We explain what omnivorous animals are and the habitat where they live. In addition, what are its characteristics, food and examples.

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Omnivores can feed on both plants and other animals.

What are omnivorous animals?

Omnivorous animals are those that can be nourished by foods of both animal and vegetable origin. This includes not only the body of the plant or animal, but also the substances they produce such as honey, nectar, eggs, or blood. Its name comes from the Latin words omnis“everything and vorare“devour”.

Omnivorous animals are opportunistic eaters, that is, they eat as opportunity presents itself. They are also generalists, that is, without being strictly governed by any preference. This means that their organisms are not adapted to an exclusively vegetarian or carnivorous diet.

Carnivorous animals that eventually eat plants are not exactly omnivorous, nor are herbivores capable of consuming meat, since these have a well-defined food profile, from which they can eventually escape. Omnivores, on the other hand, They do not have any specific profileor in any case it is extremely broad and versatile.

See also: Crocodile

Origin of omnivorous animals

It is very difficult to determine why certain animal species specialized in the ingestion of exclusively vegetable or animal organic matter, while others are capable of eating everything.

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It is estimated that is due to a necessary diversification of the diet throughout periods of scarcity of certain foods and abundance of others.

As a result, that those who adapted to eating everything maximized their chances of survival in any scenario.

Omnivorous animal teeth

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There are omnivores without teeth, such as the ostrich.

One of the distinctive features of omnivorous animals, at least of the higher ones, is their teeth, which are a combination of the teeth of herbivorous and carnivorous animals. Each one is characterized by a type of teeth:

  • Herbivores. They have flat teeth ideal for crushing plants.
  • Carnivores. They have sharp, serrated teeth for cutting and tearing meat.

A perfect example of the combination that occurs in omnivores is the human teeth itself, equipped with incisors and canines to cut and tearbut also of blunt and strong molars to crush the food.

There are also omnivores without teeth, such as chickens.. But in this case, the animal has a digestive sac that is filled with stones, known as a gizzard, in which the food is crushed before continuing its digestive path.

Digestion of omnivorous animals

Digestion is another important point that evidence the adaptation of omnivores. Carnivorous animals have a quick and easy digestive tract, since digesting meat is relatively easy.

On the contrary, branches, leaves and other vegetation can be quite resistant. For this reason, herbivores have a complicated digestive system, with several stomachs and which implies the regurgitation of food to be chewed again.

the omnivores have an intermediate digestive system: a simple and direct system ideal for digesting meat, but also capable of processing most of the vegetable parts, expelling the rest without much effort to reduce it.

Habitat of omnivorous animals

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Due to the variety of their diet, omnivores conquer almost all ecosystems.

Given the dietary flexibility of omnivores, it is possible to find them in practically any ecosystem. They have adapted in such a way that they take advantage of most of the available feeding opportunities.

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They are less dependent than other species on the abundance of plants or other animals to consume. That’s why, have a better livelihood than animals with a specialized diet.

Role in the food chain

Omnivores are very important in the food chain, since they its highly diverse diet keeps both animal and plant populations under control, preventing its overpopulation.

Secondly, are much more adaptable to violent changes in the nutritional balance. However, they are often classified in the food pyramid along with predators and carnivores.

Advantages of an omnivorous diet

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Omnivores are able to adapt to the scarcity of a type of food.

The great advantage of omnivorous diets has to do with its enormous number of options: both flora and fauna and their respective products (fruits, eggs, etc.) and secretions (blood, nectar, honey, etc.) are a nutritional source. So are seeds, fungi and even insects.

In terms of survival, omnivores are animals more capable of adapting to scarcity than carnivores or herbivores. This is particularly true in ecosystems with high seasonal variation, where some species disappear during the winter and reappear during the summer, or vice versa.

Disadvantages of an omnivorous diet

There are not many disadvantages of eating everything, logically. Nevertheless, digestion of some organic matter may not be as efficient in omnivores as in other animals with a specialized diet, adapted to get the most nutritional benefit from their only food source, whether carnivorous or herbivorous.

diversity of omnivorous animals

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Among omnivorous animals there are beings as small as ants.

Omnivores are a particularly large and diversified category. Covers animals as big as a bear, or as small as an ant. It also includes birds like the crow, mammals like the pig and, of course, the human being.

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The human being is omnivorous

The evidence that the human being is omnivorous can be found in our own anatomy. In addition, the evolution of our species allows us to appreciate traces of our varied and flexible diet, such as:

  • Archaeological evidence that points to the consumption of both animal and plant species and fungi in our ancestral times.
  • Our digestive system lacking fermentation chambers (typical of herbivores), but long and efficient in the digestion of plant food.
  • Mixed teeth, with incisors, canines and molars, as well as salivary glands adapted to a varied diet.

Examples of Omnivorous Animals

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Animals like the raccoon can eat from fruits to fish.

Some of the main omnivorous animals are:

  • omnivorous mammals.
    • The human being, the greatest predator on the planet.
    • Pigs of all kinds and species.
    • The vast majority of bears, except for the polar bear (due to the absence of plant species).
    • Many species of canids such as dogs, foxes and jackals can eat anything, although their favorite diet is generally carnivorous.
    • Hedgehogs, raccoons, coatis, opossums, skunks, and rodents like mice, rats, and squirrels.
  • omnivorous birds.
    • The ostrich and the rhea.
    • The chickens, seagulls, the crow, the magpie and the jackdaw.
  • Aquatic omnivorous animals.
    • Some voracious fish like piranhas (contrary to what is believed).
    • Clown fish, octopuses and some marine arthropods such as prawns.
    • The Marine turtles.
  • Other omnivorous animals.
    • The land tortoises, the Balearic lizard and the ocellated lizards.
    • Most ants and some species of wasps.

References:

  • “Omnivore” on Wikipedia.
  • “Herbivorous, carnivorous and omnivorous animals” in Educational Portal.
  • “What are the omnivorous animals” (video) in EcologiaVerde.
  • “Omnivorous Animals” at Animapedia.
  • “Omnivores: Facts about Flexible Eaters” in Live Science.
  • “Omnivore” in National Geographic.

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