Most of us know that carnivores eat meat. However, carnivores can be further classified into the following types:
- Obligate carnivores or Hypercarnivores
- Facultative carnivores
In this article, we shall explore the concept of Hypercarnivores and how they differ from facultative carnivores.
What is a Hypercarnivore?
A hypercarnivore is an animal whose nutritional requirements are found only in animal meat. Moreover, these organisms might be able to ingest plant matter but they do not have the physiological mechanisms that are required to effectively digest it. Another point to note is that hypercarnivores are not classified under a single family or order. Hence, the order “Carnivora” might be misleading as not all members under this order are considered to be true obligate carnivores. For instance, the family Ursidae, under the order Carnivora, consists of bears. Hence, polar bears are hypercarnivores as more than 90% of their diet consists of meat. However, other members of this family, such as the panda are purely herbivorous.
Examples of Hypercarnivores:
Following are a few examples of animals that are considered hypercarnivores:
- All members of the order Crocodilia are hypercarnivores. These include the American alligator, Saltwater crocodile, and the gharial.
- Members of the order Strigiformes, which includes owls, are also considered hypercarnivores. These animals hunt small mammals, insects and even other birds. Some species specialize hunting fish.
- Birds of the family Laniidae include Shrikes. These birds feed on insects and small vertebrates. Ornithologists have also stated that the birds kill and then impale the bodies of their prey on thorns, spikes or other sharp points. This helps the birds to tear their prey into smaller, easily-digestible pieces
- Other birds such as eagles and vultures are also classified as hypercarnivores.
- All members of the family Felidae, including domestic house cats, are hypercarnivores.
- Invertebrates, such as spiders and scorpions are considered hypercarnivores as their diet consists entirely of other insects and small vertebrates.
- Except for a handful of species, all fish are hypercarnivores. This is especially true for species such as the piranhas.
Are Hypercarnivores Apex Predators?
Despite the terminology and a diet that consists majorly of animal meat, most hypercarnivores are not apex predators. For instance, salmon are obligate carnivores, but they are prey for other organisms at every stage in their lifecycle.
Frequently Asked Questions on Hypercarnivores
What are Hypercarnivores?
A hypercarnivore is an animal whose nutritional requirements are found only in animal meat. Moreover, these organisms might be able to ingest plant matter but they do not have the physiological mechanisms that are required to effectively digest the same.
What are the classifications of carnivores?
Carnivores can be classified according to the energy requirements into obligate carnivores (Hypercarnivores) and facultative carnivores. An animal whose nutritional requirements are found entirely and solely in animal meat is termed as an obligate carnivore. An animal that can effectively consume animal flesh and plant matter are termed as facultative carnivores. Also, do note that hypercarnivores can consume plant matter, but they lack the physiology to digest the same, hence, some may consume plant matter as an emetic in response to digestive issues / disorders.
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