We know that the animal kingdom is incredibly diverse, with animals playing unique roles in their ecosystems. We can categorize animals based on their place in their foodwebs, breaking them up into three main groups: herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores. In this article we will list many examples of carnivores, but first let’s discuss exactly what a carnivore is.
What Is a Carnivore?
Carnivores are animals that eat only meat.
Unlike animals that eat only plants, or those that eat both plants and meat, carnivores are only interested in meat. There are even many types of carnivorous plants! Animals that are carnivores can exist in different layers of the food chain. Carnivores even make up their own taxonomic order called carnivora.
Some carnivores are fierce hunters that are the “apex”, or top, predator in their environment. Apex predators are at the top of the food chain and therefore do not tend to have natural predators. Carnivores can also exist in the middle of the food chain, eating small mammals and insects, while still being prey to larger animals. The third category of carnivores are scavengers. Scavengers don’t hunt themselves. They let another animal hunt and kill, and then wait around the dead animal carcass and eat what is left after the top predators are done. We’ll be discussing different species of carnivorous animals and what they eat.
1. Arctic Wolves
Arctic wolves, a sub-species of the gray wolf, are pack animals. They live in the Arctic regions of Greenland and North America. Living in the arctic circle, Arctic wolves can live months in the dark and survive sub-zero temperatures. Arctic wolves travel much further than their forest counterparts for food, sometimes not eating for several days. Arctic Wolves live on a diet of smaller animals like Arctic hares and lemmings. They also work together in the pack to take down large animals like musk-oxen and caribou.
2. Brown Hyena
Brown hyenas are mostly scavengers. They feed on already dead animals rather than hunting, finishing off carcasses from larger predator’s kills. Brown hyenas are decreasing in population. This is partly due to misconceptions that they kill livestock, which if it happens is rare. A study done by Duke University found that hyenas are more intelligent than chimpanzees, or at least can give them a run for their money with problem-solving and cooperation.
Aardwolf’s live in parts of Africa on dry open plains. Aardwolf are part of the same family as hyenas, but unlike the hyena they live on mainly insects. Insects eaters can still be considered carnivores, they fall under the sub-class insectivore. They can consume up to 250,000 termites per night!
4. Honey Badger
Honey Badgers are part of the weasel family, making them closely related to skunks and ferrets. Honey badgers are in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the world’s most fearless creature! These guys are mean and do not back down from a fight. In fact, they’ll go looking for a fight. These fearless creatures feed on small mammals, snakes, birds, and even young crocodiles.
5. Great White Shark
The Great White shark is considered one of the most dangerous sharks in the world. It’s no surprise they’re the villain in many beach movies! The Great White is a perfect example of an apex predator. It’s at the top of the food chain, however this species has been known to be attacked by killer whales. They have teeth that can easily puncture and shatter bone, excellent eyesight, and an incredible sense of smell. Great White’s can sense just one drop of blood in 25 gallons of water. These sharks are known to eat other sharks, fish, and marine mammals like seals and dolphins.
6. African Lion
African lions are top predators, often called the “king of the jungle”. These big cats are very social, living in groups called prides. Hunting is typically left up to the females who will hunt in groups. Females make better hunters because males are slower and less agile. African Lions hunt and eat young elephants and giraffes, antelope, zebra, buffalos, and many other types of mammals.
Jaguars are one of the largest cat species in the world. They are said to have one of the strongest bites among the big cats, relative to their size. The name Jaguar comes from an Indigenous word meaning “he who kills with one leap”. Jaguars are opportunistic hunters, going after any prey they can find. Unlike domestic cats, Jaguars are incredible swimmers and can be found swimming in lakes and rivers.
Cheetahs are the fastest land mammals, reaching speeds upwards of 50-80 miles per hour. Compared to other “big cats” they have longer and thinner legs, a thinner and lighter body shape and a longer tail. These adaptations allow them to run, maneuver and keep their balance at top speed. Cheetahs can be found in Africa but there is also a small population of Asiatic cheetahs found in Iran. Their speed allows them to take down prey that is also incredibly fast such as impalas and gazelles.
9. Clouded leopard
Clouded Leopards have several disjunct populations occurring in Asia, with many Clouded leopards being found in the Himalayas. They are considered excellent climbers, perhaps even better than most leopards. Not much is known about these solitary hunters, and their numbers in the wild are decreasing. Currently they are on the “vulnerable species” list. They hunt and feed on wild pigs, small deer, monkeys, and other small mammals.
10. Snow leopards
Snow leopards are exquisite animals known for their beautiful appearance. Their fur is much thicker than some of the other big cats, to help them stay warm in their cold environment. Snow leopards have evolved to live in some of the harshest conditions, and they’ll eat basically whatever they can find. They hunt boar, deer, hares, and many other medium to small animals.
11. Bengal Tiger
Bengal Tigers are ferocious predators. Even so, they are on the endangered species list. Unfortunately between poaching and habitat loss, their populations are dwindling. Tigers iconic stripes help break up their coloring and blend in with trees and tall grasses. These mighty cats are incredibly strong and take down prey such as water buffalo, serow, takin, guar, and smaller species like wild boar and porcupines.
Cougars, also known as a Pumas or mountain lions, live in North and South America. Mountain lions, as their name suggests, prefer rocky canyons and steep mountainous terrain. A single male may keep a territory up to 100 square miles. They eat mainly deer, but also sometimes smaller mammals or even coyotes. If a cougar can not finish its meal in one go, it will hide it under grass and leaves for later.
Bobcats are one of North America’s most common wildcats. These cats mostly feed on small mammals and rodents. Bobcats have an excellent sense of smell and hearing. They are also great climbers. They are much larger than your average house cat and have a small and stubby tail.
14. Large Indian Civet
The Large Indian Civet lives in rainforests, grasslands, and savannahs in India and much of southeast Asia. They are solitary animals that live on a diet of small mammals, frogs, snakes, lizards, insects, and arthropods. However they are also known to occasionally consume fruit, but they are largely considered to be carnivorous. The Indian Civet is a threatened species, hunted for its scent glands and food. They produce a musk called Civet which is actually used to produce some perfumes.
15. Canadian Lynx
The Canadian Lynx or North America Lynx is a predatory cat of medium size with excellent hunting skills. These cats are not fast, so they will not chase prey but use ambush tactics instead. The Lynx can spot a mouse from 250 feet away! Canadian Lynx live solitary lives and are mainly nocturnal cats.
Anaconda’s are one of the largest snakes known to man, and are native to South America. Yet these monstrous snakes aren’t venomous. They kill by sneaking up on their prey, wrapping around them and using their muscles to squeeze their prey to death. Snakes that kill this way are called “constrictors”. Anaconda’s aren’t too picky about food and will eat almost anything they can grab. This includes birds, fish, other reptiles, tapirs, deer and other mammals. They can open their mouths 3-4 times wider than the width of their body to swallow large prey.
17. Komodo Dragon
Komodo Dragons are the largest species of lizards, weighing up to 200 lbs and reaching lengths of 10 ft. They are capable of killing prey using venom. It was believed prey that managed to escape the initial attack was slowed down and died due to bacterial infection. However it was later discovered that venom is actually injected from the Komodo Dragons bite. These large lizards sure do have a prehistoric look! They are only found on a few islands in Indonesia.
18. American Alligator
American Alligators, along with Crocodiles, are one of the closest living things to dinosaurs. Alligators are basically a perfect killing machine and have been for the past several million years. You can go back about 8 million years and find that alligators are essentially the same as they are today. Alligators live in freshwater habitats such as ponds, lakes, marshes and swamps. They will eat a wide variety of fish, crustaceans, turtles, small mammals, birds and sometimes deer.
19. Nile Crocodile
The Nile Crocodile can be found in Africa. They are excellent predators and are considered even more aggressive than other species of crocodile. These croc’s will take down just about any kind of prey from small fish to large mammals. Their style of hunting is by ambush, remaining still and hidden for hours until the perfect moment to strike. Their strong jaws are capable of holding onto struggling prey, and they often will drag land animals into the water to drown them.
20. Harpy Eagle
Harpy Eagles are one of the largest eagle species, with a wingspan measuring almost 8 ft. They live mainly in Central and South America, especially Brazil. The sheer size and strength make these birds unique and exceptional predators. Harpy Eagles hunt monkeys, sloths, anteaters, armadillos, and other small mammals.
21. Great Horned Owl
The Great Horned owl is silent but deadly. Native to North and South America, their main diet consists of cottontail rabbits but they also eat a large variety of other small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and even insects. Even in terrible lighting conditions, they can see 35x better than humans.
22. Star Nosed Moles
This species of mole will have you doing a double-take. Their unique nose has 11 pairs of pink tentacles that look like a star. Star Nosed Moles eat earthworms, insects, snails, small amphibians, and fish. Star Nosed Moles have 250,000 touch receptors on each tentacle. They can use this impressive nose to locate their food, smell underwater, and even detect earthquakes.
Wolverines might look like bears but are actually the biggest species of the weasel family. They are native to northern boreal forests in Canada, Alaska, northern Europe, Russia and Siberia. Wolverines are incredibly strong, and although they mainly kill small mammals they have been recorded killing large prey such as deer and caribou. They are, however, mostly scavengers and look for the remains from kills by larger predators like wolves.
24. Black-Footed Ferret
The Black-Footed Ferret is one of the most endangered species in North America. Habitat loss and disease are the biggest threats to the populations of Black-Footed ferrets that remain. Ferrets are curious and have keen senses. Small but fierce these creatures live on a diet of mostly prairie dogs for survival, hunting and eating squirrels and mice if food is scarce.
Orcas, frequently termed Killer Whales, are actually part of the dolphin family. We may think of them as the friendly stars of Sea World but they are actually fierce predators. Orcas, when they work together, rule the ocean. They hunt smaller prey such as seabirds, turtles, seals and fish. But they can also take down some amazingly large creatures such as Blue whales and the fearsome Great White Shark.
26. Steller Sea lion
The Steller is the largest of the sea lions. They are very social creatures, with big appetites catching and eating fish, octopus, squid, and sometimes even seals. A group of sea lions on land is called a colony. In water, they are called a raft.
27. Polar bear
Polar bears, unlike other species of bears, are strictly carnivores. They will hunt and kill seals. Polar bears will lie in wait for them to come up for breath, grab them, pull them onto the ice, and then crush the skull of their prey with their teeth, killing them. They have also been known to raid seal dens for their pups. They will even hunt and kill whales if the opportunity presents itself.
28. Praying mantis
The Praying Mantis is a predatory insect, and an intimidating one at that. The mantis feeds on other small insects, like crickets, grasshoppers, and beetles. Not only will they feed on small insects they will also feast on smaller mantises, frogs, lizards, fish, and smaller birds! They can turn their head 180 degrees and will ambush prey rather than chasing them down.
29. Venus flytrap
While not considered an animal, the Venus Flytrap is a unique carnivorous plant. This plant needs meat to survive. Native to wetlands in North America, their diet mainly consists of spiders, grasshoppers, and beetles. They have little hairs that when triggered, cause them to close themselves around their prey.
Barracuda, while generally harmless to humans, are master hunters of the sea. Barracuda have more of an ambush-style approach and have the ability to travel very quickly in short bursts to chase down their prey. They have incredibly sharp teeth which they use to tear into the flesh of other types of fish like groupers, jacks, and even tuna to name a few.
Dolphins are known for being incredibly intelligent which they certainly use to their advantage to hunt their prey. Dolphins will team up with each other to outnumber and outsmart different prey like many species of fish, squid, and crustaceans.
There are several different species of Vultures, all of which are scavengers. Vultures are some of the only animals known to feed exclusively by scavenging where they feed on the carcasses of other dead animals that have either been killed by other animals or died of other causes. It is not uncommon to see vultures on roadsides making the most of roadkill.
Octopuses are incredibly intelligent invertebrates in the mollusc family. Octopuses use their incredibly ability to blend in to their surroundings to ambush their prey. Octopuses feed on crustaceans, clams, fish, and sometimes even other octopuses.
Small but mighty, shrikes are fierce birds. These birds have a unique approach to hunting where they will grab their prey and then impale them by placing them on a thorn, sharp stick or even barbed wire in more urban areas. There are many different species of shrike. They tend to eat small lizards, insects, small mammals and even smaller birds.
35. King Cobra
King Cobras are the longest venomous snake in the world. Like all other snakes King Cobras are carnivorous, however what makes them unique is that King Cobras specialize in eating other snakes. They are capable of eating snakes as large as Burmese pythons and have even been known to eat monitor lizards.