Reptile Diet – What Types of Carnivores Eat What Food?

Reptile diet is a crucial aspect of your pet’s health. Providing the right foods will ensure your reptile is healthy, happy and thriving.

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Herbivorous species (such as bearded dragons, box turtles and semi-aquatic lizards) need grass hay and a variety of vegetables with low oxalate content. They also need a source of insects.

Herbivores

Herbivores eat mainly plants, or more specifically, plant materials. They are adapted to this diet by having special biological systems, such as wide and flat teeth that can better grind up the tough plant parts, and gut flora that helps digest the vegetation.

In the wild, herbivores often have to compete with other animal species for plants or plant parts to eat. They also have to contend with a variety of defences that plants use to protect themselves from predators. These defences can include spines, toxins and bitter taste. Consequently, herbivores need to be much more selective than omnivores and carnivores in the way they hunt for food.

Many herbivores are able to exploit resources that other animal species cannot, such as the seeds of certain trees or fruits on other plants. However, because of their limited nutritional value, these sources should only be a small part of the herbivore’s diet.

Herbivorous reptiles (such as bearded dragons, spiny-tailed lizards and tortoises) should be offered fresh leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale and chard every day, plus a range of other veggies like bok choy, carrots, bell peppers, squash, zucchini and peas. They should also be fed insects on a weekly basis, as they need the protein. It is important to avoid feeding iceberg lettuce as it has insignificant nutritional value.

Omnivores

Many reptiles are omnivores, eating both plant and animal materials. Typically, they have canines and incisors for cutting and tearing along with flat molars to crush and grind. In captivity, omnivores will often be fed commercially-prepared diets containing both vegetables and meat proteins.

In the wild, omnivores are also known to consume indigestible material such as hair and bones to assist with the digestion process. For example, giraffes chew on dry bones to digest fat and certain minerals. Some animals that are considered obligate carnivores may still eat some plants in order to obtain certain vitamins and nutrients. In other cases, a reptile can change its diet throughout its life-cycle. For instance, a frog that consumes insects as larvae will later eat berries as an adult.

Reptiles that are omnivorous in captivity can include green iguanas, box turtles and semi-aquatic pond turtles. They can be fed a mix of invertebrates such as mealworms, crickets and wood roaches along with leafy greens, vegetables and fruits.

It is important to understand that a reptile’s diet should be provided by a professional pet store or veterinarian. Depriving an obligate carnivore or omnivore of its live food is not only cruel but can lead to malnutrition, illness and death. In addition, improperly feeding a herbivore will cause it to become depressed and anorexic.

Carnivores

When most people think of carnivores, they envision a pride of lions stalking zebras in the Serengeti and savagely ripping one to death with their sharp teeth. However, there are many smaller carnivores too. These include snakes that prey on rodents, birds, amphibians and other reptiles. They also include crocodiles, which can consume mammals, amphibians, fish, other reptiles, birds, crustaceans and insects.

Carnivores are most often found in the wild and must hunt for their food. They tend to have small stomachs, simple digestive tracts and reduced intestine length and folds, as compared to their plant-based counterparts. They also have a large brain in proportion to their body size and usually have a shortened blind pouch (cecum) attached to the main intestine.

The mouth of a typical carnivore is filled with sharp teeth, including two long canine teeth in front that are used to cut and puncture flesh. These sit alongside incisors that are adapted for tearing and small molars that are used for crushing. Animals that rely on meat for 50 percent or more of their diet are called hypercarnivores. They typically have six incisors on both the upper and lower jaw, four to eight premolars with pointed cusps and flat molars that are suited for grinding.

Insectivores

An insectivore is an animal that eats insects and other small creatures. Insectivores are specialized carnivores. This term was once used to refer specifically to mammals that ate insects, but this biological grouping has been abandoned and insectivores now comprise a wide range of animals from many different classes and phyla, including reptiles and plants.

Some examples of insectivores include the pygmy anteater, the giant anteater, and a variety of birds. Some bats are also insectivores, as well as some mammals such as the aardvark and the giraffe. A number of lizards, such as the wall lizard (Hemidactylus), are insectivores as well. Fishes such as minnows, sticklebacks, trouts, and carps are often insectivores as well, since they eat aquatic insects and their larvae and pupae.

Reptiles that are omnivorous, like bearded dragons and many skinks, as well as some turtles and semi-aquatic tortoises, should be fed both insects and greens, vegetables and fruits daily. For this reason, it is important to seek advice from a knowledgeable pet store or veterinarian when selecting the correct type and mix of foods for your reptile. Some omnivores are more prone to leaning one way or the other, so you may want to avoid overstocking one type of food and instead have a variety on hand. This is a great way to ensure your reptile gets the nutrition it needs.