Herbivores Facts

Herbivore Animals

Herbivore animals are those categories of animals who depend on only plants to get energy and survive. These animals have special digestive systems that allow them to easily digest all kinds of plants, fruits, nectar, roots, seed, bark and grasses. 

Examples of Herbivores Animals

Some of the herbivore animals names include cows, elephants, deer, goats, sheep, rabbits, giraffes and zebras.

Other major categories of animals include carnivores and omnivores where the former kind of animals depend upon flesh of other animals for their food and the latter kind of animals depend upon both plants as well as animals to feed on.

What is a Herbivore?

As discussed earlier, a herbivore is an animal that is physiologically and anatomically built to eat plant materials as the main component of their diet. Their mouth parts are also structured in a manner to better grind and rasp the food materials i.e. raw plant parts like seeds, bark of trees, and fruits in an efficient manner. For example, they have wide and flat teeth which are well adapted to grind the tough plant materials. Similarly, their gut flora is also mutualistic to help them digest plant materials as compared to the animal prey. This gut flora consists of cellulose-digesting bacteria or protozoans. Another example of their adaptation include the straw-like shape of the mouth of butterflies and hummingbirds to feed on the nectars of the flowers.

Herbivore Meaning

A modern Latin term called herbivora is the origin of herbivore, where herba means a small plant or herb and vora means to eat or devour.

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Types of Herbivores Animals

There can be many different types of herbivores animals depending upon the variety of plants they feed on as well as their sizes. Let’s explore some of the herbivorous animals that are categorized on their feeding behaviours.

  1. Frugivores: These herbivorous animals depend only on fruits for obtaining nutrients and energy in their body. The preferred food type for these animals include succulent fruit-like vegetables, raw fruits, shoots, roots, nuts and seeds. Some of the examples of frugivores include bats and flying foxes.

  2. Folivores: These kinds of herbivorous animals feed only on leaves and some of the examples include caterpillars, giraffes, koalas and pandas. A great proportion of hard-to-digest cellulose is present in the mature leaves and in addition these give less energy as compared to other food and may also have toxic compounds and folivores are adapted to all of this as they have long digestive tracts and slow metabolic process.

  3. Xylophages: These kinds of herbivores feed on woods and an example of wood-eating insects is termites. Termites eat wood and derive the nutrients and cellulose to live. Termites have bacteria and protozoa in their gut to allow them to easily break down the cellulose fibers in wood whereas it is difficult for other creatures to digest wood.

  4. Nectivores: These kinds of herbivores feed on nectar of flowers and examples include hummingbirds and butterflies. Nectivores derive their nutrients from nectar which is sugar-rich and is produced from flowering plants. 

  5. Granivores: These are seed-eating herbivores and squirrels, sparrows, guinea pigs and pigeons are the best examples of granivores. Seed predation is called granivory.

  6. Palynivore: Herbivores like bees depend upon pollen for their nutrition and are called palynivore.

  7. Mucivores: Herbivores depending on the plant fluids for food are mucivores and examples include aphids.

  8. Algivore: Herbivores feeding on algae are called algivore and examples include crabs, sea urchin, flamingo, parrotfish and snails.

Size of Herbivores

The size of herbivores ranges from very large to very small. African Elephant is the world’s largest herbivore known and it can grow as much larger as 8.2 Feet to 13 Feet or 2.5 - 4.0 meters from foot to shoulder. It weighs around 2,300 to 6,500 kilograms. According to Discovery, the smallest known herbivore is the featherwing beetle that measures just 0.0127 inches  or 0.325 millimeters.

Herbivorous Animals and Their Food Chain

Herbivores are important organisms in the food chain as they consume plants in order to digest the carbohydrates which are photosynthetically produced by a plant; only 10 percent of energy of plants can be derived by herbivores. Herbivores are then consumed by Carnivores and omnivores depend on these carnivores and herbivores to derive nutrients and energy. Herbivores are known as the primary consumers in the food chain and all the three including herbivory, carnivory and omnivory are part of the consumer-resource interactions.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What are Herbivores? List 10 Examples of Herbivores.

Ans. Herbivores are animals that feed on plants to survive. Unlike carnivores and omnivores, they do not consume fleshy meat and do not depend on other animals. To name some herbivorous animals, we have listed down 10 herbivore animals list as follows:

Deer, rabbits, goats, giraffes, cows, sheep, elephants, horses, hummingbirds and pandas.

2. What are the Different Types of Herbivorous Animals?

Ans. Depending upon the type of food they eat, herbivorous animals can be of different types namely algivorous (feed on algae), frugivores (feed on fruits), folivores (feed on leaves), nectarivores (feed on nectars), granivores (feed on seeds), palynivore (feed on pollen), mucivores (feed on plant fluids) and xylophages (feed on wood).

3. Are Herbivores Predators?

Ans. Predators are animals that feed on flesh of other animals and these belong to the group of carnivores and omnivores. Herbivores are not predators as they eat only parts of the plants like fruits, seed, roots, leaves, shoots, stem, nectar and pollen. On the other hand, predators hunt other animals for energy and nutrition, examples of predators include snakes, crocodiles, cats, wolves, tigers, lions, sharks, etc. Examples of herbivores include deer, cow, sheep, goat, elephant, rabbit, etc.

4. What is Herbivore Modification?

Ans. Herbivore modification takes place when they are adapted to overcome plant defenses through their strong digestive systems. Since some plants and leaves consist of toxins and the herbivores can detoxify the secondary metabolites and one of the defenses is production of large amounts of saliva. Caterpillars are also examples of herbivore modification who roll leaves to reduce the plant defense effectiveness activated by sunlight.