Nutrition In Animals: How Animals Eat Their Food?

Nutrition in animals is as important as it is for plants. As we all know that plants prepare their own food by the process of photosynthesis but animals cannot prepare their own food, hence they need to depend on plants for their food. Animals derive their nutrition either by eating plants directly, they are called herbivores, or indirectly by eating animals which have consumed plants, they are called carnivores. Some animals feed on both plants and animals; these animals are termed as omnivores.  All organisms require food for their survival and growth.

Food has different components, called nutrients, like carbohydrates, fats, minerals, proteins, and vitamins, which are required for maintenance of the body. These components are complex and cannot be used as it is for nutrition in animals; so they are broken down into simpler components by the process of digestion.

Nutrition in animals

 How Animals Eat Their Food?

How animals eat their food depends on the habitat they live and the nutrients they need. The process of taking in food is called ingestion. The method of ingestion varies from one animal to another.

For example-Bees and hummingbirds suck nectar from plants, while snakes like Python swallow other animals on which they prey upon and cattle feed on grass.

Different food intake strategies in different animals are the result of evolution. Among the terrestrial animals, the earliest forms were large amphibious fish eaters. While amphibians like frogs proceeded to feed on fish and following insects, reptiles began exploring two new food types, i.e. other four-legged animals, and later, plants.

The specialization of organisms towards specific food sources and of course specific ways of eating is one of the major causes of evolution of form and function. For example, the difference in mouthparts and teeth in whales, mosquitos, tigers, and sharks or distinct forms of beaks in birds, such as in hawks, woodpeckers, pelicans, hummingbirds, and parrots are results of adaptation to different types of eating by these animals.

Nutrition  in Animals

 Different modes of feeding, i.e. how animals eat can be classified as follows:

Filter Feeding

Filter Feeding

  • Filter Feeding: obtaining nutrients from particles suspended in water. Commonly used by fish.
  • Deposit feeding: obtaining nutrients from particles suspended in the soil. Earthworms use this mode of ingestion.
  • Fluid feeding: obtaining nutrients by consuming other organisms’ fluids. Honey bees, mosquitos exhibit this mode of food intake.
Bulk Feeding

Bulk Feeding

  • Bulk feeding: obtaining nutrients by eating the whole of an organism. Example: Python.
  • Ram feeding and suction feeding: ingesting prey via the fluids around it. This mode of ingestion is usually exhibited by aquatic predators such as bony fish.

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Practise This Question

How do bees and hummingbirds take in food?