We all have probably heard the term "carnivore" before, especially when learning about some of the favorite dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex...but what exactly is a carnivore?
Well the word carnivore literally means "meat eater", and it's almost as simple as that! There are two main types of carnivores - those that depend on a majority of animal flesh only for nutrients, known as obligate carnivores, and then those that also eat non-animal food, known as facultative carnivores. Carnivores can also be categorized by the type of animal matter they consume, whether they only eat insects, or mainly eat fish, or have a combination of different types of prey. Some key traits that most carnivores have in common would be:
- A less complicated digestive tract than herbivores.
- Relatively high intelligence and large brain size.
- Sharp teeth for tearing flesh, as opposed to the flat teeth for grinding plant matter that herbivores have.
Carnivores play a vital role in their food chain by keeping the population of the animals they consume in check, and the largest carnivore on the planet is also the largest animal, the Blue Whale. When a carnivore is at the top of its food chain, it is known as an Apex Predator, and many of the common carnivores that come to mind - Tigers, Lions, Sharks, Polar Bears, are all indeed Apex Predators.