An animal that has a diet consisting of plant and animal matter
Omnivores are animals that include both plant and animal matter in their normal diet. They differ from other animal groups: the herbivores (animals that feed on plant matter) and the carnivores (animals that eat animal matter). Omnivores derive their dietary needs chiefly from plants and animals. They may also incorporate in their diet other food sources, such as algae, fungi, and bacteria. (Ref. 1) Because of the wide variety of food sources, omnivores are also called all-eaters.
The term omnivore came from the Latin “omnivorus”, a combination of “omnis”, meaning “all” or “everything” and “-vorus”, meaning “-eating” or “-devouring”. The condition or act of consuming animal and plant matter or a wide range of material from different trophic levels is referred to as omnivory. The word “omnivorous” is used to describe or pertain to omnivory.
Omnivorous Diet and Features
Both animal and plant materials are the main food in an omnivorous diet. Animals with this type of diet have distinct characteristics. For instance, they lack the specialized storage and digestive sacs (e.g. crops and fermenting vats) that are common in herbivores. They also do not have the sharp long teeth of carnivores that the latter use for capturing and tearing out the flesh of their prey. Similarly, herbivores do not have carnivorous teeth since they do not need to chase down their food. Nevertheless, some of the herbivores, e.g. beavers, can grow their teeth continuously throughout their lifetime. That is because some plant materials (e.g. cellulose) are highly abrasive to their teeth. (Ref. 2) Omnivores cannot regrow teeth as many times as some herbivores can. Nevertheless, their teeth are efficient for opening fruits and eating less abrasive plant material. (Ref. 2)
Examples of Omnivores
Examples of omnivores are chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas, pigs, hedgehogs, opossums, skunks, sloths, squirrels, mice, rats, rodents, and raccoons. Humans are regarded as omnivores. However, there are those who are selective in their diet and chose to eat only plant materials (i.e. vegans). (Ref. 1)
- McArdle, Ph.D., John (May–June 1991). “Humans are Omnivores”. Vegetarian Journal (The Vegetarian Resource Group).
- Assignment 12, page 4. (2020). Ncsu.Edu. http://webprojects.oit.ncsu.edu/project/bio181de/Lab/nutrition/nutrition4.html#act3
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