The Info List - Carnivorous Plant Newsletter

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A carnivore /ˈkɑːrnɪvɔːr/, meaning "meat eater" (Latin, caro, genitive carnis, meaning "meat" or "flesh" and vorare meaning "to devour"), is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of animal tissue, whether through predation or scavenging.[1][2] Animals that depend solely on animal flesh for their nutrient requirements are called obligate carnivores while those that also consume non-animal food are called facultative carnivores.[2] Omnivores also consume both animal and non-animal food, and, apart from the more general definition, there is no clearly defined ratio of plant to animal material that would distinguish a facultative carnivore from an omnivore.[3] A carnivore that sits at the top of the food chain is termed an apex predator. The word "carnivore" is only refers to the mammalian order Carnivora, but this is somewhat misleading. While many Carnivora
meet the definition of being meat eaters, not all do, and even fewer are true obligate carnivores (see below). For example, most species of bears are actually omnivorous, except for the giant panda, which is almost exclusively herbivorous, and the exclusively meat-eating polar bear, which lives in the Arctic, where few plants grow. In addition, there are plenty of carnivorous species that are not members of Carnivora. Outside the animal kingdom, there are several genera containing carnivorous plants and several phyla containing carnivorous fungi. The former are predominantly insectivores, while the latter prey mostly on microscopic invertebrates, such as nematodes, amoebae and springtails.

The Venus flytrap, a well known carnivorous plant

Carnivores are sometimes characterized by the type of prey that they consume. For example, animals that eat insects and similar invertebrates primarily or exclusively are called insectivores, while those that eat fish primarily or exclusively are called piscivores. The first tetrapods, or land-dwelling vertebrates, were piscivorous amphibians known as labyrinthodonts. They gave rise to insectivorous vertebrates and, later, to predators of other tetrapods.[4] Carnivores may alternatively be classified according to the percentage of meat in their diet. The diet of a hypercarnivore consists of more than 70% meat, that of a mesocarnivore 50–70%, and that of a hypocarnivore less than 30%, with the balance consisting of non-animal foods such as fruits, other plant material, or fungi.


1 Obligate carnivores 2 Characteristics of carnivores 3 Prehistoric carnivores 4 See also 5 References 6 Further reading

Obligate carnivores[edit]

This Bengal tiger's sharp teeth and strong jaws are the classical physical traits expected from carnivorous mammalian predators.

Obligate carnivores, or "true" carnivores, are those carnivores whose survival depends on nutrients which are found only in animal flesh. While obligate carnivores might be able to ingest small amounts of plant material, because of their evolution they lack the necessary physiology required to digest that plant matter. In fact, some obligate carnivorous mammals will only ever ingest vegetation for its specific use as an emetic to self-induce vomiting to rid itself of food that has upset its stomach. An example is the Axolotl, which consumes mainly worms and larvae in its environment, but if necessary will consume algae. For instance, felids including the domestic cat are obligate carnivores requiring a diet of primarily animal flesh and organs.[5] Specifically, cats have high protein requirements and their metabolisms appear unable to synthesize certain essential nutrients (including retinol, arginine, taurine, and arachidonic acid), and thus, in nature, they can rely only on animal flesh as their diet to supply these nutrients.[6][7] Characteristics of carnivores[edit] Characteristics commonly associated with carnivores include organs for capturing and disarticulating prey (teeth and claws serve these functions in many vertebrates) and status as a predator. In truth, these assumptions may be misleading, as some carnivores do not hunt and are scavengers (though most hunting carnivores will scavenge when the opportunity exists). Thus they do not have the characteristics associated with hunting carnivores. Carnivores have comparatively short digestive systems, as they are not required to break down tough cellulose found in plants. Many animals that hunt other animals have evolved eyes that face forward, thus making depth perception possible. This is almost universal among mammalian predators. Other predators, like crocodiles, as well as most reptiles and amphibians, have sideways facing eyes. Prehistoric carnivores[edit] The first vertebrate carnivores were fish, and then amphibians that moved on to land. Early tetrapods were large amphibious piscivores. Some scientists assert that Dimetrodon
" was the first terrestrial vertebrate to develop the curved, serrated teeth that enable a predator to eat prey much larger than itself."[8] While amphibians continued to feed on fish and later insects, reptiles began exploring two new food types, tetrapods (carnivory), and later, plants (herbivory). Carnivory was a natural transition from insectivory for medium and large tetrapods, requiring minimal adaptation (in contrast, a complex set of adaptations was necessary for feeding on highly fibrous plant materials).[4] Carnivoramorphs are currently the dominant carnivorous mammals, and have been so since the Miocene. In the early to mid-Cenozoic, however, hyaenodonts, oxyaenid, entelodonts, ptolemaiidans, "arctocyonids" and "mesonychians" were dominant instead, representing a very high diversity of eutherian carnivores in the northern continents and Africa. In South America, sparassodonts were dominant instead, while Australia
saw the presence of several marsupial predators, such as the dasyuromorphs and thylacoleonids. In the Mesozoic, while theropod dinosaurs were the larger carnivores, several carnivorous mammal groups were already present. Most notable are the gobiconodontids, the triconodontid Jugulator, the deltatheroideans and Cimolestes. Many of these, such as Repenomamus, Jugulator and Cimolestes, were among the largest mammals in their faunal assemblages, capable of attacking dinosaurs.[9][10][11] Most carnivorous mammals, from dogs to Deltatheridium, share several adaptations in common, such as carnassialiforme teeth, long canines and even similar tooth replacement patterns.[12] Most aberrant are thylacoleonids, which bear a diprodontan dentition completely unlike that of any mammal, and "eutriconodonts" like gobioconodontids and Jugulator, by virtue of their cusp anatomy, though they still worked in the same way as carnassials.[9] Some theropod dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus
rex that existed during the Mesozoic
Era were probably obligate carnivores. See also[edit]

Mesocarnivore Herbivore


^ Nutrient Requirements: Carnivores. Duane E. Ullrey. Encyclopedia of Animal
Science. ^ a b Mammals: Carnivores. Duane E. Ullrey. Encyclopedia of Animal Science. ^ Mammals"' Omnivores. Duane E. Ullrey. Encyclopedia of Animal Science. ^ a b Sahney, S., Benton, M.J. & Falcon-Lang, H.J. (2010). "Rainforest collapse triggered Pennsylvanian tetrapod diversification in Euramerica" (PDF). Geology. 38 (12): 1079–1082. doi:10.1130/G31182.1. CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link) ^ Velegrand-Defretin, Veronique (1994). "Differences between cats and dogs: a nutritional view". Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 53: 15–24. doi:10.1079/pns19940004.  ^ Ullrey, D. E. (2004). "Mammals: Carnivores". In Pond, Wilson. Encyclopedia of Animal
Science. CRC Press. p. 591. ISBN 978-0-8247-5496-9.  ^ Ullrey, D. E. (2004). " Nutrient Requirements: Carnivores". In Pond, Wilson. Encyclopedia of Animal
Science. CRC Press. p. 670. ISBN 978-0-8247-5496-9.  ^ Foley, James A. (February 7, 2014). "Carnivorous, Pre-Dinosaur Predator
was First to Evolve Steak Knife-like Teeth". Nature World News. Retrieved May 3, 2014.  ^ a b Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska, Richard L. Cifelli, Zhe-Xi Luo (2004). "Chapter 12: Metatherians". Mammals from the Age of Dinosaurs: origins, evolution, and structure. New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 425–262. ISBN 0-231-11918-6. ^ Richard C. Fox (2015) A revision of the Late Cretaceous–Paleocene eutherian mammal Cimolestes Marsh, 1889. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences (advance online publication) ^ Cifelli, Richard L.; Madsen, Scott K. (1998). "Triconodont mammals from the medial Cretaceous of Utah". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 18 (2): 403–411. doi:10.1080/02724634.1998.10011068. ^ CHRISTIAN DE MUIZON and BRIGITTE LANGE-BADRÉ, Carnivorous dental adaptations in tribosphenic mammals and phylogenetic reconstruction, Article first published online: 29 MAR 2007 DOI: 10.1111/j.1502-3931.1997.tb00481

Further reading[edit]

Glen, Alistair & Dickman, Christopher (Eds) 2014, Carnivores of Australia, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne, ISBN 978-0-643-10310-8.

v t e

Inter-species biological interactions in ecology

Amensalism Commensalism Competition Deception in animals Inquilinism Mimicry Mutualism Neutralism Synnecrosis Predation

Carnivore Herbivore Intraguild Parasitism Parasitoidism Cheating


Cleaning symbiosis

v t e

Feeding behaviours



Hematophagy Insectivore Lepidophagy Man-eater Molluscivore Mucophagy Myrmecophagy Ophiophagy Piscivore Avivore Spongivore Vermivore


Oophagy Paedophagy Placentophagy Breastfeeding Weaning


cannibalism Human cannibalism Self-cannibalism Sexual cannibalism


Folivore Florivore Frugivore Graminivore Granivore Nectarivore Palynivore Xylophagy Osteophagy


Phagocytosis Myzocytosis


Microbivory Bacterivore Fungivore Coprophagia Detritivore Geophagia Omnivore Planktivore Saprophagy Xenophagy


Ambush predator Apex predator Bait balls Bottom feeding Browsing Feeding frenzy Filter feeding Grazing Hypercarnivore Hypocarnivore Intraguild predation Kleptoparasitism Lunge feeding Mesocarnivore Pivot feeding Ram feeding Scavenging Suction feeding Trophallaxis

Predation Antipredator adaptation Carnivorous plant Carnivorous fungus Carnivorous protist Category:Eating behaviors

v t e

Ecology: Modelling ecosystems: Trophic components


Abiotic component Abiotic stress Behaviour Biogeochemical cycle Biomass Biotic component Biotic stress Carrying capacity Competition Ecosystem Ecosystem
ecology Ecosystem
model Keystone species List of feeding behaviours Metabolic theory of ecology Productivity Resource


Autotrophs Chemosynthesis Chemotrophs Foundation species Mixotrophs Myco-heterotrophy Mycotroph Organotrophs Photoheterotrophs Photosynthesis Photosynthetic efficiency Phototrophs Primary nutritional groups Primary production


Apex predator Bacterivore Carnivores Chemoorganotroph Foraging Generalist and specialist species Intraguild predation Herbivores Heterotroph Heterotrophic nutrition Insectivore Mesopredators Mesopredator
release hypothesis Omnivores Optimal foraging theory Predation Prey switching


Chemoorganoheterotrophy Decomposition Detritivores Detritus


Archaea Bacteriophage Environmental microbiology Lithoautotroph Lithotrophy Microbial cooperation Microbial ecology Microbial food web Microbial intelligence Microbial loop Microbial mat Microbial metabolism Phage ecology

Food webs

Biomagnification Ecological efficiency Ecological pyramid Energy
flow Food chain Trophic level

Example webs

Cold seeps Hydrothermal vents Intertidal Kelp forests Lakes North Pacific Subtropical Gyre Rivers San Francisco Estuary Soil Tide pool


Ascendency Bioaccumulation Cascade effect Climax community Competitive exclusion principle Consumer-resource systems Copiotrophs Dominance Ecological network Ecological succession Energy
quality Energy
Systems Language f-ratio Feed conversion ratio Feeding frenzy Mesotrophic soil Nutrient cycle Oligotroph Paradox of the plankton Trophic cascade Trophic mutualism Trophic state index

Defense, counter

coloration Antipredator adaptations Camouflage Deimatic behaviour Herbivore
adaptations to plant defense Mimicry Plant defense against herbivory Predator
avoidance in schooling fish

v t e

Ecology: Modelling ecosystems: Other components

Population ecology

Abundance Allee effect Depensation Ecological yield Effective population size Intraspecific competition Logistic function Malthusian growth model Maximum sustainable yield Overpopulation in wild animals Overexploitation Population cycle Population dynamics Population modeling Population size Predator–prey (Lotka–Volterra) equations Recruitment Resilience Small population size Stability


Biodiversity Density-dependent inhibition Ecological effects of biodiversity Ecological extinction Endemic species Flagship species Gradient analysis Indicator species Introduced species Invasive species Latitudinal gradients in species diversity Minimum viable population Neutral theory Occupancy–abundance relationship Population viability analysis Priority effect Rapoport's rule Relative abundance distribution Relative species abundance Species
diversity Species
homogeneity Species
richness Species
distribution Species-area curve Umbrella species

Species interaction

Antibiosis Biological interaction Commensalism Community ecology Ecological facilitation Interspecific competition Mutualism Storage effect

Spatial ecology

Biogeography Cross-boundary subsidy Ecocline Ecotone Ecotype Disturbance Edge effects Foster's rule Habitat
fragmentation Ideal free distribution Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis Island biogeography Landscape ecology Landscape epidemiology Landscape limnology Metapopulation Patch dynamics r/K selection theory Resource selection function Source–sink dynamics


Ecological niche Ecological trap Ecosystem
engineer Environmental niche modelling Guild Habitat Marine habitats Limiting similarity Niche apportionment models Niche construction Niche differentiation

Other networks

Assembly rules Bateman's principle Bioluminescence Ecological collapse Ecological debt Ecological deficit Ecological energetics Ecological indicator Ecological threshold Ecosystem
diversity Emergence Extinction debt Kleiber's law Liebig's law of the minimum Marginal value theorem Thorson's rule Xerosere


Allometry Alternative stable state Balance of nature Biological data visualization Ecocline Ecological economics Ecological footprint Ecological forecasting Ecological humanities Ecological stoichiometry Ecopath Ecosystem
based fisheries Endolith Evolutionary ecology Functional ecology Industrial ecology Macroecology Microecosystem Natural environment Regime shift Systems ecology Urban ecology Theoretical ecology