One of the interesting Biology Topics is the study of animal behavior and how it is influenced by genetics and the environment.
What types of food do animals eat? and What are
Food Producers and Consumers?
An important animal product which is used as food is milk. Milk can be used as such for drinking purposes. Milk is also converted into other useful products (called milk products) such as curd, butter, ghee and cheese (paneer). The other animal products which are used as food are eggs, chicken, mutton and fish. The eggs can be eaten in the form of boiled eggs, omelette or egg curry.
Chicken, mutton and fish are used to prepare a large number of dishes. Fish also gives us ‘cod liver oil’ which is rich in vitamin A (Cod is a kind of fish).
A yet another animal product which is used as food is honey. Honey is called ‘madhu’ or ‘shahad’ in Hindi. Honey is a food material which is produced by insects called ‘bees’ (or honeybees). Bees collect nectar (a sugary liquid) from the flowers of plants and convert it into honey. The bees store this honey in the structures called ‘hives’. The hives containing honey are called ‘honeycombs’. We can see honeycombs attached to tall buildings or hanging from trees. Honey is collected from such honeycombs.
We have just studied that the food which we eat comes from two sources : plants and animals. Actually, if we trace animal food back to see where it comes from, we will always find that even the animal food comes from the plants. This is because all the animals which give us various food products themselves eat plants (or plant products). For example, the milk comes from cows (or buffaloes) which eat grass or grains as food. Similarly, eggs come from hens which eat grains as food. And meat comes from goat which eats grass or grains as food.
What Do Animals Eat ?
The human beings eat plant food (like cereal grains, pulses, vegetables and fruits) as well as animal food (like milk, eggs, chicken, mutton and fish, etc.). Thus, human beings eat a large variety of food. But other animals do not eat a large variety of food like humans. The animals eat only a few types of food. Some animals eat plant materials (grass, leaves or grains) as food, some eat the flesh of other animals, whereas some animals eat both, plant food as well as the flesh of other animals. Some of the common animals and the food which they eat are given on the next page.
- Cow and buffalo eat grass, hay, oil cake (khali) and grains.
- Goat eats green grass, leaves of plants and grains.
- Dog eats plant food (such as chapatti and bread) as well as animal food (like meat). It also drinks milk.
- Cat eats small animals (like rats) and birds (such as pigeons). It also drinks milk.
- Rat eats grains, paper and cloth.
- Lion (or Tiger) eats flesh of forest animals like rabbit and deer, etc.
- Bear eats plant food such as fruits as well as small forest animals.
- Rabbit eats grass and leaves of plants.
- Elephant eats grass and green plants.
- Vultures eat the flesh of dead animals.
- Frogs eat insects and worms.
- Sparrow eats grains and small insects.
- Fish eats small aquatic plants and animals (including small fish).
- House lizard eats small insects.
- Crow eats grains and insects.
- Spider eats insects.
- Butterfly sucks nectar from flowers.
- Pigeon eats grains.
- Squirrel eats grains.
- Insects eat plant food such as leaves and grains. Some insects also eat animal food from dead animals.
Food Producers and Consumers
The plants do not eat food like animals do. The green plants make their own food by the process of photosynthesis. In this process, the green plants absorb water (and nutrients like nitrogen, etc.) from the soil, carbon dioxide gas from the air, and energy from sunlight and make food. Since plants can make their own food, they are called ‘food producers’ (or just ‘producers’). All the green plants are food producers.
In fact, the plants not only make food for themselves, they also provide food to animals (including human beings). For example, when we eat chapatti (roti), bread, rice, noodles, fruits and vegetables, we actually eat the food made and stored by plants.
Animals are unable to make their own food by the process of photosynthesis (like the plants do). Animals depend on plants (or other animals) for food. The animals eat or consume plants and plant products, or other animals to get the food which is stored in them. Since animals only consume (or eat) food made by others, they are called ‘food consumers’ (or just ‘consumers’). All the animals (including human beings) are food consumers.
Animals Obtain their Food from Plants or Other Animals
Since animals cannot make their own food, they depend on readymade food. This readymade food comes either from ‘plants’ or from ‘other animals’. Thus, animals obtain their food from plants or other animals (which they eat). We (human beings) are also animals. We obtain foods like wheat, pulses (dal), fruits and vegetables from plants. And the foods like milk, curd, butter, cheese, and eggs are obtained from animals. Some people also eat meat, chicken and fish as food. These foods are also obtained from animals.
On the basis of their food habits (or eating habits), all the animals can be divided into three groups :
- Carnivores, and
We will now discuss herbivores, carnivores and omnivores in somewhat detail. Let us start with herbivores.
Some animals eat only plants (or their products). Those animals which eat only plants (or plant products) are called herbivores. The herbivores may eat grass, leaves, grains, fruits or the bark of trees. Some of the examples of herbivores are : Goat, Cow, Buffalo, Sheep, Horse, Deer, Camel, Ass, Ox, Elephant, Giraffe, Monkey, Squirrel, Rabbit, Grasshopper, Butterfly, Parrot, and Hippopotamus. For
example, goat is called a herbivore because it eats only plants (or plant products like grains) as food. Thus, herbivores are plant eaters. Herbivores are also called herbivorous animals.
Some animals eat only other animals. They do not eat plant food at all. Those animals which eat only other animals as food are called carnivores. Carnivores eat only the meat (or flesh) of other animals. So, we can also say that: Those animals which eat only the meat (or flesh) of other animals are called carnivores. Some of the examples of carnivores are : Lion, Tiger, Frog, Vulture, Kingfisher, Lizard, Wolf, Snake, Hawk, Seal and Dragonfly. For example, lion is called a carnivore because it eats only the meat (or flesh) of other animals like deer, rabbit, goat, etc. Thus, carnivores are meat eaters. Carnivores are also called carnivorous animals.
Some animals eat both, plants as well as other animals as food. Those animals which eat both, plants and animals, are called omnivores. In other words, omnivores eat plant food as well as the meat (or flesh) of other animals. Some of the examples of omnivores are : Man (Human beings), Dog, Cat, Crow, Hen (Chicken), Pig, Sparrow, Bear, Mynah and Ant. For example, man is called an omnivore because he eats the plant food (such as grains, pulses, fruits and vegetables) as well as the meat of animals (such as goat, chicken and fish). Thus, omnivores are plant eaters as well as meat eaters. Omnivores are also called omnivorous animals.
The difference between herbivores, carnivores and omnivores will become clear from given below.
flesh of animals (like goat); and man is an omnivore because he eats both, plant products as well as meat of animals (like goat).