Carnivores and Super Predators
© Eric Horning 2013
What is a carnivore?
A carnivore is a meat eater. In Latin it means to devour flesh. A carnivore is any organism that gets its energy and nourishment from predation or scavenging other animals. Omnivores also consume animals but they also eat plants. Human and most bears are omnivores. Herbivores are animals that eat only plants. Herbivores are the animals that carnivores normally prey upon.
The largest carnivores on land are the Kodiak and polar bears. They can weigh more than 1,500 pounds. But Polar Bears are the most carnivorous of all the bears. The fastest land animal is the cheetah. This carnivore able to sprint to speeds faster than 60 miles per hour in just a few seconds as it chases down its prey.
Carnivores use keen senses of vision, hearing, and smell that allow them to find their prey. Then capture the prey using speed, agility, claws, specialized teeth or beak. They use camouflage or cover to stalk and ambush their prey. Most are extremely skillful predators and hunt alone. But a few such as lions, killer whales, and wolves form social groups with a dominant male or female that work together to hunt and raise their young. Plants that capture and digest insects like the Venus flytrap are carnivorous plants.
What is an apex predator?
Apex predators are any carnivores that as an adult are at the top of the food chain and do not have any natural enemies. Killer whales and tigers are examples of apex predators. They play an important role in nature. The apex predators keep the larger numbers of smaller predators in check and reduce the numbers of unhealthy animals in their environments. This keeps their prey animals abundant and their environments healthy. Some of the animals in this book are apex predators. Most are not. Many Apex predators are man eaters.