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What is chitin?

2857 Views 8 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Arklier
When I read about different kinds of food I keep hearing about chitin and how some insects have more than others. What is it? Why can too much be bad, what will it do?
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I'm not certain of what it's made up of, but at any rate, it is basicly undigestable material.
The dangers of high chitin feeders is basicly causing blockage or imaction to the digestive tract.
Yeah, chitin is what the exoskeleton of insects is made up of. Some insects like beetles, have a lot more chitin than for example a fruit fly.


Chitin is a polysaccharide. The awsome thing about it is it's structure. Its a crude glucose molecule bound to a flipped crude glucose molecule. Chitin is an issue with insectivorous amphibians because they do not digest it. It can cause a build up and impaction problems. However, after reading some articles, I am beginning to rethink dendrobates ability to digest chitin.
Interesting facts at this page.
Thanks for the link about chitin. Now, if I could only figure out how to mix pre-chitin chemicals and use them to build my vivarium instead of epoxy :) I say that tongue in cheek but developing polymer alternatives for petroleum based polymers is going to be a big deal in the next couple decades, mark my words :wink: The article rang a bell about a product that my former bosses in the Army were developing:
Created by researchers at the Oregon Medical Laser Center using a research grant from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, the 4-inch by 4-inch chitosan dressing is well suited for the battlefield and a vast improvement over gauze and pressure bandages currently used to stop extreme bleeding, said Col. Bob Vandre, director of Combat Casualty Care research for the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. The dressing's durability and flexibility make it "soldier proof," he said. The dressing can withstand blunt force as well as extreme field conditions, including inclement weather, temperature and rugged terrain ... 677-1.html

Thanks for the link. That was more info then I could ever have wanted on chitin. But now I know what it is and why we don't want to use a lot of it.
IMHO, the dangers of chitin ingestion are highly overrated. No one follows darts around in the wild to make sure they eat low chitin foods. They've been documented eating ants, beetles, and other high chitin insects.
The dangers of chitin ingestion are talked about so much because of people who feed a diet consisting solely of mealworms.
If you feed melaworms to fish, e.g. cichlids, in a few days the surface of the water is covered with a layer of chitin which has passed right through their gut. There are plently of pictures in herp books of larger anuran dissections impacted with excess mealworms.
However, as others have said, a little chitin in the diet (e.g. from Drosophila) is probably not bad thing for pdfs.
Even mealworm inpaction is highly overrated, IMHO. When I used to keep leopard geckos, I talked to many large breeders who fed their leos nothing but mealworms from the day they hatched to the day they died with no ill effects. Keep in mind that leos will lick mineral deposits, so it's not necessary to dust the mealworms.
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