Herbivory Definition and Herbivory Examples
What is Herbivory?
Herbivory is the process in which an organism, usually an animal, directly or indirectly consumes parts or all of one or more living plants. It is animal-plant interaction where the herbivores consume a plant’s tissue or other forms of primary production.
Herbivores have been around for well over 300 million years, even before the age of dinosaurs! The very first Herbivore was a flatworm who was able to produce its own digestive enzymes because it lacked stomachs or other internal organs.
Later, plants developed secondary metabolism so they could quickly decompose and generate their own enzymes to digest whatever nutritional contents they could extract from their environment.
In the Carboniferous, plants pumped a lot of oxygen into the atmosphere with their roots’ help. This created an oxygen-rich atmosphere that allowed insects to grow larger than ever before; some grew as large as.
Today, over many invertebrate species are herbivores, including insects, spiders, mites, snails, and slugs. Quite a few vertebrates also make up the list of herbivorous animals, including reptiles, birds, and mammals.
Herbivory can be broken down into four major categories:
1) Surface Herbivory: Here, the animal feeds on all parts of a plant; leaves, bark, stems, and roots.
2) Understory Herbivory: Here, the animals focus their attention on the understory plants.
3) Grazing Herbivory: Here, the animal feeds exclusively on grasses and other low-lying plants.
4) Specialist Herbivory: This category involves animals that usually feed on one type of plant but can survive off of another when necessary. They are not very flexible in their diet, making them vulnerable to fluctuations in food availability and threats from other animal species.
In order to survive, herbivores must be able to consume the plant’s tissues. In fact, an herbivore can digest all of the food, which is made up of carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, and water. They do not eat the sugars and starches from plants; rather they can live off of them because they are broken down in their digestive systems.
Many animals use “hairs” or “bristles” called trichomes to aid in their digestion. Trichomes can be used to clean off a surface such as a leaf or a flower petal, which allows the herbivorous animal’s mouth to come in direct contact with the plant.
Just like any other animal, Herbivores are susceptible to diseases and parasites. Since they are eating plants or their tissues, they can easily get sick from consuming infected material. For example, many animals will eat diseased plant tissues and then become infected themselves.
This can lead to a chain reaction because the animals will die, and thus, the habitat for other herbivores will be destroyed.
They also have predators where they must avoid being eaten by other animals. If they are eaten, their predator gets to digest all of that plant material they consume and gain nutrients.
Herbivores are usually larger in size than their predators, which means that their physical attributes are better suited for escaping rather than fighting.
Herbivores are also vulnerable to changes in their habitat and whether their food is abundant enough to survive. If there are not enough resources or the right amount of them, then herbivores will be able to consume just a few parts of the plant or even none at all.
If this happens, the predators will often go latch onto something else until they become plentiful again.
Example of Herbivory
What is an example of herbivory?
Herbivory can be seen in nature all over the world and is a widespread phenomenon in plants. It is a form of selective feeding in which an animal consumes parts of plants. The most common ones are:
1) Browsers: These animals eat leaves and bark, but they do not eat woody stems or roots.
2) Grazers: These animals primarily consume grasses and other low-lying vegetation.
3) Frugivores: These animals consume fruits.
4) Saprophytes: These animals feed on dead or decaying plant materials.
5) Parasitoids: These animals consume live plants; they eat the plant tissue directly. Parasitic plant, plant that obtains all or part of its nutrition from another plant (the host) without contributing to the host’s benefit and, in some cases, causing extreme damage to the host.
“Hang on to your hat! Herbivores with long, sharp teeth would have a difficult time with their mouths. Their jaws are usually loaded with spiny hairs.”
Browsers are herbivores that eat all the parts of plants. They mostly eat the leaves and bark of the plant. However, they will eat woody stems and roots. Browsers also eat small amounts of fruit. Conserving energy without doing much work can be difficult for these animals; their teeth are in short supply.
This is why they only eat a small amount of the plant and then move onto the next one that may not be as plump as the other.
These herbivores feed on grasses and other low-lying plants. They are the two most common grazers in nature. They can adapt to their environment by eating the grass in many ways. “Domestic Cattle” and “Llama” graze by pulling up the grass with their mouths and uncovering the soil for plant growth.
This action increases the chance for nitrogen to be released from the soil, which is a limiting factor in plant growth. “Rabbits” and “Gazelles” scrape off grass with their lower incisors to create fresh cut-off points for new roots to grow. Other grazers include “Goats” and “Deer.”
Frugivores are herbivores that feed on the fruit of plants. While they may eat leaves, they do not consume bark or woody stems, as those parts are digestible by other animals. This means that their food sources’ fleshy fruits and seeds are the only parts that frugivores can consume.
The majority of the frugivores rely on the berry of plants to survive. Frugivores also include “Cousins,” “Hummingbirds,” “Lemurs,” and “Chameleons.”
Saprophytes are herbivores that feed on dead and decaying plant materials. These animals have sharp teeth that can penetrate into the plant’s tissues, allowing them to clean out the dead tissue. Many examples are insects, spiders, and worms.
Herbivory examples include the black-tailed jackrabbit mowing an opening in the sagebrush for its young and a lesser prairie-chicken destroying a patch of bluestem grass by pecking at it.
The concept of herbivory is important to understanding how animal behavior can affect plant communities.
Herbivores Digestive System
The digestive tract of an herbivore is different than that of anomodonts such as “Edaphosaurus,” “Triceratops” and even toothed birds. Herbivores have three chambers in their stomachs and two or three sections in their intestines compared to the four chambers and two sections found in carnivores.
Herbivores also have fewer teeth than most animals but can have as many as fifty per jaw. Herbivores have significantly fewer muscle attachments that allow them to chew large pieces of meat. Herbivores have teeth that look like pegs in order to give the tongue leverage.
Some herbivores like the “Lemurs” and “Satires” have developed fingers for grasping and chewing food. Most, however, are only able to obtain nutrients from plants by grinding with their teeth. This is why they have become specialized in tooth shape and number.
Herbivores typically spend a lot of energy chewing their food. This is why herbivores’ stomachs are typically bigger than carnivore stomachs, which do not need to break down as many different compounds but only digest one material at a time (e.g., meat).
The herbivore’s small intestines can process a large volume of food with relative ease because the tough walls help it resist being digested and absorbed.
Phytophagy and Chemophagy
Scientists typically categorize herbivory as being either physical or chemical, depending on whether the herbivore extracts nutrients from the host plant by physically eating it (phytophagy) or by chemically consuming part of the plant (chemophagy).
In physical or mechanical feeding, animals chew plants to various extents. This can be used as a measure of how intensively an animal uses plants for food, and the “gram weight per bite represents it.” Animals may also “chew down” plants into smaller pieces.
Chemical herbivory is the consumption of chemicals by an organism via its digestive tract. Chemical herbivory can occur due to the consumption of plant toxins or secondary compounds produced by the plant in defense against attack. The term chemical refers to the indigestible parts of a plant and any compound or mixture that is taken up and digested by an herbivore.
Herbivores are found in many habitats like tundra, forests, savannah, and jungles. Most herbivores live on the ground. However, some herbivores live in trees or water where predators cannot attack them. T
here are also many aquatic species that have either developed pouches or side-dorsal appendages for catching food, floating through the water with their mouths open. Herbivores are mostly found on the ground, but there are some exceptions.
Predators include various carnivores, like wolves, cats, bears, and birds of prey. Magpies and ravens are also predators. Some predators ambush their prey from above or use other non-visual methods of taking down prey.
Herbivores themselves may be attacked by carnivores in areas where carnivorous plants grow (the same way it happens to carnivorous plants too).
However, if the carnivorous plant is removed from its habitat, it will stop growing and reproducing. This is called the ‘dormancy’ phase that occurs in the carnivorous plant.
When this happens, it starts growing again to begin its natural process of reproduction. In this way, it keeps reproducing and producing seeds even where there are no other carnivorous plants.
How Does Carnivorous Plant Reproduce?
Most carnivorous plants grow in a similar style to flowering plants. Carnivorous plants have large leaves and can be found in various places, like the forests in the Northern Hemisphere or some Australian regions.
Carnivorous plants rely on insects and other small animals for food. They have evolved to attract prey and capture it by way of a sticky substance that gets released when the outer lobes are triggered.