For many animals, this is an eat-or-be-eaten world. Peaceful plant-eaters are at the mercy of some of the fiercest meat-eaters in the world. What is the largest of these animals? The answer may surprise you. Let’s look at various carnivores to find the most enormous meat eater in the world.
What is a Carnivore?
A carnivore is an animal (or plant) that gets its nutrition from the flesh of other animals, either as hunters or scavengers. Carnivorousness seems to occur on a spectrum; some carnivores get most or all of their nutrients from other animals and are called hypercarnivores. Mesocarnivores get 30-70% of their nutrients from animals, while hypocarnivores get less than 30%. Mesocarnivores and hypocarnivores can also be known as omnivores.
The Order Carnivora
In popular thought, the first animals that come to mind as carnivores are lions, tigers, and bears (oh, my!) These animals come from the order Carnivora, which comprises placental mammals that eat flesh. The funny thing is that not all of these animals are carnivores, though that seems to be indicated by their name. The order includes bears, most of whom are omnivores (though polar bears are hypercarnivores), and the panda, which is primarily a herbivore. While the carnivores of this order can grow to exceptional size, there is a reason why this order does not include the largest carnivores.
Which Are Larger, Ocean Animals or Terrestrial Animals?
We’ll have to look to the ocean to find the largest carnivores. Aquatic animals tend to be larger than terrestrial animals. Scientists believe this is a response to the frigid temperatures of ocean waters. Larger animals have more cells, which allows them to generate more heat. Though some members of the order Carnivora are aquatic animals, such as seals and walruses, the largest carnivores come from the order Cetacea—whales, porpoises, and dolphins. Of these three mammals, of course, we are referring to whales.
Largest Carnivore in the World: Toothed Whale vs. Baleen Whale
Whales are the largest animals on Earth and can be divided into two types: toothed and baleen. When many people think of carnivores, they think of toothed animals. The most enormous toothed whale in the ocean is the sperm whale. Sperm whales dive to great depths to hunt their prey: squid, sharks, and large fish. Though the toothed whales may match our image of the fearsome carnivore, they can’t hold a candle to their cetacean counterparts regarding size or appetite. Whales eat more animal mass than any other animals on the planet, and no whale eats more than the blue whale.
Largest Carnivore in the World: The Massive Blue Whale
So, we finally get to the world’s largest carnivore, the blue whale. At a maximum size of over 90 feet, it is also the world’s largest animal. Blue whales lunge through giant clouds of krill with their mouths open and then push the water they have scooped up through their baleens, swallowing the captured krill. It’s fascinating that the largest animals in the world survive by eating some of the smallest. Blue whales make up for this by eating nearly four tons of krill daily. No other creature in the world compares in size or appetite!
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