Human beings have been converting animals to meat since the origins of domestication, but there are some animal species that evolved on a diet of nothing but flesh and refuse to eat anything else. These animals are called obligate carnivores and they’re fascinating.
What is an Obligate Carnivore?
An obligate carnivore is an animal whose diet consists of meat, typically with no plant matter or other animal-based protein sources.
This is in contrast to a facultative carnivore, which can survive on a meat-based diet but also eat some plant matter and other animals. Some of the more recognizable obligate carnivores are the big cats, such as lions, tigers, and leopards, but there are other animals that belong to this category.
Examples of Animals that Only Eat Meat
Lions are known as the “king of the jungle” for a reason. They are powerful predators that hunt in packs, dominate large areas, and take down large prey. However, they also rely on a specialized diet that consists only of meat.
Unfortunately, this is why lions are threatened by habitat loss. As their range of habitat shrinks, so too does their food supply and they eventually starve in the wild. Lions are Carnivores and rely solely on meat for their food.
Tigers are the largest member of the cat family and, as with lions, are threatened by habitat loss. They’re better able to survive than lions because they have a more expansive territory, Tigers live in Jungles. Tigers are also only able to subsist on meat and will starve if given vegetables or other forms of plant-based proteins.
Crocodilians are one of the oldest living animal groups in the world, having evolved and survived over 200 million years. They’re also completely carnivorous and their diet consists only of meat.
The crocodilian fossil record shows that they likely were herbivores in the past, but have been entirely meat-based for over 125 million years. Today, because they survive on a meat-only diet, they are vulnerable to extinction from human encroachment on their habitat.
Sharks are one of the most well-known types of carnivores, but they’re not the only type of fish that survives on a diet of only meat.
Sharks evolved from fish with plant matter in their diet to fully-fledged carnivores over 300 million years ago and haven’t looked back since. While some species do eat other things such as squid and marine worms, these are still nothing but meat with no branched food sources.
Hyenas are a bit of a special case. They aren’t carnivores; they’re omnivores. However, they’re still unique among most animals due to the large amount of their diet that consists of meat. Hyenas are able to eat up to one-third of their body weight per day and all three species of hyena (spotted, striped and brown) survive primarily on a meat-based diet.
Wolf packs survive on the same diet as many other terrestrial predators: meat. Only certain wolf species, including the grey wolf, brown bear, and coyote are truly carnivores and will only eat meat.
Eagles are predators in the same family as other carnivores such as sharks and crocodilians because they only eat meat. However, eagles are so famous for hunting large prey that they’re often overlooked as a group that could also be endangered by habitat loss.
The Komodo dragon is one of the largest lizards in the world, living in tropical forested areas and eating only meat. Their diet consists of deer, birds and other large mammals. They are the largest carnivore in their region and are a widespread threat to local human populations because they eat livestock and have been known to kill humans.
Sea lions are marine mammals and members of the dolphin family. They’re also called pinnipeds, which means “wing-footed,” and they eat squid and fish. However, sea lions also eat a lot of meat and their diet consists primarily of fish, squid or other invertebrate animals such as crabs. In fact, some species will even eat their young if no prey is available.
Polar bears are an iconic carnivore that lives in the polar regions of the world. Their diet primarily consists of meat, especially when they’re pregnant. However, female polar bears don’t eat much once they’re pregnant because their bodies slow down to conserve energy for their babies.
Can carnivorous animals survive without meat?
carnivores must consume an enormous amount of food in order to stay healthy. They only have a small window where their fat levels can be maintained for energy and if they don’t consume enough food for this window, they will suffer from deficiencies and get sick.
The only way a carnivore can survive without meat is as a vegan, and even that can cause serious health issues.
There are a variety of animals that survive on a meat-only diet, including komodo dragons, polar bears, and eagles. While some species are threatened by habitat loss, there are others that can survive in areas where they have to deal with humans.
Most of these animals have been carnivores for thousands or millions of years and will continue to survive in the wild as long as humans don’t interfere with their food supply.
Lydia King is a huge animal lover and has always been fascinated with learning about the animal kingdom. She enjoys writing about anything animal related from scientific information about rare species to animal references in pop culture.