Carnivorous animals are those that feed on the meat of other animals . They may or may not have an exclusive meat diet, as it varies from one animal to another. Another term used to refer to carnivorous animals is zoophagous .
What Are Carnivorous Animals?
Within the food chain, carnivorous animals are located at the highest links. They are nature’s predators , only hunted by other carnivorous animals and decomposed by bacteria and fungi.
Carnivorous animal species range from mammals and birds to arachnids and reptiles. Some well-known examples are lions, sharks, crocodiles, eagles, spiders and snakes.
In general, these creatures have characteristics that help them hunt and consume other animals, such as sharp teeth and claws, or a developed sense of smell.
Examples of carnivorous animals
Felids are large terrestrial predators, characterized by their sharp claws and teeth, with strong jaws and appendages. In general, these animals are also very fast, which helps them reach their prey easily.
Some of the felids are lions, tigers, pumas, lynxes, panthers, jaguars, cheetahs and domestic cats.
Canids are smaller predators, but very fast and skilled. They rely heavily on their sense of smell, which allows them to track their potential prey.
Canids include wild dogs, foxes, wolves, jackals, coyotes and dingoes.
Carnivorous birds are identified by the presence of their large wings and very sharp claws. The size of their wings helps them fly over large portions of land, and they have keen eyesight that allows them to identify the location of their prey from afar.
There are many species of carnivorous birds, such as eagles, hawks, hurans, pelicans, vultures, condors, owls and owls.
Carnivorous reptiles usually move in very humid environments, usually in tropical areas or coasts. A common characteristic of this group is that they usually approach the prey slowly or wait for it to approach before attacking.
Some of the reptiles that are carnivorous are crocodiles, alligators, gharials, snakes and some lizards and turtles.
Large marine predators
Large marine predators are the highest link in the aquatic food chain. They feed on fish and other smaller marine predators, using their tails, fins and large mouths to hunt.
In this group are sharks, dolphins, whales and orcas.
Arachnids comprise a large group of animals with four pairs of legs. Depending on the species, these beings use pincers, mouth parts, poison or spider webs to catch other animals and eat them.
Among the arachnids are spiders, scorpions, ticks, opiliones or uropygius.
Other carnivorous beings
In addition to those named above, there are other groups of animals or beings from other kingdoms that are carnivorous, such as:
- Mustelids, like ferrets.
- Some ursids, such as polar bears.
- The hyenas.
- Amphibians, such as toads, frogs and salamanders.
- Some bats.
- Some insects, such as praying mantises or dragonflies.
- Mollusks, such as squid, octopuses and some gastropods.
- Some crustaceans.
- Carnivorous plants, such as the Venus flytrap.
- Carnivorous mushrooms.
Characteristics of carnivorous animals
Carnivorous animals have a series of characteristics that facilitate hunting and eating other animals. One of the most common is the presence of canine teeth or sharp fangs , which allows carnivores to tear and chop meat. Likewise, carnivorous mammals have a strong jaw .
Instead of fangs, some carnivorous animals use other mouthparts or pincers to grab prey and ingest it. Two cases are scorpions and poisonous snakes, both capable of secreting venom to immobilize or kill their prey.
Many carnivores have sharp claws , useful for catching prey and having a greater grip when moving. Most carnivorous mammals have this characteristic, as well as some birds.
Carnivores are usually fast and agile, with strong appendages. Smell plays a crucial role in detecting potential prey, as does the sense of sight. Regarding the latter, carnivorous beings usually have their eyes in front , instead of on the sides, as is the case with herbivorous animals.
Finally, a common characteristic of carnivores is a short and simple digestive system . Unlike vegetables and fruits, meat needs less time, enzymes and gastric fluids to break down until it is assimilated.
Types of carnivorous animals
Carnivorous animals are grouped in various ways, such as the type of meat they consume or the amount. For example, if we classify carnivorous animals according to whether they eat live or dead meat, we have:
- Predators : These are carnivorous animals that hunt or eat their prey while they are still alive, such as tigers, killer whales or snakes.
- Scavengers or ghouls : these are those that feed on dead and decomposing animals, such as vultures and hyenas.
According to the species of animals they consume, carnivorous beings are also classified into types such as:
- Piscivores : They usually consume fish, such as pelicans, barracudas or sea lions.
- Insectivores or entomophages : they are those that feed on insects, such as spiders, swallows and many frogs.
- Myrmecophages : These are animals that consume ants and/or termites, such as anteaters, pangolins and armadillos.
- Vermivores – A type of carnivorous animals that eat worms, such as many species of birds and salamanders.
Finally, another way to classify carnivorous animals is according to the amount of meat that is part of their diet:
- Strict or true carnivores : they feed only on the meat of other animals. Some cases are the Mexican axolotl or felids such as tigers, cats and cheetahs.
- Hypercarnivores : are those whose diet is based on meat from other animals. Well-known examples are sharks, eagles, owls, crocodiles and snakes.
- Mesocarnivores : meat consumption constitutes between 30 and 70% of the animal’s diet. Coyotes, boreal raccoons, and red foxes are some prime examples.
- Hypocarnivores : meat is, at most, 30% of the animal’s diet. In general, they are usually classified as omnivores, since they also eat many vegetables and fruits.
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