever live, so far as we know, has a massively large stomach. In fact, a typical blue whale can easily hold more than a metric ton, or 2,200 pounds of food in its belly at once. What makes that volume all the more amazing is the fact that these baleen whales feed entirely on krill and other tiny crustaceans.

4 The Cow’s Stomach(s)

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The humble cow may not be about to win many contests when it comes to speed, intellect or beauty, but when it comes to the complexity of the stomach, the bovine stomach is a winner indeed. Contrary to the popular misconception, cows do not actually have four stomachs, but rather they have one stomach divided up into four distinct sections: the rumen, the reticulum, the omasum and the abomasum. Each of these chambers holds plethora of distinct microbes, thus each play a specific role in the digestion of the coarse foodstuffs that comprise a cow’s natural diet, namely various grasses. If you wonder why such a multi-step process is needed to digest grass, go eat a few handfuls of it yourself and see how your single stomach does with that.

3 The Jellyfish’s Gastric Cavity

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Jellyfish come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from species that are near-microscopic to those that weigh hundreds of pounds and stretch out to dozens of feet in length. So too are their bodies and behaviors rather diverse. But while most jellies use different methods of getting food into their stomachs, what happens to it there is similar across most jellyfish. Food that enters a jelly’s gastric cavity is slowly digested into a soupy liquid, much of which is then transferred directly to the circulatory system. The leftover waste is expelled back out of the jelly’s stomach via the same “mouth/anus” through which it entered, as jellyfish have no dedicated system for eliminating waste.

2 The Python’s Stretchy Stomach

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Let’s allow one specific incident to illustrate how amazing both the jaws and then digestive system of the Burmese python really are. In late 2011, a 16-foot-long python in Florida was found with a 76 pound deer fully intact within its stomach. The snake’s stomach had stretched to an astonishing 44 inches in circumference! And many pythons measure much longer than 16 feet—we don’t even want to know how much bigger their stomachs can get.

1 The Starfish’s “Attack Stomach”

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Unlike your stomach, which stays inside your body, patiently awaiting whatever food you send its way, the starfish’s stomach says “Nah, to hell with that!” and goes on the hunt itself. A starfish will clamber onto its prey, which can be anything from a clam to a fish to a snail, depending on the species, and then force a portion of its stomach out through its mouth, surrounding the soft (i.e. digestible) part of their hapless meal. The star’s stomach returns to its usual place inside the body clinging to its already partially digested meal.