Carnivores and Herbivores

We know that all living organisms require nutrition for survival. While autotrophs meet their nutrition requirements by manufacturing their own food, heterotrophs rely on other food sources to supplement their dietary needs. Based on their mode of nutrition intake, heterotrophs are classified into two major groups – carnivores and herbivores. These two groups have been discussed in detail below.

Carnivores

Animals who procure the essential nutrients by consuming other animals are known as carnivores or carnivorous animals. The carnivore definition is derived from a Latin word which means ‘flesh eater’. 

What Animals are Carnivores?

Carnivores include both vertebrates and invertebrates. Carnivorous animals' names include dogs, grey wolves, all members of the cat family like lions, tigers, leopards, hyenas, cats, polar bears, birds such as hawks, eagles, snakes, frogs, some fish species like sharks and many others. 

Now that you know that some animals eat meat, you are probably wondering how carnivores obtain food.

Carnivorous animals are also called predators as they hunt other animals for food. With time they have developed unique features that enable them to track their prey easily. These features are – 

  • Wolves have long sharp teeth and strong jaws.

  • Members of the cat family have sharp claws which aid them to hunt and kill their prey quickly. 

  • Predator birds like eagles and hawks have strong and sharp claw-like legs called talons which they use to hunt. Some birds also have curved beaks which they use to tear apart their prey.

  • Like large carnivores, small carnivorous animals have also evolved techniques that help them to hunt their prey. For instance, most snakes use their tails to capture and constrict their prey. Snakes have specially developed jaws which help them to swallow their prey whole. Spiders capture their prey by trapping them into its webs while jellyfish sting their prey with their tentacles to paralyse them.

Classification of Carnivores 

All Carnivorous animals are meat-eaters; however, distinctions can be made between carnivores based on the type of meat they consume. The differences are listed below – 

  • Piscivores - Animals who consume fish.

  • Insectivores - Animals who consume insects.

  • Oviovore - Organisms that consume eggs.

  • Aviovores - Animals that eat birds.

  • Vermivore - Organisms that consume worms.

  • Hematophage - Animals that consume blood.

Moreover, carnivorous animals are further classified based on how much meat they consume: 

  • Mesocarnivores – Animals who eat around 50-70% of meat.

  • Hypocarnivores – Organisms whose diet consists of less than 30% of meat.

  • Hypercarnivores – Animals who consume more than 70% meat fall in this category.

Do you know? World’s biggest animal, the blue whale, is a carnivore.

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Fig - Grey wolves, belonging to carnivore family, eating a deer

Herbivores 

Animals whose diet consists of plant-based food are referred to as herbivores. Herbivore definition originates from the Latin word ‘herba’ which means small green plants and ‘vora’ which means to eat. 

So what animals are herbivores?

Examples of herbivores range from large mammals like African elephants, giraffes, zebras, deer, cows, goats, monkeys to insects like grasshoppers, butterflies, larvae, honeybees etc. 

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Fig - African Elephant eating plants

Animals who consume plants and plant-based food are known as a primary consumer. It is because they eat plants which are primary producers. Consequently, carnivorous animals who eat other animals are known as secondary consumers. 

Herbivores have specially developed features that enable it to consume plants and plant-based products. These features have been discussed below – 

  • Herbivore has wide molar teeth which help them to chew plants and grasses easily.

  • The digestive system of an herbivore consists of multiple stomach chambers and a very long digestive tract. The bacteria present in the stomach and the long digestive tract helps in breaking down the plant product after it has been chewed.

  • The multiple stomach stores the food and helps in regurgitating them for the chewing process. After its rechewed, the semi-digested food called cud is transported to a second stomach chamber. 

  • In the second chamber, several chemicals help in digesting the meal further, which then goes into the third chamber. From the third chamber, it is sent to the fourth and final chamber for the digestion process.  

Herbivores meaning plant eating animals can also be classified based on their diet. 

The Classifications are as Follows – 

  • Animals who eat fruits are called frugivores.

  • An herbivore that eats only leaves and shoots off a plant is called folivore.

  • Some insects only eat wood. They are called xylophages.

  • Organisms which consume only dead plants are called detritivores.

You can refer to study materials on herbivores on Vedantu’s website to know more about these types in detail. Also, feel free to install Vedantu’s app to gain access to all our course materials or to join live online classes.


FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is the Definition of Herbivore?

Ans. Herbivores are those animals who eat plants and plants-based products.

2. What is the Meaning of Carnivorous Animals?

Ans. Carnivorous animals are those animals who eat other animals for their sustenance.

3. What is the Name of the Teeth that Herbivorous Animals Lack?

Ans. Herbivores lack canine teeth.