We explain to you what omnivorous animals are, what are their characteristics, the case of the human being, and other examples.
What are omnivorous animals?
The omnivorous animals (from the Latin Omni, “everything” and vorare, “eat”) are those heterotrophic organisms that have a flexible diet, that is, not specialized. This means that they can feed on various sources of organic matter, whether vegetables (such as herbivores) or animals (such as carnivores), without much distinction.
In fact, omnivores usually feed on what is available at the moment, so their diets can be really diversified. They are opportunistic and general eaters, who may well play the role of predator, scavenger, or vegetarian consumer.
However, they should not be confused with cases of adaptation in which some herbivores may eventually eat meat, or some carnivores eat plants. The omnivores are able to alternate between one diet and another at full awareness and will.
Characteristics of omnivorous animals
Unlike carnivores, physically and biochemically adapted to the obtaining and digestion of meat, or herbivores, adapted to the vegetarian diet, omnivores do not have too particular adaptations.
They retain a little specific biological profile, capable of feeding on leaves of a plant, insects, or red meat of a dam more or less equally. Consequently, in many cases, they have mixed dentures, equipped with different teeth capable of tearing, crushing, or cutting, as is the case with human dentures.
On the other hand, their digestive systems are in the middle between the direct simplicity of carnivores and the delayed complexity of herbivores. In other words, they can only partially digest the most complex and difficult plant matter, which is usually expelled as waste directly.
Examples of omnivorous animals
When looking for examples of omnivorous animals, the human being is the most obvious case. There are people who want to eat only vegetables, others only meat, and a vast majority who try to balance their food by going to various sources, which in some cases even includes insects.
However, we can also list most bears, pigs, crows, raccoons, mice and rats, dogs, possums, certain turtles, crabs, hedgehogs, skunks, fish like piranhas, or the reptiles of clade Lacertilia.
The human being
The human being, in its complexity, is probably the simplest example of an omnivorous animal. Its teeth are complex and mixed, its digestive system is much more complex than that of a strict carnivore, but much simpler than that of a herbivore, and is capable of nourishing itself from different food sources, from fruits, seeds, insects, meats, vegetables, roots, etc.
There is a debate about whether we always eat that way or if our species learned to be omnivorous during its evolutionary history. It is known that our probable ancestors were omnivorous as well and that many apes with whom we are related are usually, or herbivorous, with occasional tendencies towards the consumption of insects or other meats.
Even so, the consumption of meat (and the invention of fire to digest it better) is considered a fundamental milestone in our evolutionary history, since it would have given us an indispensable calorie supplement for the formation of more complex brains.
However, it has been shown that a diet rich in meats (especially red) is detrimental to our metabolism, unable to deal with such an amount of saturated fat without suffering the consequences. The debate, therefore, continues.
Carnivorous animals are specialized consumers, who obtain their organic matter from the body of other animals mostly. This means that they are either predators or scavengers.
They have sharp teeth to tear the meat, as well as claws, tongs, poisons, or other competition mechanisms to capture their prey and guarantee food. It is possible, however, that some carnivores supplement their diet with other types of food.
Examples of carnivorous animals are the lion, the hyena, the vulture, the condor, the pelican, or the tiger.
Herbivores are the opposite side of the carnivore’s coin. They are also consumers but exclusively vegetarian diet, that is, they feed on the organic matter of plant origin: leaves, stems, sprouts, seeds, fruits, roots, barks, etc.
For that reason, they have specialized dentures to crush the long and complex vegetable fibers and digestive systems of many stomachs, which allow cellulose to break down and obtain nutrients. This is the case of ruminants, who return and chew the food until their greatest possible digestion is guaranteed.
Examples of herbivorous animals are cows, deer, giraffes, and aphids.
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