An omnivore (from Latin: omne all, everything; vorare to devour) is a species of animal who are "... generalized feeders, with neither carnivore nor herbivore specializations for acquiring or processing food, and who are capable of consuming and do consume both animal protein and vegetation."
The teeth of omnivorous animals are less specialized than those of herbivores and carnivores. This is an important distinction because it allows them to do both grinding and tearing efficiently. The ability to do both is given by a mixture of sharp cutting teeth and flat grinding teeth. The human jaw structure is a well known example, as the incisors and canines are good for biting and the molars are good for grinding.
Omnivore is a species designation. Being an omnivorous species does not mean that all animals in a species are required to eat both meat and plants. It also does not mean that the animals eat equal amounts of meat and plants. The human being is a typical omnivore, eating an enormous variety of plant and animal protein, and is noted to be highly adaptable in its diet choices. Many wide-ranging and resilient species are omnivores, such as rats, raccoons and opossums.
Being omnivorous, animals with this trait can live on different types of food as the availability changes throughout the year; especially if the food is unreliable to have as a diet. Grizzly bears, for example live on shrubs, berries and usually smaller mammals and animals until the salmon migration to mating grounds. The bears take advantage of this migration and store nutrition from the salmon before hibernating in winter. All omnivorous animals are by definition heterotrophs.
Species of omnivorous animals
- Some fish
- Various mammals
- Various birds
Compare and contrast
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