Table of Contents
- What are omnivores?
- Examples of omnivores
- Characteristics of omnivores
- Omnivores in the food chain
- The evolutionary advantage of omnivorous animals
- Differences between omnivores, carnivores, and herbivores
What are omnivores?
Omnivores is a combination of the Latin words “Omnis” which means everything and “Vorare” which means to eat or devour. When these two Latin words are combined it gives the meaning of omnivores as animals or organisms that devour or eat everything, both plants and animals.
These animals eat different materials on a regular basis which includes other animals, plants, algae, and fungi. Furthermore, omnivores range in size from tiny insects like ants to large animals like humans.
Omnivores and carnivores occupy the third trophic level of the food chain while the herbivores or the plant-eaters occupy the second trophic level and the autotrophs or the plants occupy the first trophic level.
The occupation of omnivorous animals in the third nutritional level makes them crucial in the food chain, especially in balancing the ecosystem. Animals that are omnivores fall under secondary or tertiary consumers in any given food web.
Definition of omnivores
These are groups of organisms in the animal kingdom that feed on both plant matter and animal flesh. When it is a single organism or an animal, then, an omnivore is that animal that feeds on both plants and animals for its nutritional requirement and survival. This meaning of omnivore answers the question of what is an omnivore.
Examples of omnivores
- Based on the class in the animal kingdom
- Examples based on the environment of the animal
The examples of omnivorous animals that will be given in a tabular form for easy understanding, simplifies the animals that are omnivorous in the aspect of their position in the animal kingdom and the biome or habitat they are found. The table also shows what they eat (diet), which helps to answer the question of what do omnivorous animals eat.
Examples based on the class in the animal kingdom
|Aardvarks||Termites and fruits|
|Badgers||Earthworms and fruits|
|Bears (giant pandas and polar bears are excluded)||Small mammals, berries, and roots|
|Chipmunks and Squirrels||Grains, seeds, insects, and occasionally bird eggs.|
|CoatisFrogs, lizards, and fruitsFoxes (primarily carnivorous but can also be omnivorous) Small mammals, berries, and fungiHedgehogsInsects, snails, grass, and melonsMice and ratsGrains, seeds, meat, and cheeseOpossumsFruits and carrionPigsSmall animals, fruits, and flowersRaccoonsBerries, rabbits, and insectsSkunks (changes diet based on season)Fruits and insectsSlothsFruits and insects|
Fruits and small animals
Corn, wheat, barley, and insects
Corvids (crow family)
Insects, fruits, and meat
Acacia seeds, grass, and caterpillars
Flowers, sap, insects, and spiders
Plants, beetles, and small animals (rabbits)
Fruit, nectar, and insects
Roots, seeds, lizards, snakes, and rodents
Leaves, clovers, seeds, frogs, and snakes
Worms, insects, and fruits
Plants, insects, and spiders
Grains, berries, and small animals
Insects, seeds, and fruits
Nuts, seeds, berries, and insects
Seeds, nuts, and insects
Fish, berries, and aquatic arthropods
Mollusks, small fish, and algae
Rallidae (an opportunistic feeder)
Frogs and algae
Aquatic plants, insects, and small fish
Grubs and fruits
Galagos (bush babies)
Insects, sap, and seeds
Gibbons (lesser apes)
Fruits and insects
Fruits, leaves, seeds, and other animals
Fruits, nuts, insects, lizards
Fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, fungi
Catfish (also known as night feeders)
Aquatic plants and mollusks
Algae and invertebrates
Fruits, insects, seeds, and carcasses
Damselfish and parrotfish
Phytoplankton and small fish
Plant matter and insects
Dead insects and plants
Insects, honey, dead animals, and nectar
Meat, sweet foods, and paper
Small insects, leaves, and nectar
Everything including blood
Plants and animal tissues
Wasps and yellow jackets
Insects and plants
Examples based on the environment of the animal
Andean cocks-of-the-rocks (bird)
Fruits, berries, and insects
Banded tree frog
Adults eat insects and tadpoles eat plant material
Blue and gray tanagers (birds)
Insects, berries, flowers, and fruits
Leaves, fruits, and insects
Poison dart frogs (tadpoles)
Insects and aquatic plants
Bird eggs, insects, and fruits
Insects and fruits
Fruits and insects
White-faced saki monkeys
Rodents, bats, and fruits
|AnimalsDietBlue crabsAlgae, plants, and dead fishBonnethead sharksSmall aquatic animals and seagrassSaltwater crabs and lobstersAlgae, aquatic plants, and mollusksFlatback, hawksbill, and leatherback sea turtlesFish, sea cucumbers, corals, and seaweed|
Birds, fruits, flowers, rabbits, and snakes
Lizards, fruits, frogs, and eggs
Desert night lizards
Small insects, termites, and plants
rabbit-eared bandicoots (rodent)
Insects and fruits
Beetles, plants, and seeds
Roadrunners (opportunistic eaters)
Insects and plants
Characteristics of omnivores
- Digestive system
The above-listed are several key features that are shared by all omnivorous animals. Some of the characteristics mentioned can be said to be shared by all species of omnivorous animals. We can’t think of many more things they have in common because they’re such a diverse group of species. We will now look at the characteristics that set these animals apart from the rest one after the other.
The denture of omnivorous animals is distinguished by the presence of incisor teeth or sharp teeth, as well as other flattened teeth (molars). These molars are used to crush plants and seeds, while incisors are used to tear meat. Even though they have a sharp incisor, their dentures are not as large and needle-like as those of a carnivorous animal.
Omnivorous birds on the other hand, like chickens, have a highly specialized digestive sac known as the gizzard that allows them to grind food. The gizzard is nothing other than a muscular part of the animal that is loaded with stones to aid in the grinding of food so that it reaches the intestine as smashed as possible. It is similar to what a human being does with a food bolus.
Omnivores (including humans) come in a variety of sizes. For example, the endangered Kodiak bear is the largest terrestrial omnivore. It has been known to grow up to 10 feet in height (3.04 meters) and has an estimated weight of 1500 pounds (680 kilograms). Ants are possibly the tiniest omnivores, for example, the pharaoh ant is one of the smallest ants, growing to only 0.04 to 0.08 inches (1 to 2 millimeters).
Omnivores have a digestive system that is transitional in length between herbivorous and carnivorous animals, with a single stomach and intestines. We know that an omnivore’s digestive system is relatively simple than that of an herbivore. This is because herbivores have incredibly complicated digestive systems, which are made up of multiple stomach chambers and regurgitating food for chewing, because of the difficulty in digesting plant materials. But The digestive system of omnivores is, however, more intricate than that of a carnivore (because the meat is easily digestible in the system of carnivorous animals), and it is capable of absorbing nutrients from both meat and vegetable foods.
Omnivores in the food chain
Omnivorous animals, like herbivores and carnivores, play an important role in the food chain or web because the presence of each member of the trophic level in the food chain keeps the balance in any given ecosystem. Thus, omnivores contribute to the control of both animal populations and vegetation growth, therefore, removing an omnivore species may result in overgrowth of vegetation and an overabundance of any creatures that were part of its diet.
The evolutionary advantage of omnivorous animals
Ecological systems are not always places where conditions are favorable because they are influenced by multiple factors like the amount of available water, resources and their distribution, climatic factors, abiotic agents, and so on. This suggests that multiple animals must evolve in order to adapt to new environments. Omnivorous animals have a significant evolutionary advantage over other animals due to their ability to quickly adapt to the changing environment. It is critical to adapt not only to environmental changes but also to current characteristics. That is, omnivorous animals can supply themselves more quickly when it comes to food simply because they are not restricted and dependent on a specific type of food. This trait also aids in the expansion of their range and habitats.
Differences between omnivores, carnivores, and herbivores
|Physiological characteristic||Because of the need to tear meat, omnivore teeth frequently resemble carnivore teeth coupled with flat molars that are also used to grind food.||Carnivorous animals have powerful jaws, sharp teeth, and long sharp claws that allow them to tear and rip their prey.||Herbivores typically have specialized biological systems (four stomach chamber digestive systems) that allow them to digest a wide range of plants. Their teeth are also designed in such a way that they can rip off the plants and then grind them up with their flat molars.|
|Diet||These animals can change their diet depending on what food is available, eating plants at times and meat at other times or even eating both at once.||Herbivores, omnivores, and other carnivores are all prey for carnivores.||Diet consisting solely of plants (grass, tree bark, aquatic vegetation, shrubby vegetation, seeds, and nuts)ExamplesHumans, raccoons, pigs, fish, and flies are examples of omnivores.||Toads, wolves, mountain lions, hawks, and snakes are all examples of carnivores.||Cows, elk, buffalo, sheep, goats, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, and mice are examples of herbivores.|
What is the meaning of omnivores?
Omnivores means animals or organisms that feed on both plant and animal material for their survival.
Are humans omnivores?
Yes, humans are omnivores because they can feed on both plant and animal materials, and they have all the characteristics of an omnivore as discussed earlier.
Joseph enjoys writing and learning about the fields of ecology and biology. He has experience teaching both of these subjects at a variety of universities as an adjunct professor. In his free time Joseph enjoys, surfing with his kids and going on multi-day backpacking trips.