As we all remember, the food chain begins with the producers. Producers produce food with the help of sunlight to the apex of which the consumers or the predators lie. Herbivores find themselves at the second level of this food chain and mainly consume plants.
Herbivores are the first or primary consumers. However, it doesn’t mean that all herbivores eat the same food. Plants are the most abundant source of food, they are a ready source of food. They might be just a part of your diet, but for some organisms, this is their diet. The huge herbivorous animals like elephants eat bigger plants while squirrels and smaller herbivores eat grass and seeds or fruits of plants.
Also Read: Difference between herbivores and carnivores
Facts about Herbivorous Animals
Herbivores can be very large or very small. The largest herbivore on earth is the African elephant. The smallest herbivore on the earth is feathering beetle. The herbivores animals eat only those things that require photosynthesis to live. They only feed on grasses, fruits, leaves and vegetables.
Types of Herbivores
Herbivores are of different types. Few of them feed on a variety of plants while some feed on a specific type of plant. For eg:
- The ones that feed only on fruits are called frugivores. Flying foxes and fruit bats are some of the frugivores.
- The animals that feed on leaves are called folivores. For eg., panda, caterpillars, giraffe, koala, etc.
- Herbivorous animals that feed on woods are called xylophages. For eg., termites.
Herbivorous animals and the food chain
The herbivorous animals transport photosynthetic energy in the trophic system. They are known as primary consumers. But not all the energy present in the plants will be transferred to the herbivores. Only 10% of the energy is transferred to the primary consumers. That is why the number of herbivorous animals is less than the plants on earth. Similarly, the number of carnivorous animals is less than herbivores on earth.
Due to their position in the food chain, the herbivorous animals are prey for the predators on the higher ranks of the food chain. Hence, they have better adapted themselves.
Protection against Predators
They have eyes on the side, having a wider range of vision, giving them a forewarning about approaching predators. Not only this, they also have bigger ears that pick the smallest noises around, giving them a clear warning before the predator moves in.
The tortoise happens to have a hard shell to protect itself from predators. Camouflage is another art mastered by a few organisms, like sand grouse, a bird that resides in the desert, to protect itself from predators.
Also Read: Carnivores and Herbivores
The herbivores do not have canines that are the characteristic of carnivores since they do not need to tear flesh apart. Even if they do have such teeth, it is because they eat tough plants.
Herbivores need a lot of energy throughout the day. Hence, they end up eating or grazing all day long. And for this purpose herbivores have structures that help them in getting their food.
Herbivorous animals do not have the ability to produce their own food which is required for their survival, therefore, they feed on plants to get the energy which is produced by the process of photosynthesis.
For example, animals like deer have bodies that can bend over to graze. When it comes to humans, vegetarians are a lot like herbivores and eat only fruits and vegetables. Vegans do not even consume animal products like milk.
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