Site author Richard Steane
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Feeding behaviour

In relation to food types and trophic levels
n.b. many of these points are natural consequences of the previous one

Herbivores Carnivores
Trophic level Primary consumers Secondary, tertiary consumers
Eat: Plants
grazers - feed on grass at ground level
browsers – feed on tree/shrub leaves at higher level
prey – live animals killed and eaten
carrion – already dead: abandoned kill?
Composed of Cell walls - cellulose
– not digestible without help from microorganisms in gut
Not much protein
Mainly protein
Digestive system Long gut or rumen + other chambers, together with regurgitation and “chewing the cud” Fairly short gut
(specialisation of teeth)
Incisors to cut grass
No canines to allow more intake of plant material
Molars usually move sideways to grind vegetable matter and are worn down as a result.
Some herbivores have backup teeth which move in from behind!
Canines to stab and grip prey
Molars closely hinged to shear meat off bones, and crush bones
Nutritional value of food Low High
Ease of digestion of food Low High
Volume of food High Low
Collection time Long:
Grazing (large area of grass)
Browsing (systematic picking from trees/shrubs)
Short :
Hunting (usually single targets)
? much “leisure time”?
Consequences Exposed for long time to predators from all sides Much spare time to plan and execute ambushes
Eyes All round vision necessary – eyes on side of head Eyes at front of head – visual overlap enhances distance judgement for pouncing
Main lifestyle option Herds – “safety in numbers”
Some members may act as lookouts
Solitary hunters (small prey) or
hunt in pack (especially for larger prey)
Consequences Consume all the food in one area, and have to move on Likely to follow prey, or ambush them in certain areas

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