Carnivora (Carnivores)


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)
  • Mongooses
  • Hyenas
  • 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.


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