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List of feeding behaviours

File:Anopheles stephensi.jpeg
A mosquito drinking blood (hematophagy) from a human (note the droplet of blood being expelled as a surplus)
File:Rosy boa eating.JPG
A rosy boa eating a mouse whole

Feeding is the process by which organisms, typically animals, obtain food. Terminology often uses either the suffix -vore from Latin vorare, meaning "to devour", or phagy, from Greek φαγειν, meaning "to eat".

Evolutionary history

The evolution of different feeding strategies is varied with some feeding strategies evolving several times in independent lineages. In terrestrial vertebrates, the earliest forms were large amphibious piscivores 400 million years ago. While amphibians continued to feed on fish and later insects, reptiles began exploring two new food types, other tetrapods (carnivory), and later, plants (herbivory). Carnivory was a natural transition from insectivory for medium and large tetrapods, requiring minimal adaptation (in contrast, a complex set of adaptations was necessary for feeding on highly fibrous plant materials).[1]

Evolutionary adaptations

The specialization of organisms towards specific food sources is one of the major causes of evolution of form and function, such as:


By mode of ingestion

There are many modes of feeding that animals exhibit, including:

  • Filter feeding: obtaining nutrients from particles suspended in water
  • Deposit feeding: obtaining nutrients from particles suspended in soil
  • Fluid feeding: obtaining nutrients by consuming other organisms' fluids
  • Bulk feeding: obtaining nutrients by eating all of an organism
  • Ram feeding and suction feeding: ingesting prey via the fluids around it.

By mode of digestion

  • Extra-cellular digestion: excreting digesting enzymes and then reabsorbing the products
  • Myzocytosis: one cell pierces another using a feeding tube, and sucks out cytoplasm
  • Phagocytosis: engulfing food matter into living cells, where it is digested

By food type

"Polyphagy" redirects here. For increased appetite as a medical symptom, see polyphagia.

Polyphagy is the ability of an animal to eat a variety of food, whereas monophagy is the intolerance of every food except of one specific type (see generalist and specialist species).

Another classification refers to the specific food animals specialize in eating, such as:

The eating of non-living or decaying matter:

There are also several unusual feeding behaviours, either normal, opportunistic, or pathological, such as:

An opportunistic feeder sustains itself from a number of different food sources, because the species is behaviourally sufficiently flexible.

Storage behaviours

Some animals exhibit hoarding and caching behaviours in which they store or hide food for later use.


Alcohol—it is widely believed that some animals eat rotting fruit for this to ferment and make them drunk, however, this has been refuted in the case of at least elephants.[2]

See also


  1. Sahney, S., Benton, M.J. & Falcon-Lang, H.J. (2010). "Rainforest collapse triggered Pennsylvanian tetrapod diversification in Euramerica" (PDF). Geology 38 (12): 1079–1082. doi:10.1130/G31182.1. 
  2. Bakalar, N. (2005). "Elephants drunk in the wild? Scientists put the myth to rest". Retrieved May 24, 2013. 

fr:Régime alimentaire pt:Alimentação