Difference Between Herbivores and Carnivores

In the natural world, most animals fulfil their energy requirements from other organisms. Based on this concept, we can classify modes of nutrition into two categories – autotrophs and heterotrophs. The heterotrophs depend on other organisms for their food. Herbivores and carnivores follow the heterotrophic mode of nutrition. The animals that eat plants are known as herbivores whereas the animals that eat the herbivores are carnivores. In this article, we shall explore how these two are different from each other and if any possess any similarities.

The differences between herbivores and carnivores are summarized in the table below:

HERBIVORES
CARNIVORES
Primary Food Source
The primary food source of herbivores is almost exclusively plants or plant-based sources The primary food source of carnivores is meat – which is derived from other animals.
Sub Types
Based on the type of plant material herbivores eat, they can be categorized into 4 types. Seed eaters (granivores), leaf – eaters (folivores), fruit eaters (frugivores) and nectar feeders (nectarivore) Carnivores can further be classified into obligate carnivores and facultative carnivores. Obligate carnivores rely entirely on meat while facultative carnivores can survive on a combination of meat and non-animal food.
Digestive System
Most herbivores have several stomach chambers. They also have a comparatively longer digestive tract than carnivores. Such animals with multiple stomach chambers are called ruminants Carnivores have a much simpler digestive system. They also have only one stomach chamber with a shorter digestive tract.
Dentition
Since herbivores eat plant matter, they have teeth designed specifically for the task. For instance, cows have large, flat teeth that are capable of grinding up plant material. In contrast, carnivores have teeth which are adept for hunting and consuming flesh. For instance, lions have sharp incisors and large, pointed canine teeth. Even their molars are sharp enough to shear meat.
Skulls
Herbivores have skulls and teeth which are specially designed to grind tough vegetation. Carnivores have skulls which are capable of biting with great force.
Digestive Enzymes
Since plant matter is rich in carbohydrates and coarse fibre, herbivores have amylase in their saliva to help break them down. Carnivores do not produce amylase in their saliva. Instead, they have to rely on their pancreas to digest carbohydrates.
Examples
Folivores: Sloths and Koalas

Granivores: Capybara, grey squirrel

Frugivores: Kakapo, Grey parrot, white cockatoo

Nectarivore: hummingbirds

Obligate carnivores: Lions, tigers

Facultative carnivores: Dogs

Frequently Asked Questions on Difference Between Herbivores and Carnivores

What is the primary food source for a herbivore?

The primary food source of herbivores is almost exclusively plants or plant-based products.

What is the primary food source for a carnivore?

Obligate carnivores rely on meat while facultative carnivores can survive on a combination of meat and non-animal food.

What is the different classification of herbivores?

Herbivores can be categorized into 4 types. Seed eaters (granivores), leaf eaters (folivores), fruit eaters (frugivores) and nectar feeders (nectarivore).

How does the digestive system of a herbivore differ from a carnivore?

Most herbivores have several stomach chambers. They also have a comparatively longer digestive tract than carnivores. On the other hand, carnivores have a much simpler digestive system. They also have only one stomach chamber with a shorter digestive tract.

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