What do animals eat?
As mentioned in the previous chapter, animals can be placed into groups based upon what they eat. There are three basic groups an animal can belong to: herbivore, carnivore or omnivore.
Herbivores are animals that only eat vegetation. They receive the nutrients they need from plants, leaves and shrubs, which store energy received from the sun. Herbivores have wide, hard-wearing teeth that allow them to eat lots of chewy grasses and shrubs. The molar teeth, located towards the back of the jaw, do the bulk of the chewing. A herbivore needs to spend most of its time eating so that it receives the right amount of energy to get through the day.
What is a ruminant herbivore?
Plants, particularly grasses, are very difficult to digest. Animals that eat plants have a particular bacterium inside their bodies which helps them to break down the nutrients they need. This process is called fermentation. Some herbivores have two stomachs to make the digestive process easier. Animals of this nature are called ruminant herbivores. Cows, camels and giraffes are examples of ruminant herbivores.
A carnivore is an animal whose diet consists mainly of meat. Some carnivores, such as lions, stalk and kill their own prey. Carnivores of this kind are called hunters. Other carnivores, such as hyenas, do not kill other animals but search for already dead carcasses to feast on. These carnivores are referred to as scavengers.
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Carnivores need very sharp teeth and strong jaws to tear the meat from the bone. Lions, tigers, crocodiles, polar bears and wolves are all examples of carnivores; even some spiders are carnivores.
Omnivores are animals that eat both meat and plants. The teeth of omnivores are not as specialised as carnivores or herbivores. Their teeth are able to grind and chew plants effectively, as well as tear meat off the bones of animals. As omnivores eat both plants and meat, they have a well-balanced diet. A pig is an omnivore that will eat anything; they eat worms, insects, tree bark, rotting carcasses, rubbish and sometimes other pigs.
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