An omnivore is an organism that eats plants and animals. The term stems from the Latin words omnis, meaning “all or everything,” and vorare, meaning “to devour or eat.”

Omnivores play an important part of the food chain, a sequence of organisms that produce energy and nutrients for other organisms. Every food chain consists of several trophic levels, which describe an organism’s role in an ecosystem. Omnivores generally occupy the third trophic level alongside meat-eating carnivores.

Omnivores are a diverse group of animals. Examples of omnivores include bears, birds, dogs, raccoons, foxes, certain insects, and even humans.

Animals that hunt other animals are known as predators, while those that are hunted are known as prey. Since omnivores hunt and are hunted, they can be both predators and prey. Omnivores can also be scavengers, animals that feed on the remains of dead animals. For example, bears eat twigs and berries but will also hunt small animals and eat dead animals if they happen to stumble upon them.

Omnivores have evolved various traits to help them eat both plants and animals. Many omnivores, such as humans, have a mixture of sharp teeth (for ripping through muscle tissue) and flat molars (for grinding plant matter). However, some omnivores, like chickens, have no teeth and swallow their food whole. Generally speaking, omnivores have a stomach with one or more chambers and a specialized digestive tract to process food.

Since omnivores have a diverse diet, they have the advantage of being able to survive in a variety of environments. While a meat-eating carnivore would quickly go extinct in a habitat devoid of prey, an omnivore could still surive by eating plants.

Omnivores
Despite their huge size and sharp teeth, bears—like this male grizzly (Ursus arctos horribilis) at the Fishing Branch River in the Yukon Territory, Canada—also eat berries and twigs. Like other omnivores, their diets are versatile, and includes plants and other animals.
Noun

organism that can produce its own food and nutrients from chemicals in the atmosphere, usually through photosynthesis or chemosynthesis.

Noun

organism that eats meat.

Noun

community and interactions of living and nonliving things in an area.

Noun

group of organisms linked in order of the food they eat, from producers to consumers, and from prey, predators, scavengers, and decomposers.

Noun

organism that eats mainly plants and other producers.

Noun

organism that eats a variety of organisms, including plants, animals, and fungi.

predator
Noun

animal that hunts other animals for food.

prey
Noun

animal that is hunted and eaten by other animals.

primary consumer
Noun

organism that eats plants or other autotrophs.

primary producer
Noun

organism that can produce its own food and nutrients from chemicals in the atmosphere, usually through photosynthesis or chemosynthesis. Also called an autotroph.

Noun

organism that eats dead or rotting biomass, such as animal flesh or plant material.

secondary consumer
Noun

organism that eats meat.