A carnivore (pronounced /ˈkɑrnɪvɔər/), meaning 'meat eater' (Latin carne meaning '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. Animals that depend solely on animal flesh for their nutrient requirements are considered obligate carnivores while those that also consume non-animal food are considered facultative carnivores. 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, or an omnivore from a facultative herbivore, for that matter. A carnivore that sits at the top of the foodchain is an apex predator.
Plants that capture and digest insects are called carnivorous plants. Similarly, fungi that capture microscopic animals are often called carnivorous fungi.
Carnivores that eat insects and similar invertebrates primarily or exclusively are called insectivores, while those that eat fish primarily or exclusively are called piscivores. Large piscivore amphibians were the first vertebrates to conquer land, they evolved 400 million years ago. Insectivores evolved next and predators of other vertebrates after that.
The word "carnivore" sometimes refers to the mammalian Order Carnivora, but this is somewhat misleading. Although many Carnivora fit the definition of being exclusively meat eaters, not all do. For example, most species of bears are omnivorous, except for the giant panda, which is almost exclusively herbivorous, and the carnivorous polar bear. In addition, many carnivorous species are not members of Carnivora.
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