What Do Animals Eat? Carnivores Vs Omnivores Vs Herbivores & More

Different types of animals eat different types of food: carnivores eat meat, herbivores eat plants, and omnivores eat both plants and meat. Examples of animals with more specialized diets include fructivores (fruit eaters); and folivores (leaf eaters).

On this page you’ll find facts on carnivores, omnivores and herbivores, plus many examples of more specialized animal diets.

Page Index

Specialist Animal Diets

Specialist Carnivores

Specialist Herbivores

Other Animal Diets


All organisms, be they animal, plant, fungus, or even single-celled lifeforms such as bacteria, need the nutrients contained in food in order to live.

Nutrients provide an organism with both energy and material from which new cells can be made. They include vital substances such as proteins, minerals, carbohydrates and vitamins.

Without food, an animal wouldn’t have the energy required to breathe and move, or the material required to grow, repair itself or reproduce.

Autotrophs Vs Heterotrophs

Uinta chipmunk - a herbivore eating cones
The herbivorous Uinta chipmunk eating seeds from cones. All animals rely on plants either directly (like this chipmunk) or indirectly (the chipmunk's predators).

Organisms such as plants are autotrophic, which means that they produce their own food.

Plants do this via photosynthesis – a process in which energy from the sun is turned into food.

You can find out more about photosynthesis on this page: Photosynthesis Facts

Animals are heterotrophs. Heterotrophic organisms are unable to produce their own food, therefore must consume organic matter (either living organisms or the remains of living organisms) to get the nutrients needed for life.

Even herbivorous (plant-eating) animals such as rabbits are heterotrophs, as they consume plants, which are organic.

An animal is described as being either a carnivore, herbivore or omnivore depending on the type of food it consumes.

  • Carnivore = meat eater
  • Herbivore = plant eater
  • Omnivore = eats meat and plants

All animals – even carnivores – are reliant on autotrophs such as plants or algae; although carnivores don't eat plants themselves, their prey does!

You can find out more about the relationship between plants and different types of animals on this page: What Is An Ecosystem?

Below, we look at these three main types of animals, then take a look at more specialized eaters, including folivores (leaf-eaters), frugivores (fruit-eaters) and animals that practice coprophagy (you don't want to know!).

What Do Animals Eat – Carnivores

Examples Of Carnivores
Examples Of Carnivores - click image to see more

A carnivore is an animal that eats other animals. Carnivores are also known as meat-eaters. Examples of carnivorous animals include lions, eagles, lizards and snakes. (You can see more on this page: Examples of Carnivores)

Predators are carnivores that hunt prey; scavengers are carnivores that eat carrion (the remains of animals).

An apex predator is a predator that has no predators of its own. Examples of apex predators include the tiger and the killer whale / orca. You can see more examples of apex predators on this page: Apex Predators

tiger in jungle
The tiger is an apex predator. Click image to see more apex predators.

The ancestors of all amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds were carnivores. All of these animal groups belong to group of vertebrates known as tetrapods. The first tetrapods were amphibious, piscivorous (fish-eating) animals.

Both the earliest reptiles, and the earliest mammals, are thought to have been insectivores (insect-eaters). Paleontologists use various clues, such as the shape of a fossilized animal’s teeth, to tell what food it ate when it was alive.

Carnivores can be given names depending on the amount of meat they consume. Hypercarnivores have a diet consisting of over 70% meat; the diet of mesocarnivores consists of 30–70% meat, and hypocarnivores eat less than 30% meat. (Mesocarnivores and hypocarnivores may also be called omnivores.)

Obligate carnivores are animals (such as cats) that require nutrients only found in animal flesh, and are unable to break down plant matter.

Predatory carnivores have adaptations such as strength, speed, forward-facing eyes, large canine teeth, powerful talons and sharp claws.

Adaptations of scavengers include an acute sense of smell for locating food, tough teeth or claws for tearing food apart, and a strong digestive system for breaking up bones and / or rotting meat. (Examples of scavengers include vultures and striped and brown hyenas.)

You can see examples of carnivores on this page: Examples of Carnivores

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What Do Animals Eat – Herbivores

Examples of Herbivores
Examples of Herbivores - click image to see more

Herbivores, or plant-eaters, are animals whose diet consists entirely or primarily of plants. Examples of herbivorous animals include the water buffalo, elk, giraffe, elephant, camels and horses. (You can see more examples of herbivores on this page: Examples of Herbivores.)

Plant material is often tough and fibrous, containing relatively little energy. Therefore, herbivores require specialized adaptations in order to obtain the required nutrients from plants.

Rodents have incisors (front teeth) that continuously grow (and therefore never wear down); cattle and many other hooved animals have multi-chambered stomachs and regurgitate their food as cud for further chewing in order to get adequate nutrition from their tough, low-energy food. (Animals that chew cud are known as ruminants.)

American Bison - Buffalo
The American bison (also known as the buffalo). Like all cattle, it is a ruminant with a multi-chambered stomach that enables it to get the nutrients it requires from grass.

Herbivores that are prey animals have characteristics such as acute senses for detecting predators, and speed and agility for escaping from predators.

You can see examples of herbivores on this page: Examples of Herbivores

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What Do Animals Eat – Omnivores

Examples Of Omnivores
Examples Of Omnivores - click image to see more

Omnivores are animals whose diet consists of both animal and plant material. Examples of omnivorous animals include raccoons, grizzly bears, many monkeys and apes (including human beings!) You can see more examples on this page: Examples of Omnivores

Omnivores include both animals whose ancestors were carnivores, and animals whose ancestors were herbivores.

Omnivores are usually less specialized than either herbivores or carnivores. For example, omnivorous mammals such as most bears lack the multi-chambered stomachs of hooved mammals. Omnivorous birds, such as crows, lack the talons of birds of prey.

Common Raven
Omnivores such as the common raven are highly adaptable, able to eat a wide variety of plant and animal food.

You can see examples of omnivores on this page: Examples of Omnivores

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Specialist Animal Diets

Specialist Carnivores


Peregrine Falcon
The peregrine falcon is the world's fastest animal. Its great speed allows it to catch other birds.

An avivore is a carnivore that specializes in eating birds. Examples of avivores include several birds of prey, including the sparrowhawk – a mid-sized hawk named for its bird-eating behavior, and the peregrine falcon – the world’s fastest animal.

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crown of thorns starfish
The crown of thorns starfish preys on coral.

A corallivore is an animal that eats coral. Corals are cnidarians (members of the phylum Cnidaria, which is also home to jellyfish) whose remains accumulate to form coral reefs. Examples of corallivores include species from several animal groups, including the crown-of-thorns sea starfish, and several species of butterflyfish and parrotfish.

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Vampire Bat
Vampire bats feed on the blood of other animals.

A sanguivore is an animal that feeds on blood. The best-known examples of sanguivores are the three species of vampire bat. The behavior of feeding on blood is known as hematophagy.

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The aardvark is an insectivore that preys on ants and termites (so it's also a myrmecophage).

An insectivore is an animal that preys on insects. Examples of insectivores include birds such as flycatchers and bee-eaters, amphibians such as tree frogs, and mammals such as the aardvark.

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Giant anteater
Giant anteater, one of the four living species of anteater.

A myrmecophage is type of insectivore that eats ants and termites. Examples of myrmecophages include the aardwolf, aardvark, the four species or anteater, the short-beaked echidna and pangolins.

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The oystercatcher preys on mollusks (and a variety of other animals).

A molluscivore is an animal that eats mollusks. Examples of molluscivores include the walrus, which eats clams and other bivalves, the oystercatcher, a bird whose name reflects its dietary habits, and the rosy wolf snail (Euglandina rosea), a predatory snail that preys on other snails and slugs.

You can see examples of mollusks on this page: Mollusks Examples

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Indian Grey Mongoose
The Indian grey mongoose is famed as a snake-hunter

Ophiophagy is the eating of snakes. Animals that exhibit ophiophagy include mongooses (a family (Herpestidae) of weasel-like mammals found in the Old World that are resistant to snake venom), snake eagles (birds of prey belonging to the family Circaetinae), and the secretarybird (a long-legged bird of prey found in Africa).

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Bottlenose Dolphin
Bottlenose dolphins prey on fish.

A piscivore is an animal that eats fish. Examples of piscivores include birds such as the osprey, Blakiston's fish owl (the world’s largest owl), gannets and mergansers; and mammals such as the fishing cat, Eurasian otter, giant otter and bottlenose dolphin.

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Hawksbill sea turtle
Sponges form the bulk of the diet of the hawksbill sea turtle

A spongivore is an animal that eats sponges. Examples of spongivores include the hawksbill sea turtle, and spongeflies which, in their larval form, eat sponges.

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Eastern Mole
Moles are worm-eaters.

A vermivore is an animal that eats worms. Examples of vermivores include shrews (small, rodent-like animals), moles and long-beaked echidnas.

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Specialist Herbivores


Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
The yellow-bellied sapsucker eats the sap that emerges from holes it drills into tree trunks.

An exudativore is an animal that feeds on plant exudates (fluids emitted from plants), which include sap, gum, latex and resin. Examples of animals that are exudativores include sapsuckers (a group of North American woodpeckers), and aphids, a group of insects that includes insects known as greenflies and blackflies.

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Koala with baby in pouch
Koalas eat little other than eucalyptus leaves.

A folivore is an animal that eats leaves. Examples of folivores include the hoatzin, a bird found in the rainforests of South America, and the koala, an Australian marsupial that feeds almost exclusively on eucalyptus leaves.

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Sumatran orangutan
Male Sumatran orangutan. Fruit makes up a large proportion of the diet of an orangutan.

A frugivore is an animal that eats fruit. Examples of frugivores include orangutans, the coconut crab, toucans, hornbills, and megabats such as the Indian Flying fox.

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Finches such as the hawfinch have powerful bills for eating seeds.

A granivore is an animal that feeds on seeds. Examples of granivores include finches (birds of family Fringillidae, which includes species such as the hawfinch and red crossbill), and the wood mouse, a small rodent found in Europe and North Africa.

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hummingbird drinking nectar
Broad-tailed hummingbird using its specialized bill and long tongue to feed on nectar.

A nectarivore is an animal that feeds on nectar – a sweet fluid produced by flowers as an incentive for pollinators to visit. Examples of nectarivores include birds such as hummingbirds and sunbirds (both of which have long bills for gathering nectar); and bats such as the long-tongued nectar bat.

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North American Beaver
North American beavers gnawing on wood.

A xylophage is an animal that feeds on wood. Examples of xylophagous animals include bark beetles; woodboring beetles such as the common furniture beetle and deathwatch beetle; drywood termites, and beavers.

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Leafcutter Ants
Leafcutter ants collect leaves not for themselves, but to feed fungus that provides food for the colony.

A fungivore is an animal that feeds on fungi. Examples of fungivores include leafcutter ants, which grow fungi in their nests for food. Ambrosia beetles also create “fungus gardens” on which they feed.

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A bacterivore is an animal that feeds on bacteria. Examples of bacterivores include nematodes and unicellular amoebae.

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Other Animal Diets


Millipedes feed on organic waste.

A detritivore is an animal that feeds on detritus (non-living organic matter). Examples of detritivores include earthworms and millipedes.

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Dung Beetle
Dung beetle rolling a ball of dung.

Coprophagy is the eating of feces. Coprophagous animals include insects such as the yellow dung fly and dung beetles; and hares, which consume their own droppings in order to obtain undigested nutrients.

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