We have all used the colloquial expression “to be a vulture” or the adjective “scavenger” in a negative way to refer to someone who takes pernicious advantage of a certain situation, analogous to that typical scene in which vultures come in groups for the remains of an animal to feed. Well, neither vultures are “bad” animals because they act this way, nor are they the only scavengers. In AgroCorrn we are going to help you get to know these living beings well by explaining what scavengers are and their examples .
What are scavengers
The scavengers or scavengers are animals that feed on the carcasses of animals that hunt and leave other predators , so that he did not participate in hunting animals are considered opportunistic. Due to the danger of attack that can come close to the hunted prey of another predator , scavengers can wait hours until the prey has been used and abandoned by the animal that has hunted it to come and eat it.
In general, they move in small groups whose individuals fight frequently to get the best pieces of the corpse they are consuming. Not all animals are strictly scavengers. Some of them only resort to carrion in situations where live prey is scarce.
What is the importance of scavengers
Scavengers play a vital role in removing organic debris from ecosystems , contributing to the recycling of nutrients and the return of energy to the system.
On the other hand, they play a very important role in trophic chains, since they are the link that accelerates the transformation of dead organic matter in the form of corpses, with decomposing organisms being able to act behind them.
With all this, they maintain a healthy habitat by eliminating dead animals that may pose a danger to the health of other living beings, for example, by the spread of possible diseases that may affect live animals when exposed to corpses.
On occasions when prey and food sources are scarce, scavengers have a great advantage due to the flexibility in their diets, finding food more easily than other animals with more specific diets, which means a better adaptation to new environments. .
Examples of scavenging invertebrate animals
Not all animals are strictly scavengers like the typical scavenger birds, such as vultures, but others, although they have more varied diets, can turn ghouls when the opportunity presents itself, such as hyenas or lions.
There is a great variety of scavenger species (strict or not) from various groups of the animal kingdom. Some examples of them are invertebrate animals and other vertebrates. Below we will detail several of these groups offering examples of each one. For starters, these are examples of invertebrate animals that are scavengers :
- Purple sea urchin (echinoderm): it owes its name to the purplish color of its quills, which it uses to protect itself and move around. Its ability to bury itself up to several meters under the seabed is characteristic. It feeds on small dead animals or mollusks that are found at the bottom of the sea, adhering to them and ingesting their meat.
- Crab (crustacean): Crabs can feed on both fish and starfish, snails or sea urchins. On the other hand, they can feed on the eggs of other marine species, as well as any other dead organism that reaches the bottom of the sea, acting as a ghoul, such as the fiddler crab.
- Insects : examples of scavenger insects are green flies, meat flies, ants , wasps , cockroaches, the giant millipede or the scavenger beetle, which, as its name suggests, feeds on decaying dead animal bodies. In addition, it is characteristic of these beetles to bury invertebrate corpses to later use them as food for their larvae.
Examples of scavengers
Another group of animals with some well-known species for this type of diet are birds. These are examples of scavengers , surely some of you already knew:
- Griffon vulture : it is easily recognizable by its white head with almost no plumage. They are able to locate animal carcasses from several kilometers away thanks to their powerful eyesight, especially in open fields or areas where tree vegetation is not abundant. Its curved beak and claws are used to better break skin and tendons.
- Bearded vulture : it owes its name to its habit of raising corpse bones to high heights and then releasing them. When falling against the rocks the bones break facilitating their ingestion by dividing into smaller parts and not to ingest the marrow that is inside, as is commonly believed.
- Common raven : it is one of the largest opportunistic animals, varying its diet according to the area in which it is found. In areas where carrion abounds, it tears the meat of its prey thanks to its thick beak.
Examples of fish that are scavengers
Also in the water we can find more animals that eat carrion apart from sea urchins and crabs. Here are some good examples of scavenger fish or that occasionally eat carrion:
- Sharks : Sharks are not only predators, they can also be scavengers, contributing to the removal of dead organic matter from the marine environment.
- Remoras : they cling to sharks from their underside, being protected from becoming prey for other fish. They ingest the remains that the shark does not take from the prey it hunts and, on occasion, may even consume the shark’s feces.
Reptiles that are scavengers
Among reptiles we can also find several examples of this type of diet. Take note of the various examples of reptiles that eat carrion :
Surely, the best known is the Komodo dragon , as it is one of the most feared for its lethal bite, which can cause death due to the cocktail of bacteria found in it. It is primarily a scavenger, although it can hunt in a group. Other examples of reptiles that may include carrion in their diet are crocodiles , alligators, freshwater turtles, and the ocellated lizard.
Examples of mammalian animals that are scavengers
Although they are not strict scavengers, they can consume carrion if the situation leaves no choice. Some examples of scavenger mammals include the following:
- Raccoons : They consume more carrion in areas where vegetation and wildlife are not abundant, since their normal diet is based on sweet fruits and invertebrates.
- Hyenas : it is an animal that can occasionally hunt, depending on the situation. When it works as a scavenger, it practices kleptoparasitism, which means that it attacks other predators that have hunted a prey to force them to abandon it and thus be able to feed on it, consuming many parts of the corpse with the exception of the hair, hooves and horns, since it does not they are able to digest them properly.
- Tasmanian Devil : small and nocturnal, it is the largest existing marsupial. It is more common to see it feeding on carrion, although it can hunt prey of equal or smaller size than them. The characteristic voracity that it presents when it eats that, together with its jaws and sharp teeth, makes it able to swallow its prey in a few minutes, including skin and bone.
- Jackal : it can also be a hunter when a forced occasion arrives. With nocturnal habits, it is an omnivorous animal that can ingest anything from birds to reptiles, including amphibians and small dead mammals.
- Coyote : has been able to adapt and thrive in numerous environments thanks to the great diversity of food and carrion it can consume, which makes it a natural opportunist.
Other examples of mammals that can be occasional scavengers are lions, foxes, badgers, bears , hedgehogs, or wolves.
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