Animals secrete saliva in their mouths as saliva is the fluid which animals expel, or secrete, into their mouths when they are eating, to help moisten the food. Saliva is secreted from special glands, and usually contains enzymes which help to break the food down whilst it is being chewed. (The amount of saliva that is produced in a healthy person per day; estimates range from 0.75 to 1.5 liters per day while it is generally accepted that during sleep the amount drops to almost zero.)
Several functions are acknowledged for saliva secretion in different animal species following prehension and mastication of feed. Most of such are linked to the specific role of lubrication and softening of the bolus to allow taste perception and easy swallowing. Moreover, enzymatic components are produced in the saliva, some of which are destined to contribute to the digestion of different nutrients (to various extents according to animal species) and to exert antimicrobial activity (lysozyme).
In addition, the buffering power and the virtuous recycle of water, electrolytes, and other metabolites are of particular importance for proper digestion and for nutrition–related aspects. Moreover, salivation appears to be involved in a number of other functions. Recent studies on salivary production and roles point to salivary glands as target organs of neuroendocrine regulation in response to many external stimuli coming from the outer world, for which feed still represents the chief external stimulus.
Various animal species establish an adaptive strategy when coming into contact with different feeding stuffs and/or dietary substances by modifying both the composition and amount of saliva produced. In the light of recent updates, this review provides a focus on the functional roles of saliva secretions, showing the broad involvement of salivary response in several mechanisms beyond the digestive function and influencing feed selection.
Content for this question contributed by Jill Pickrell, resident of Sebastopol, Sonoma County, California, USA