Life's Little Mysteries

What Is a Carnivore?

meat eaters, animals
Lions are an example of carnivorous animals. (Image credit: Lions image via Shutterstock)

In the wild, carnivores are king. They prey on other animals. They eat primarily meat.

By feeding on herbivores and omnivores, carnivores help keep ecosystems in balance. They keep animal populations from growing too big.

Chasing after this moveable feast is hard work.

Warm-blooded carnivores burn many calories and have to hunt often to keep refueling. Meanwhile, cold-blooded carnivores, such as snakes, will rest days or even months between meals.

The bodies of carnivores have adapted to fiercely attack and eat other animals.

To make sure their first bites are fatal, lions’s jaws are strong and large. They have razor-sharp teeth that tear the flesh and meat off the bones of their victims. Owls have sharp eyesight to help them sneak up on their prey in the dark. Bobcats have powerful paws with sharp claws that they use when pouncing on their prey.

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Corey Binns lives in Northern California and writes about science, health, parenting, and social change. In addition to writing for Live Science, she's contributed to publications including Popular Science,, Scholastic, and the Stanford Social Innovation Review as well as others. She's also produced stories for NPR’s Science Friday and Sundance Channel. She studied biology at Brown University and earned a Master's degree in science journalism from NYU. The Association of Health Care Journalists named her a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Health Journalism Fellow in 2009. She has chased tornadoes and lived to tell the tale.