A carnivore is an animal that mostly eats other animals. This is as opposed to herbivores, which only eat plants, and omnivores, which consume a bit of everything.
The word “carnivore” comes from the Latin words “carnis,” meaning flesh, and “vorare,” telling devoured. As you’d expect from a name like that, some of the fiercest animals in the world are carnivores, including tigers, snakes, sharks, and eagles. But not all carnivores are pretty so ferocious. Even your typical garden sparrow is a type of carnivore and so are ladybirds (technically, they’re known asinsectivorous). You can even get carnivorous plants, such as the Venus fly trap.
Where do carnivores fit in on the food chain?
Carnivores tend to be at the top of the food chain of an ecosystem. This is because plant life is at the bottom of a food chain, which is then eaten by herbivores, which are, in turn, eaten by carnivores. This means there always have to be more herbivores than carnivores in an ecosystem. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be enough food for the carnivores to eat.
How can you identify a carnivore?
Because there are so many types of carnivores, it can be challenging to pick out one quality they all have in common. That said, because they all need to be able to kill prey and eat flesh, they nearly always have a fierce set of teeth.
When you think about the mouth of an apex predator like a tiger, the first thing that comes to mind is the two long, sharp teeth towards the front. These are called canine teeth, used to fight and puncture prey’s flesh. They sit alongside the incisors, used to rip out and cut out the meat.
Are pet dogs carnivores?
There is some disagreement among experts about whether domestic dogs are carnivores or omnivores.
They possess many qualities associated with carnivores – such as large canine teeth and a digestive system best suited to breaking down the flesh. However, they can also consume a wide variety of plant-based foods, with an ability to digest carbohydrates unusual in obligate carnivores. This has led many to conclude that dogs are, in fact, carnivores, a type of omnivore that can eat and digest plant-based food to survive but is best suited to eating meat.
This is a debate that isn’t likely to end anytime soon, but in the meantime, a consensus is that dogs are omnivores with a natural carnivore bias. Therefore, their ideal diet would be meat-based but could be complemented with plant-based foods.
Are pet cats carnivores?
Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they must eat meat to survive.
In evolutionary terms, domestic cats are directly related to big cats such as lions, tigers, and cheetahs. That’s why if you have a pet cat, you may be used to catching and killing other animals, such as mice and small birds. This is behavior cats have evolved over many years to see the food they need to survive. However, evolution is slow and hasn’t yet entirely caught up with the fact that domesticated cats have their meals provided by their owners.