In this article, you'll learn interesting facts about carnivores and find out about their unique characteristics, their life cycle and their evolutionary history.
FACT: Carnivores are divided into 7 basic groups.
Carnivores are a group of mammals that includes seven basic groups: dogs, bears, mustelids, cats, hyenas and raccoons.
Canids are long-legged carnivores that include wolves, coyotes, jackals, foxes, wild dogs and domestic dogs. There are 36 species of dogs.
Bears are large carnivores with a bulky build, thick fur, stocky legs and a large head. This group of carnivores includes the world's largest land carnivore, the brown bear. Other bear species include polar bears, American black bears, Asiatic black bears, giant pandas, specatacled bears, sun bears and sloth bears.
Raccoons and their relatives are medium-sized carnivores that have a pointed snout, long tail and pointed snout. raccoons and their relatives include red pandas, ringtails, raccoons, coatis, kinkajous and olingos. There are about 20 species that belong to this group.
Mustelids are the most diverse group of carnivores, with 67 species. Mustelids include skunks, martens, badgers, minks, wolverine, ferrets and otters.
Civets and their relatives are slender-bodied carnivores that resemble cats and hyenas but have a longer snout and more teeth. Civets and their relatives include genets, linsangs, civets, mongooses, meerkats, and fossa. There are 76 species of civets and their relatives.
Hyenas and the aardwolf are somewhat dog-like in appearance but are more closely related to cats and civets. There are four species of hyenas and aardwolf.
Cats are agile, muscular carnivores with specialized teeth, sharp claws and a variety of coat patterns that enable them to blend in with their surroundings. Cats inckulde lynxes, bobcats, ocelots, caracal, serval, tigers, lions, cheetahs, jaguars, leopards pumas and many other species. There are 38 species of cats.
FACT: Carnivores fall into two general categories, the dog-like carnivores and the cat-like carnivores.
The seven basic groups of carnivores can be sorted into two general categories, those that are more cat-like in their anatomy and those that are more dog-like. The cat-like carnivores include cats, hyenas and civets. The dog-like carnivores include dogs, bears, raccoons, and mustelids.
FACT: There are about 250 species of carnivores.
Of all carnivores, the civets and their relatives are the most diverse with 76 species. Other diverse groups include mustelids (67 species), cats (38 species), canids (36 species) and raccoons and their relatives (20 species). The less diverse groups of carnivores include the bears (8 species) and hyenas (4 species).
FACT: Carnivores include some of the world's most efficient predators.
Many carnivores have special adaptations that make them highly effective predators. These include adapatations that enable them to capture prey such as speed and agility. Carnivores are oft such as speed agility, speed, sharp claws and specilized teeth. Most carnivores have acute senses of sight, smell and hearing that enable them to detect and capture prey. Some carnivores such as cats have camouflaged coat patterns that enable them to stalk and ambush their prey from close proximity.
FACT: Not all carnivores are meat-eaters.
Although most carnivores live on a diet of meat, some carnivores such as bears, foxes and badgers also supplement their diet with plants. In fact, the giant panda is entirely herbivorous, sustaining itself on a diet of bamboo shoots.
FACT: Some carnivores form social groups.
Some carnivores form social groups that facilitate hunting and the rearing of young. Lions, vor example, form groups called prides which consist of several related females, their young and a few males. Wolves form packs that consist of a dominant male and female pair and their offspring. Hyenas form clans in which a female dominates a group of adults and young. Meerkats form gregarious colonies of up to 30 related individuals.
FACT: Some carnivores are solitary hunters.
Some carnivores hunt alone. Examples of solitary hunters include bears, aardwolves, civets, tigers, pumas, martens, weasels and leopards.
FACT: The fastest land animal is a carnivore.
The cheetah is the fastest land animal and can sprint at speeds of over 62mph. Though fast, it lacks endurance at top speed and can only maintain its sprint pace for 10 to 20 seconds.
FACT: Carnivores communicate with each other in a number of different ways.
Carnivores use scent markings, vocalizations, posture and facial expressions to communicate. Scent markings (urine, feces, and body oils) are most often used by carnivores to mark their territory. Growls, barks and other sounds as well as posture and facial expressions communicate danger, dominance, submission and courtship.
FACT: The smallest carnivore is the least weasel.
The least weasel is the smallest weasel and the smallest carnivore. Males are between 130 and 260 millimeters long and weigh up to 250 grams. Females are smaller, measuring 114 to 204 millimeters long and weigh up to 117 grams. Least weasels inhabit a range that extends throughout Europe, North America, Asia and North Africa. Although least weasels are small carnivores, they are still effective predators and can kill prey many times their own body weight.
FACT: The largest carnivore is the brown bear.
Brown bears can weigh as much as 2200 pounds. The size of brown bears varies between the sexes and among the subspecies. Males are significantly heavier than females and the Kodiak bear, Ursus arctos middendorfi, is considered to be the largest of all the subspecies of brown bears. Kodiak bears inhabit the Kodiak Archipelago in South-Western Alaska.