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Land and Marine Carnivores: Carnivora


The term carnivore literally means meat-eater, but not all species in the order Carnivora live on a strict diet of meat. Among the true carnivores are cats. Although lions in the Kalahari Desert have been known to eat melons, they only do so for the moisture content, not for sustenance. Some mustelids (weasels, martens, and otters) are also pure carnivores. The rest of the mustelids (skunks, badgers, and tayras) are omnivores, supplementing their meat diet with fruits, roots, and seeds. The bears are generally omnivores, although most prefer a larger proportion of plant food, including fruits, grasses, and roots. The exceptions in the bear family are the giant panda that lives exclusively on bamboo and the polar bear that consumes mainly ringed seals.

Procyonids (raccoon family) are omnivores, with several food specialists. Ringtails prefer meat, red pandas eat mainly bamboo leaves, and kinkajous and olingos live off fruits. The civets and genets (viverrids) eat a mixture of animals and fruits, although palm civets are primarily frugivores (fruit-eaters). The mongoose family, while generally favoring insects, also lives on a mixed diet of rodents, worms, reptiles, and plant matter. Canids (dogs) are also omnivores, eating all sizes of mammals, as well as insects, berries, carrion (dead and decaying flesh), and garbage.

The smallest carnivore family consists of three hyena species and the aardwolf. While the aardwolf eats termites almost exclusively, hyenas have a varied diet, ranging from large antelopes and reptiles to wildebeest feces and human garbage. Hyenas are often described as scavengers who feed off the leftover kills of other animals. However, they often hunt their own prey. In fact, lions have been known to scavenge hyena kills.

The marine carnivores eat various marine mammals, including fish, crustaceans (shrimps, crabs, and lobsters), mollusks (clams, mussels, squid, and octopus), and penguins. Some marine carnivores have specialized diets. The crab-eater seal feeds almost exclusively on krill (a small shrimplike animal), while the walrus feeds almost entirely on mollusks.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsLand and Marine Carnivores: Carnivora - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Carnivores And People, Conservation Status - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT