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13 Examples of Folivores (With Pictures)

Folivores are a unique suborder of animals known for their diet, which consists primarily of leaves. These fascinating creatures rely on the leaves of vast amounts of vegetation to survive, making them an essential part of any environment they inhabit. In this article we’ll explore different examples of folivores, their diverse characteristics and adaptations, and their importance in the environment.

Folivores range from large mammals like elephants, giraffes, sloths, and koalas, to smaller primates like spider monkeys and colobus monkeys. These animals have an impressive ability to extract nutrition from a single food item. Some of their unique adaptations include powerful, specialized teeth, slow metabolism rate, and long digestive tracts better suited for breaking down the cell walls of mature leaves.

13 Examples of Folivores

From plant-eating mammals and birds to insects and other invertebrates, this guide will give you an insight into these fascinating creatures as well as uncover some interesting facts along the way:

1. Colobine Monkeys

Gray langur sitting
Gray langur sitting

Scientific name: Colobinae

Colobine monkeys are a type of Old World monkeys that have evolved to become folivores. They mainly eat leaves, shoots, and other plant matter, which has led to special adaptations over time.

Compared to their primate counterparts, colobines have distinctive shortened parrot-like faces and highly specialized tooth structures, allowing them to feed more efficiently on high-fiber diets found in trees and bushes. They also have multi-chambered stomachs to help digest hard leaves, making them the only primates with foregut fermentation.

2. Mountain Gorillas

Mountain gorillas
Mountain gorillas | image by Emilie Chen via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific name: Gorilla beringei beringei

Mountain gorillas are aptly named, as they inhabit forests at the highest of heights – ranging from 8,000 feet to 13,000 feet above sea level. These primates, found in the forests of Rwanda and Uganda, have adapted to survive on plants with high cellulose, such as leaves, stems, and bark. They also consume fruit occasionally when available.

Mountain gorillas mainly eat the lush vegetation found in their environment, which includes leaves from diverse trees like wild cherry, figs, and vines, as well as wild celery and stinging nettles! All these amazing adaptations make it possible for mountain gorillas to survive on this diet despite its low calories so they can stay safe from predators in the dense jungle climate of central Africa.

3. Elephants

Elephant with cub on sand
Elephant with cub on sand | image by samuelrodgers752 via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Elephantidae

Elephants are truly majestic creatures. They are the largest land mammal and one of the most intelligent animals on earth, with complex family units, strong emotional bonds, and incredible memories. Not only do elephants demonstrate remarkable intelligence, but they are also capable of expressing empathy and emotion in ways other animals cannot.

As a folivore, elephants feed primarily on leaves, grasses, and barks. They are selective feeders who will often pick only certain parts of the plant for nutritional purposes.

In addition to leaves, elephants are known to also consume other parts of the plant, such as fruits, twigs, and bamboo shoots. Due to their size, these majestic creatures need a large amount of food. So they spend up to 18 hours per day foraging for their dietary needs.

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4. Giant Pandas

Giant panda
Giant panda | Image by veverkolog from Pixabay

Scientific name: Ailuropoda melanoleuca

Giant pandas are symbols of conservation and true marvels of nature. With their distinctive black-and-white coloring and unique behavior, Giant Pandas have become a fixture in modern culture.

Beyond their status as iconic animals, the dietary needs of Giant Pandas are truly incredible. As a member of the folivore family, their diet consists almost entirely of bamboo shoots and leaves.

To better manage this exclusive plant-based diet, Giant Pandas have developed extra large molars and strong jaw muscles that allow them to crush the tough fibers found in bamboo shoots. Their elongated wrist bones have also evolved into an extra digit resembling a thumb, which allows them to grip tightly onto stems while eating. Even more incredible is their longer intestines that help break down any cellulose in the plant material into usable sugars for energy!

5. Okapis

Okapi grazing
Okapi grazing | Image by Marc Benedetti from Pixabay

Scientific name: Okapia johnstoni

Okapis are unique animals found in the African regions of the Congo and Uganda. These gentle mammals weigh up to 550 pounds and reach seven feet tall at maturity.

As Folivores, okapis have adapted their bodies to subsist almost solely on a diet of plant-based foliage. They have elongated necks which allow them to reach food high in trees; they also have long sticky tongues that act like a brush for collecting small leaves from tree branches or the forest floor.

Okapis require high levels of fiber, low calories, and sodium for metabolic balance, so these traits help them follow their specific dietary demands. To ensure they get enough minerals, okapis seek out salt licks such as those created by elephants or antelope on the ground and supplement their diet accordingly. This adaptation is necessary for them to maintain optimal health due to changing nutritional requirements caused by their unique lifestyle.

6. Langurs

Hanuman monkey | Image by Bishnu Sarangi from Pixabay

Scientific name: Semnopithecus

Langurs are forest-dwelling, tree-residing, and leaf-eating monkey species renowned for their characteristic size and coloring. With an incredible ability to adapt, Langurs can survive in a variety of habitats ranging from tropical rainforests to arid forests.

As folivores, Langurs rely largely on leaves for their dietary needs, supplementing their eating regime with fruits, flowers, and buds when necessary.

They have formed complex digestive systems that contain unique microbes to break down and extract nutrients from vegetation. This, combined with long intestines, a large cecum, and a four-chambered stomach, make Langurs some of the most efficient folivores in the animal kingdom.

7. Possums

Common Striped possum on tree branch
Common Striped Possum on tree branch | image by JJ Harrison via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientific name: Phalangeridae

Possums are small marsupials found in Australia and its neighboring islands. They have adapted to the diverse climates by adopting a mostly herbivorous diet.

Possums are categorized as folivores, feeding primarily on gum-tree leaves, rushes, grasses, and leaves from the eucalyptus species. Their long snouts and sharp claws help them access hard-to-reach food sources such as tree hollows or the underside of bark. This adaptation also doubles as a defense mechanism, allowing them to quickly escape predators.

8. Sloths

Sloth | Image by Michael Mosimann from Pixabay

Scientific name: Folivora

Sloths are slow-moving creatures and need plenty of time to chew and digest their food – hence their name! They are among the most unusual animals found only in Central and South America. These giant mammals belong to the Folivore family, with their diet consisting mainly of tree leaves, with their main source of sustenance coming from tender young buds and shoots.

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Sloths have an extremely slow metabolism, with a four-chambered stomach, which helps break down plant fibers, and an elongated digestive tract. They also have sharp claws that help them grip onto branches while feeding.

9. Koalas

Koala in tree

Scientific name: Phascolarctos cinereus

Koalas are one of the most recognizable and beloved members of the Folivore family. These cute native Australian animals feed almost exclusively on eucalyptus leaves and supplement their diet with other foliage such as macadamia, camphor laurel, tea tree, and banksia, depending on availability. These fuzzy critters have sharp incisors and long claws that make it easy for them to climb trees and harvest leaves.

10. Hoatzin of the Amazon Region

Hoatzin of the amazon region
Hoatzin of the amazon region | image by Alejandro Bayer Tamayo via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Opisthocomus hoazin

The Hoatzin, also known as the “Stinkbird,” is a unique bird species inhabiting the Amazon region. It’s renowned for its bright red eyes and gullet-shaped crest. The Hoatzin is a highly specialized species, feeding exclusively on foliage while supplementing its diet with fruits, flowers, and buds.

Their long beaks are specifically designed to pluck leaves from the trees. The Hoatzin also has a unique digestive system, specially designed to digest food through the process of fermentation in its foregut, much like how mammalian ruminants do.

Instead of having multiple stomachs, they have a large crop divided into two separate chambers and an even bigger lower esophagus consisting of several compartments. All this helps them to efficiently break down and extract nutrients from their plant-based diet.

11. Caterpillars

Horned Caterpillar
Horned Caterpillar

Scientific name: Hesperiidae 

Did you know that caterpillars are among the voracious eaters in the Insecta class? Caterpillars typically feed day and night, consuming large quantities of leaves to fuel their growth.

They often begin with a single species of the plant and then search out other varieties as they get more regimental during the larvae stage. Although caterpillars will feed on any type of vegetation, the leaves that constitute most of their diet come from angiosperms or flowering plants.

While the typical diet may differ between species, caterpillars eventually become butterflies or moths when their metamorphosis is complete,  and their diet changes drastically from leaves to nectar-rich flowers.

12. Grasshoppers

A grasshopper on leaf
A grasshopper on leaf

Scientific name: Caelifera

Grasshoppers, like caterpillars, belong to the Insecta class. They are herbivorous creatures that feed on grasses, shrubs, and other vegetation.

Their diet consists of leaves and stems of various plants, such as grasses, moss, sedges, and other broad-leaved vegetation. They have strong mandibles that allow them to chew through tough or fibrous materials.

Grasshoppers typically feed during the day when their bright colors make them less visible to predators. They also have powerful hind legs, which enable them to quickly escape any threats. Though they may seem harmless, grasshoppers can cause significant damage to crops if their populations are not controlled.

13. Lemurs

Ring-tailed lemur
Ring-tailed lemur

Scientific name: Lemuroidea

Lemurs are primates native to the Island of Madagascar and have since become an iconic symbol of the island due to their abundance and unique characteristics. Lemurs range in size from small (weighing up to 1 pound) all the way up to large (weighing up to 6 pounds). They can either be social or solitary, depending on their species.

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Interestingly, lemurs primarily feed on foliage. Their diet consists of leaves, fruit, flowers, and various types of bark, depending on their habitat. They use their sharp upper incisors to strip the leaves from trees and hunt for fruits in the nearby canopy.