We know that carnivores are those that eat meat, but have you given much thought to what characteristics they have in common? Or what differences there are between them? Let’s take a closer look at carnivores.

Carnivores are those that eat other animals. They can be plants or animals. They make up the third trophic level of the food web.1

  • Autotrophs make up the first level, these are plants that produce their own food.

  • Herbivores make up the second level, they eat plants.

  • Carnivores and Omnivores make up the third level.1

Carnivores themselves are divided into different groups:

  • Hypercarnivores are those that eat meat for 70% of their diet, like all types of cats.

  • Mesocarnivores are those that eat meat for 50% of their diet, like raccoons and foxes.

  • Hypocarnivores are those that eat meat for 30% of their diet, like bears1&2

Some carnivores prefer to eat specific species and have specific names. Those that eat mostly fish and are called piscivores, while those that eat mainly insects are called insectivores.1

Carnivores have some similar characteristics in common with each other:

  • High level of intelligence2

  • Sharp teeth & claws

  • Shorter and simpler digestive systems than herbivores

  • Status as a predator3

Carnivores are responsible for maintaining balance in their ecosystems when it comes to the population numbers of their prey. This helps make sure the ecosystem is functioning properly. They’re also deemed a major player in natural selection by evolutionary biologists.3

Some carnivores are obligate carnivores. This means that they need meat to survive. They can’t get their nutrients from plants. All cats, wild or domesticated, are obligate carnivores.1

Not all carnivores are animals like tigers or wolves. Some are plants. In fact, there are over 600 species of plants that are carnivorous. These plants get their nitrogen from the insects they eat, instead of from the soil like other plants do. A prime example of a carnivorous plant is a Venus Flytrap.2

Common examples of carnivores are cats, polar bears, sea lions, dolphins, whales, snakes, birds of prey, and many more. What others do you know?

Do you have a question about carnivores that we haven’t covered yet? Reply to this email with your question and we’ll cover it in a future email! You can also explore other topics in our classroom lessons here.

All the best,
Chris & the WERC Team


  1. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/carnivore/

  2. https://www.livescience.com/53466-carnivore.html

  3. https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Carnivore\