Animals And Their Food
You have read that plants can make their own food through the process of photosynthesis, but this process cannot be replicated in animals. Animals cannot make their own food. So, they move from place to place in search of food. Different animals have different eating habits and they eat different types of food. Based on the type of food these animals eat, they can be classified into herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores. All these types of animals live together in the ecosystem and all of them are important for the environment.
The animals that eat only plants or plant products are called herbivores. For example, cows, goats, buffaloes, horses, giraffes, and zebras. These animals may eat grass such as cows, shrubs such as goats, nuts such as squirrels or only parts of a plant, say bamboo like a panda. These animals can be large in size such as buffaloes and elephants or very tiny in size such as rabbits or sparrows. The ecosystem must provide sufficient plants for these animals to survive so that they do not die of hunger. Herbivore animals usually have a special digestive system which helps them to digest the different parts of a plant such as the roots or the stems. In fact, their teeth are also built in a special manner which helps them cut the plants and rip off their juices and then finally to grind the food with their flat molar teeth at the back of their mouths. Herbivores eat only plants. They have sharp, flat teeth in front to bite and cut the grass and leaves. They have strong broad teeth at the back that help them to chew their food well. Herbivores such as cows and buffaloes swallow their food without chewing. Then they sit for hours and bring the food back to their mouth to chew it properly. This is called chewing the cud. Giraffes have long necks which help them reach the part of the tree that they wish to eat. Animals such as rabbits, rats, and squirrels have sharp front teeth to bite and gnaw at fruits, nuts, and seeds.
The animals that eat the flesh of other animals are called carnivores. For example, lions, tigers, foxes, leopards, cheetahs, and wolves. So, carnivores basically feed on herbivores, other smaller carnivores and omnivores in the ecosystem. A healthy ecosystem depends on such carnivores to control the animal population and to maintain a healthy balance in the ecosystem. Large carnivores include animals such as wolves and mountain lions. They usually hunt down large herbivores such as elks and deer. Medium sized carnivores include animals such as hawks and snakes. These animals mainly eat rodents, frogs, insects, and rats. Small sized carnivores include loads and some birds. These carnivores eat insects and worms. Carnivorous animals have strong jaws and sharp teeth to enable them to tear and rip the meat of their prey. These animals also often have long, sharp claws that they also use to tear their prey apart so that they can eat them. In the ecosystem, carnivores depend on sufficient prey in the food chain to provide them the food they need. If the herbivore population or the population of other carnivores is reduced in an ecosystem, carnivores may not survive. Carnivores are flesh eaters. They have four long, sharp and pointed teeth in front to tear the flesh and flat teeth at the back that help them to chew the food. Frogs on the other end, do not kill their prey or chew it using their teeth. Instead, they swallow it completely as a whole.
Animals that feed on both plant products and the flesh of other animals are called omnivores. For example, crows, dogs, and human beings. Omnivores have the most advantage in an ecosystem because of their flexible diet and their ability to eat all sorts of food. What ever food is there in the environment in abundance, they can eat that food and survive. Generally, omnivores can eat fruits and vegetables properly, but they can’t eat grasses and some grains due to their different design of digestive system. Omnivores can also hunt both carnivores and herbivores for meat. This includes hunting down small mammals, reptiles, and insects. Larger omnivores include bears and humans. Examples of medium-sized omnivores include raccoons and pigs. Small omnivores include some fish and insects such as flies. The teeth of omnivores are similar to those of carnivores because they also need to tear meat. Omnivores also have flat molars for grinding up food.