Carnivorous Animals: Examples and Fun Facts

By Jane Bertin, Journalist specialized in animal welfare. Updated: June 19, 2018
Carnivorous Animals: Examples and Fun Facts

Are you looking for examples of carnivorous animals?

While it is generally known that carnivores are animals that eat meat, most people aren't sure of the exact definition. If you're wondering what is a carnivorous animal exactly, you should know that it is an animal that fills its nutritional needs by consuming animal tissue, that is, by eating other animals.

We often forget that carnivorous animals eat amphibians, insects and other invertebrates as well as mammals, birds or fish. Not all carnivorous animals are hunters or predators, as some carnivores are scavengers.

Not all carnivores eat exclusively animal tissue, as they supplement their diet in other ways, and not all animals that eat animal tissue are carnivores. On top of that, not all carnivores are animals, as you can find carnivorous plants and fungi.

If you want to learn all about carnivorous animals through many examples and some fun facts, stay with us at AnimalWised and learn on!

You may also be interested in: Omnivorous Animals: Examples and Fun Facts

What is a carnivorous animal?

As we said before, a carnivorous animal consumes animal tissue - flesh, bones, organs - in order to feed and gain energy. Depending on the kind of animals and kind of tissue they eat, carnivores can be classified into types, including the following:

  • Avivores: Consume birds
  • Insecivores Consume insects
  • Hematophages: Consume blood
  • Ovivores: Consume eggs
  • Piscivores: Consume fish
  • Vermivore: Consume worms

Not all carnivores feed the same way. There are also different types of carnivores according to how they find and get their food:

  • Predators: A predatory animal hunts the prey it's going to consume. Most carnivorous animals kill their prey, but some carnivores like mosquitoes are grazers.

    While it seems logical that predators are usually bigger than their prey, some carnivores like lions, wolves, piranhas and ants are social predators that team up to bring down larger animals.

  • Scavengers: Scavenger carnivores consume dead animal tissue. Finding carrion requires time and effort, and so only vultures are exclusively scavenger carnivores.

    Most scavengers combine this method with hunting, becoming opportunistic feeders, that is, they hunt if they have to, but if they find available already-killed prey they will take advantage. Some of these carnivores include coyotes, lions, lizards, bears and crows.

Depending on their place in the food chain, carnivores can be apex predators; this is the name given to the predators at the highest trophic level, that is, those who prey on others but aren't preyed on. Unlike what you may think, apex predators also feed on other carnivores, who are called mesopredators. For instance, bears feed on carnivorous fish like salmon.

Most apex predators play a very important role in their ecosystem, as they balance the population levels of other animals and living beings. A classic example is that of the gray wolf, who hunts large grazing herbivores and thus helps grasses and trees grow, creating wider habitat for other animals.

Some examples of apex predators include the Bengal tiger and the saltwater crocodile, but also more unexpected examples like the honey badger and the lion's mane jellyfish. You must keep in mind that if you take an apex predator from its ecosystem and place it in another it may lose its place at the top of the food chain.

Carnivorous Animals: Examples and Fun Facts - What is a carnivorous animal?

What kinds of carnivorous animals exist?

As we said before, carnivorous animals do not necessarily eat only meat, and they often complement their diets with fungi, fruits, vegetables, nectar or other substances. This is not the case of obligate or true carnivores, whose reliance on animal tissue is almost total.

Obligate carnivores adapt to this kind of diet when their habitat - including its climate and geography - forces them to do so. For instance, unlike other bears, polar bears are obligate carnivores because there is no vegetation in their habitat.

Depending on the composition of their diet, carnivorous animals can be classified like this:

  • Hypercarnivores: Their diet consists of more than 70% meat. Examples include cats, eagles, salmon, sharks and owls.

  • Mesocarnivores: Their diet consists of 50-70% meat, and they have evolved different kinds of teeth to consume different types of organic matter. Examples include badgers, dogs, ferrets, foxes and weasels.

  • Hypocarnivores: Their diet consists of less than 30% meat, the rest being anything from fruits and fungi to nectar. Since their teeth fulfil different functions, including chewing hard vegetables, their molar teeth are wider and flatter. Most of these hypocarnivorous animals are considered omnivorous, and examples include black bears and us humans.
Carnivorous Animals: Examples and Fun Facts - What kinds of carnivorous animals exist?

What are the most common traits of carnivores?

In order to be able to chase, hunt and eat other animals, carnivores have evolved particular traits. While these physical characteristics are not absolute, it is generally true that carnivorous mammals have evolved sharp teeth - like carnassials - and claws, while birds of prey have evolved sharp talons and beaks, which fulfill a similar function.

Carnivorous predators also tend to have front-facing eyes for better depth perception during a chase. As they don't have to digest cellulose - which takes ruminant animals a long time - carnivores have shorter digestive systems.

Some carnivores have evolved special traits that allow them to hunt better. Some of them have inject venom or secrete poison, while some have learned to hide in their environment - camouflage - or pass as other animals - mimicry. However, the main prey of these highly specialized animals have evolved similar characteristics, complicating this high-stakes hide and seek game.

This does not mean that carnivorous animals are always on the prowl for food. When properly fed, even the fiercest predators will let prey animals pass by without bothering them.

Carnivorous Animals: Examples and Fun Facts - What are the most common traits of carnivores?

Examples of carnivorous animals

Carnivorous mammals:

Carnivorous birds:

  • Baikal teal
  • Bald eagle
  • Buzzard
  • Falcon
  • Golden eagle
  • Hawk
  • Kingfisher
  • Kite
  • Merganser
  • Osprey
  • Owl
  • Penguin
  • Road runner
  • Stork
  • Vulture

Carnivorous reptiles:

Most reptiles are carnivorous. Some species, like many turtles, are carnivorous during their youth and development but eventually vary their diets.

Carnivorous fish:

  • Cookiecutter shark
  • Great white shark
  • Muskellunge
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Walleye
  • Whale shark

As for other types of animals, you should know that almost all adult frogs are carnivorous. Some insects, like ants and yellowjackets, also consume animal tissue. Scorpions and spiders are other examples of carnivorous animals.

Carnivorous Animals: Examples and Fun Facts - Examples of carnivorous animals

Now that you know exactly what are carnivorous animals, with some examples and fun facts, why not tell us which one are your favorites?

If you want to read similar articles to Carnivorous Animals: Examples and Fun Facts, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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The facts and information are very good. It helps a lot while studying.
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