“Omnivores are animals that feed on other plants and animals for nutrition.”
There is no exact meaning or definition of an omnivore. According to biologists, omnivores have no specific 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.
A most important example of this is the Virginia deer, also called as the whitetail deer. They are a medium-sized deer, which is strictly a herbivore but has been documented to capture and eat birds.
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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 can be defined as an animal that usually obtains their nutrients by feeding on both the plants and animals. Similar to the carnivores, omnivores also 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. Omnivores are known as opportunistic feeders since they can derive energy by processing both vegetation and proteins (which are found in animals).
Hence, it becomes comparatively easier for an omnivore to acquire food since they have a lot more choices than either herbivores or carnivores. 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.
Read More: Carnivores And Herbivores
Examples of Omnivores
Following are some of the examples of omnivorous animals:
- Besides humans, many other species live on an omnivorous diet. Some typical mammalian omnivores include racoons which are one of the best examples of an opportunistic feeder. 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, pigs, rats, skunks and most of the 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 significant 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 several omnivorous birds, including chicken, kea, crows, robins, etc. Some reptiles, such as lizards and turtles, are also omnivorous.
Also Refer: How Many Types Of Organisms Are There?
List Of Extended Omnivorous Animals
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
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are omnivores?
Omnivores defined as the animals that feed on plants and other animals for nutrition.
2. State a few examples of omnivores.
Bears, racoons, possums, pigs, rats, skunks, roadrunners, badgers, civets, catfish etc
3. From a scientific perspective, omnivores pose a contradiction for the classification of animals. Explain.
By definition, omnivores are animals that can process and derive energy from plant and animal matter. However, some animals, which are classified as herbivores, are known to consume animal products. Cattle, for instance, reportedly gnaw on dry bones for particular minerals. Similarly, carnivores such as cats are known to consume plant matter occasionally. This helps them regurgitate indigestible matter such as hair or bones. They may also consume plant matter for its laxative properties. Hence, the definition of omnivores arises certain contradictions among the scientific community.
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