Bears, badgers and humans share a unique ability – i.e., the ability to sustain themselves on a diet of plants and animals. But even then, the differentiation is not clear cut – how are omnivores different from other animals?
An omnivore is defined as an animal that normally derives its energy and nutrients from a diet of plant and animal matter. Just like carnivores, omnivores hunt prey and other times, they forage for plant matter like herbivores. Humans are classified as omnivores as they eat both animals and plants.
Besides eating plant and animal matter, omnivores are also scavengers, which means they eat carrion or dead decaying matter. Some are ovivores, meaning that they eat eggs of other animals when they have an opportunity. Many omnivores evolved to this state after many years and are known as opportunistic feeders since they rely on both vegetation and protein (which are found in animals) to remain healthy.
Hence, it becomes comparatively easier for an omnivore to get food since they have a lot more choices than either carnivores or herbivores. The diet of most omnivorous animals changes according to the season and availability. This is because if one food item becomes scarce or doesn’t grow during winter they move on to the next alternative.
For example, the brown bears found in the Alaskan Peninsula feed on fruits and berries after emerging from hibernation. But as the seasons’ pass, salmon migrates into the Alaskan Peninsula and the brown bears feed on these fish, building up fat reserves for the next hibernation.
How do you define an Omnivore?
Another important aspect to remember is that no “exact” definition of omnivore as according to biologists, omnivores have no exact taxon. For instance, most carnivores such as lion and tigers belong to the order Carnivora, however, omnivores are spread across multiple taxons.
Furthermore, most species are evolutionarily geared towards one particular form of a diet, but they do deviate when the circumstances require them to do so. One significant example of this is the whitetail deer, which is strictly a herbivore but has been documented to capture and eat birds.
Read More: Carnivores And Herbivores
Examples of Omnivores
Besides humans, there are many different species that live on an omnivorous diet. Some common mammalian omnivores include racoons which are one of the best examples of an opportunistic eater. This is because racoons are not very picky and eat anything from mice, frogs, fish, insects, fruits, vegetables to even commercial human wastes such as leftover food.
Apart from racoons, other organisms such as opossums, skunks, pigs, rats and most bear species are opportunistic feeders. The jerboa is a type of rodent found in the desert that eats plant seeds and insects. The roadrunner is a bird usually found in the desert and its diet composes of fruits and seeds, but animal matter makes up a larger percentage of its diet. These include rodents, insects and even small snakes.
Damselfish and parrotfish are omnivores that eat phytoplankton and other smaller fish. There are also several omnivorous birds, including chickens, crows, and robins. Some reptiles, such as lizards and turtles are also omnivorous.
Extended Omnivorous Animals List
With over 8.7 million species of animals currently identified, there are many lesser-known examples of omnivores with intriguing features and characteristics. Following is an omnivorous animals list detailing other opportunistic feeders.
- Bonnethead sharks
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