Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Whatcha eating?

Petunia the sulcata tortoise likes to wear bananas,
not just eat them.
Different animals eat a lot of different things, just like different people eat a lot of different things. This week I polled a group of elementary students on their favorite foods, and I got answers ranging from pizza and chicken wings to macaroni and cheese and even broccoli (her mom would be proud!). Me, I'm a popcorn girl. I eat so much of it that Mr. Nature Geek calls me a "cornivore." 

One of my favorite thing about science is that scientists have to give special names to everything. They can't just call it a lot of hornets, they call it a bike. They can't just call it a clump of Spanish moss, they call it a festoon. They can't just say winter dormancy and summer dormancy, they call it hibernation and estivation. The same thing goes for animal diets. For just about any kind of animal diet out there, there is a special scientific term for it. This week, I offer a quick-draw version of science-speak trivia for you to use to wow your friends (or at least make them roll their eyes at you)!

Term: What it eats (example)
Carnivore: Meat (African lion)
Cornivore: Popcorn (Nature Geek)
Herbivore: Plants (leopard tortoise)
Omnivore: Plants and meat (raccoon)
Insectivore: Insects (giant anteater)
Frugivore: Fruit (fruit bat)
Nectivore: Nectar (ruby-throated hummingbird)
Granivore: Seeds (rock pigeon)
Folivore: Leaves specifically (koala)
Piscivore: Fish (bottlenose dolphin)
Planktivore: Plankton (blue whale)
Gumnivore: Tree sap/gum/resin (pygmy marmoset)
Coprophagy: Feces (eastern cottontail rabbit)
Hematophagy: Blood (female tiger mosquito)
Scavenger: Dead animals (turkey vulture)
Detritivore: Dead plants (American cockroach)

Now know that for nearly every single term I have listed, there are exceptions. For example, although tortoises are considered herbivores, they have been known to eat dead tortoises, and although hummingbirds are known for their love of nectar, they also eat insects. These terms are used to describe the main component of an animal's diet. And now they can also be used to earn another point on your geek card! Go out and use your new-found powers, my geeky minions, perhaps at a meal with your favorite omnivores and herbivores. But stay away from those who practice coprophagy, alright? 

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