A carnivorous animal is one that eats
meat. Because of this term, animals in the Order, Carnivora are generally
thought to be animals that are meat-eaters. This can be misleading because
there are some animals that eat meat that are not carnivores and some animals
that do not eat meat that are carnivores. Animals in the Order, Carnivora,
are grouped together because of similarities of dentition and body structure.
Today, the Order of Carnivores is grouped into eleven families:
Dogs (foxes, wolves, jackals)
Cats (lions, tigers, small cats)
Skunks (weasels, badgers, otters)
Raccoons ( coatimundi, kinkajous)
Bears (and pandas)
Civets (and genets)
Now included in this Order are two families of seals and one of the
walrus to make it eleven. Formerly, the last three were in their own
Order but are now included in the Order of Carnivores. We do not have
FAQs on these families on line at this time.
Carnivores vary greatly in size from less than a pound to nearly two tons.
They have four to five (fingers) or toes on each leg (or arm). Sometimes
the digit that is comparable to our thumb is missing or in a position higher
on the leg, such as a dew claw. All carnivores have long canine teeth and
premolars and molars designed for removing flesh from carcasses. They have
a digestive system designed especially for meat. All carnivores have anal
glands which are used to varying degrees in many species for scent marking.
In others, like the skunk and some weasels, these glands have developed
to produce the ultimate defense spray. The males of all carnivores have
an os penis (baculum) although in some it is a mere remnant. Carnivores
are fairly intelligent animals with well-developed brains. They need this
intelligence to outwit their prey or they would not survive. The smartest,
strongest carnivores survive and pass those genes on to their offspring.
As I have said, most carnivores are predatory and live on meat. There are
a few however, that do not. The binturong, kinkajou, some civets and others
live largely on fruits. They are not opposed, however to the occasional
snack of baby birds, eggs and small vertebrates and insects. The aardwolf's
diet is highly specialized. In the wild, they feed mostly on termites, beetles
and larvae. Watch our site in the future for more additions to these FAQs.
We will try to add some new ones each month.
R-Zu-2-U Animal "Terms"
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