Insectivores are a classification of animals that eat insects. This may seem like a simple classification, but there is more to it than meets the eye.
Insectivores are a type of animal that has adapted to eating insects. This is usually because they live in an environment where there are not many other food options, but it can also be because they have a preference for the taste or texture of insects. Insects are high in protein and fat, which makes them a good source of nutrition for insectivores.
There are many different types of insectivores, and they can be found all over the world.
Some of the most common types of insectivores include:
Each type of insectivore has its own unique way of hunting and eating insects. For example different mammals have different feeding habits. Some are insect eating animals known as insectivores who forage for slugs, worms, insects and snails. There are around 345 mammal species that are insectivores. Most have long snouts, small eyes and very sharp teeth.
Examples of Insectivores
Wolf spiders are insectivores and eat mostly ground-dwelling insects and other spiders, such as grasshoppers, ants and beetles. Less commonly they will eat small reptiles and amphibians. Some species chase down and grab their prey, while others wait for it to walk by and ambush it. Thanks to their excellent night vision, they primarily hunt in the dark. Some wolf spiders hunt in a set territory and return to a specific place to feed, while others wander nomadically with no territory or home.
Wolf spiders often jump on their prey, hold it between their legs and roll over on their backs, trapping their prey with their limbs before biting it. They inject their venom into their prey, which liquefies the prey’s internal organs.
The House Centipede (Scutigera coleoptrata) is a yellowish grey centipede with 15 pairs of legs. Originally native to the Mediterranean region, the species has spread to other parts of the world, where it usually lives in human homes. The House Centipede is an insectivore that kills and eats insects.
House centipedes feed on bedbugs, termites, cockroaches, silverfish, spiders and other household pests. They kill their prey by injecting venom through their fangs and then eating the dead prey.
Hedgehogs are native to mainland Britain and are also found throughout northern and western Europe. Related and similar species are also found as far as north Africa, the Middle East and central Asia. There are 16 species of hedgehog in five genera, found through parts of Europe, Asia, Africa and New Zealand.
The pre-breeding season population estimate of Hedgehogs in Britain is around 1.5 million. Hedgehogs are not exclusively insectivores but are almost omnivorous.
Hedgehogs feed on insects, snails, frogs and toads, caterpillars, worms, beetles, snakes, bird eggs, carrion, mushrooms, grass roots, berries, melons and watermelons. It’s favourite food is slugs and worms, they may eat 40 or more slugs in a night.
The Roloway monkey (Cercopithecus roloway) is one of the three most endangered monkeys of Ghana on the west coast of Africa. Roloway monkeys are an arboreal species found primarily in undisturbed, mature forests. Sadly, they do not appear to be very adaptable to changes in their habitat making them particularly vulnerable to human activity.
Roloway monkeys are frugivore-insectivores meaning that they eat mainly fruit and insects. They also eat leaves and seeds. The Roloway monkey is regarded as endangered by the IUCN. Roloway monkeys are preyed upon by Crowned Hawk-eagles, leopards, chimpanzees and humans.
Elephant shrews, also called jumping shrews or sengis, are small mammals native to Africa, comprising the order Macroscelidea. Extant elephant shrews comprise only one family, Macroscelididae, with six genera and 20 species.
Their traditional common English name “elephant shrew” comes from a perceived resemblance between their long noses and the trunk of an elephant, and their superficial similarity with shrews (family Soricidae) in the order Eulipotyphla. However, phylogenetic analysis revealed that elephant shrews are more closely related to elephants than shrews.
Elephant shrews are primarily insectivores and eat ants, termites, earthworms, spiders, centipedes, and millipedes. However, they will also sometimes eat leaves, fruits, and seeds.
To hunt, the elephant shrew uses its nose together with its paws to clear away small paths on the ground in order to lure insects close. They also use their long and skinny tongues to help them catch their food. If their prey is too big, they will pin their prey to the ground with a forefoot.
Elephant shrews have a very good sense of smell and excellent sight and hearing, all of which help them when hunting.
Anteaters belong to the order ‘Pilosa’ which also includes Sloths. The Giant Anteater is the largest of the Anteater species, hence its name. Other Anteater species include the Silky Anteater (Cyclopes didactylus) and the Collared Anteater (Tamandua tetradactyla). Giant Anteaters can be found in forests and savannas throughout Central and South America from Belize to Northern Argentina but are more common in the South.
Giant Anteaters are specialist carnivorous predators of termites and ants. They detect anthills and termite mounds with their acute sense of smell. When they have located their prey, the anteater digs open the nest with its huge, sharp claws. The anteater then inserts its very long tongue into the nest and extracts the insects which are then placed in the digestive system.
The anteater has huge salivary glands that produce large amounts of sticky saliva to the tongue which allows many ants, termites and their eggs to stick to it at one time. The tongues microscopic spine-like protrusions further aid the eating process. Its tongue can extend up to 2 feet in length and can be flicked in and out of the insects nest twice a second. As many as 30,000 – 35,000 ants can be consumed in one day. Anteaters never completely destroy a nest. The insects can repair their damage quickly and the anteater is able to return to the nest to feed again.
Anteaters are very careful to avoid the dangerous and aggressive Soldier Ants.
The Australian Swiftlet (Aerodramus terraereginae) is a small bird endemic to Queensland, Australia particularly in the tropical north east regions. There are two subspecies of the Swiftlet: the Chillagoe Swiftlet (A. t. chillagoensis) and A. t. terraereginae which are sometimes regarded as two separate species.
Like other Aerodramus Swiftlets, this species is often placed in the Genus: Collocalia.
The Australian Swiftlet is an insectivore and a flight feeder who preys on insects and floating spiders. It typically feeds during the day and within 30 kilometres of the breeding colony, returning to the caves at night to roost.
There are about 2,700 species of lizard on our planet, with only two species being poisonous, the Beaded lizard and the Gila Monster, (pictured left), both from Mexico. However, recent research has revealed that in fact many lizards in the iguanians and monitor (lizard) families have venom-producing glands. None of these pose much danger to humans, as their poison is introduced slowly by chewing, rather than injected as with venomous snakes.
Lizards have external ear openings and movable eyelids which make them very versatile creatures. Lizards typically feed on insects, birds or rodents. A few species are omnivorous or herbivorous. One familiar example of a herbivorous lizard is the iguana, which is unable to properly digest animal protein.
Most lizards eat insects.
Sloths are medium-sized mammals that live in the Central and South American rainforests. The sloth got its name from its slow movement, it is not lazy, just slow-moving. The sloth is the slowest mammal on Earth. In total, there are six species of sloth.
Sloths belong to the families ‘Megalonychidae’ and ‘Bradypodidae’, part of the order ‘Pilosa’. Most scientists call these two families the ‘Folivora’ suborder, while some call it ‘Phyllophaga’.
Sloths are omnivores. They may eat insects, small lizards and carrion, however, their diet consists mostly of buds, tender shoots and leaves (including leaves from the cecropia tree). It used to be thought that they ate mostly cecropia leaves because they were often spotted in cecropia trees. It turns out that they also live in many other trees, but are not spotted there as easily as in cecropia trees.
The hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus) is a species of bat in the vesper bat family, Vespertilionidae. It is the most widespread of all bats in the United States and, though not yet recorded in Alaska, these bats are thought to occur in all 50 states. They also live in both Central America and South America, and are the only bats found in Hawaii.
The hoary bat was described as a new species in 1796 by Palisot de Beauvois. It belongs to the order Chiroptera and the genus Lasiurus.
Hoary bats generally prefer to eat moths and beetles, but are also known to consume mosquitoes during periods of high abundance. They will also eat small wasps, flies, grasshoppers, dragonflies, and termites. They may also feed on grass and leaves. Hoary bats use echolocation to locate their prey and are one of the few creatures in the world to do so.
While the hoary bat prefers woodland and mainly coniferous forests for roosting, they hunt over open areas or lakes, as well as the tree tops, along streams. They approach their prey from behind, taking the abdomen and thorax in their mouth and biting off and swallowing this area of the insect, while dropping the wings and head.
Common Frogs will feed on any invertebrate of a suitable size. Snails, slugs, worms, beetles, woodlice and flies are all flicked into the frogs wide mouth by its long tongue. The frogs hunt/catch these animals by catching them on their long, sticky tongues. The diets of Common Frogs change significantly throughout their lives, the oldest frogs will feed only on land, younger frogs will also feed in the water.
Tadpoles are mostly herbivores, feeding on algae, detritus (bodies of dead organisms) and some plants. They will also eat other animals in small amounts. Common frogs do not feed throughout the breeding season.
The Meerkat (suricate Suricata suricatta) is also called a ‘Suricate’. The Meerkat is a small member of the mongoose family whose range extends from South West Angola to South Africa. A group of meerkats is called a ‘mob’, but also referred to as a ‘gang’ or a ‘clan’. Meerkats are well known for their upright position and sociable behaviour.
Meerkats are diurnal animals and only forage during the day. Like all mongoose, they are agile little hunters. Their main diet consists of insects and particularly beetles, spiders and millipedes. They sometimes feed up on small vertebrates, eggs and roots.