The herbivorous animals are those whose diet is based on the consumption of pasture or forage. In food chains they are also designated as primary consumers, while carnivores are referred to as secondary or tertiary consumers, as the case may be. For example: elephant, zebra, koala, antelope.
Herbivorous animals play a fundamental role in the biological cycle, since they take advantage of the enormous amount of energy and nutrients contained in the different parts of plants.
These, as we know, obtain mineral salts from the soil and thanks to the photosynthesis process and a whole complex biochemical machinery synthesize compounds of high nutritional value for all living beings, such as proteins, lipids and carbohydrates.
The use of this term is generally restricted to higher grazing animals. However, many fungi also feed on plant debris, as well as various groups of bacteria and countless insects. These can do it in a saprophytic way (on already decomposing plant matter) or as parasites, infecting living plants.
In the latter case they are considered pathogenic organisms. The great pests of agriculture are caused by insects that feed on different parts of plants.
Classification of herbivores
Classically herbivores are classified as:
- Folivores. Those that eat leaves.
- Granivores. Those who eat cereals.
- Frugivores. Those who eat fruit.
In a way herbivorous animals are “Vegetarians”, but not by choice but by adaptation to the natural habitat. In areas of large forests, with exuberance of tall vegetation, species of herbivorous animals of great size tend to proliferate, such as the elephant or the giraffe.
Some herbivores change their diet in part to adapt to the different seasons and what the ecosystem can offer them as food at each time of the year.
In the case of domesticated animals, such as cows or sheep, they can consume fresh grasses during mild weather seasons and silage forage when it is colder, for example.
Some herbivorous animals very important in human nutrition are ruminants, that is, they have a special digestive system thanks to which they make better use of plant food, with various stomachs.
Although there is a tendency to believe that carnivorous animals are more ferocious and aggressive than herbivores, of the animals considered most dangerous in Africa, some are herbivores, such as the rhinoceros.
Examples of herbivorous animals