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The food chain includes many different kinds of animals, all of which have specific foods they eat. Three different types of animals exist: herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores. Herbivores are animals that eat only plants. Carnivores are animals that eat only meat. Omnivores are animals that eat both plants and meat. The size of an animal does not determine what it eats. Some of the biggest animals eat only plants, and very tiny animals can be carnivores. An animal’s digestive tract will be specially designed according to the food it eats. An animal’s teeth will also be specially designed depending on the type of food it eats.
Some animals eat only plants, making them herbivores. Often, herbivores concentrate their munching on just the fruits or seeds of plants, ignoring stems, leaves, and roots. Herbivores have special digestive tracts that are designed to handle different types of plants they might eat. Herbivores usually have big front teeth, called incisors. These teeth are used to grasp and cut plants. Herbivores also have molars in the back, which they use to grind up the plants in their mouths. Herbivores are often very large animals, such as cows, deer, and elk. As you might imagine, it takes a lot of food to give a large herbivore the energy it needs. That is why herbivores may spend a large part of their day eating. Herbivores can also be medium-sized animals such as sheep or goats. Examples of small herbivores include squirrels and chipmunks. Herbivores need a lot of food to satisfy their hunger.
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Animals that eat both animals and plants are called omnivores. This type of animal has the advantage of a wide selection of food to satisfy their hunger and dietary needs. Some scientists call omnivores “opportunistic eaters.” This means that they can and will eat almost anything that is around when they are hungry. Omnivores also have the benefit of being able to find food at any time of year because they will eat the food that is available. For example, an omnivore will eat fruits and nuts growing on plants during the summer, and it will also hunt for meat during other seasons of the year. Because omnivores eat almost any type of food, they have many different types of teeth. These animals have incisors in the front for cutting. They also have canines, which help them tear up meat. Omnivores have molars in the back of their mouths to grind up their food. Bears are an example of a big omnivore. These animals will eat plants such as berries and nuts when these foods are growing. They will also eat fish in the spring. Bears will hunt animals during any season when they need to eat. Raccoons and pigs are examples of medium-sized omnivores. Many birds eat both insects and berries, making them omnivores. Omnivores live in every type of environment, including deserts, forests, water, and even the arctic. The arctic ground squirrel will feast on insects and plants to survive.
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A mammal that eats only the meat from other animals is a carnivore. In the wild, a carnivore will hunt other animals for food. Carnivores usually have to eat a lot to give them the energy they need. Sometimes these animals have to spend most of their days hunting to make sure they get enough food. Because carnivores need to cut and tear up their food, they have big canine teeth and sharp molars. Carnivores usually have small incisors in the front of their mouths. Big carnivores include lions, tigers, and wolves. Some birds such as hawks and eagles are also carnivores. Snakes are usually carnivores as well. Small carnivores include frogs, birds such as robins, and spiders. Carnivores provide an important service in the wild because they help control the population of other animals. If carnivores were not hunting and removing these animals from environments, these animals could overpopulate an area.
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