An insectivore is a carnivorous plant or animal that eats insects.[1] An alternative term is entomophage,[2] which also refers to the human practice of eating insects.

The first insectivorous vertebrates were amphibians. When they evolved 400 million years ago, the first amphibians were piscivores, with numerous sharp conical teeth, much like a modern crocodile. The same tooth arrangement is however also suited for eating animals with exoskeletons, thus the ability to eat insects is an extension of piscivory.[3]

At one time, insectivorous mammals were scientifically classified in an order called Insectivora. This order is now abandoned, as not all insectivorous mammals are closely related. Most of the Insectivora taxa have been reclassified; those that have not yet been reclassified remain in the order Eulipotyphla.

Although individually small, insects exist in enormous numbers – they number over a million described species[4]:1958 and some of those species occur in enormous numbers. Accordingly, insects make up a very large part of the animal biomass in almost all non-marine, non-polar environments. It has been estimated that the global insect biomass is in the region of 1012 kg with an estimated population of 1018 organisms.[5]:13 Many creatures depend on insects as their primary diet, and many that do not (and are thus not technically insectivores) nevertheless use insects as a protein supplement, particularly when they are breeding.[6]

This aardwolf skull exhibits greatly reduced molars and carnassials teeth as they are unnecessary for any large, insectivorous animal subsisting on soft insects such as termites. The dentition of a shrew is very different. The aardwolf uses its canine teeth in self-defence and, occasionally, in digging; accordingly, the canines have not been greatly reduced.
Common brown robberfly with prey
A robber fly eating a hoverfly
The giant anteater, a large insectivorous mammal


Examples of insectivores include different kinds of species of carp, opossum, frogs, lizards (e.g. chameleons, geckos), nightingales, swallows, echidnas,[7] numbats, anteaters, armadillos, aardvarks, pangolins, aardwolfs,[8] bats, and spiders. Even large mammals are recorded as eating insects;[6] the sloth bear is perhaps the largest insectivore. Insects also can be insectivores; examples are dragonflies, hornets, ladybugs, robber flies, and praying mantises.[9]:31 Insectivory also features to various degrees amongst primates, such as marmosets, tamarins, tarsiers, galagos and aye-aye.[10][11]:56–57 There is some suggestion that the earliest primates were nocturnal, arboreal insectivores.[12]

Insectivorous plants

Insectivorous plants are plants that derive some of their nutrients from trapping and consuming animals or protozoan. The benefit they derive from their catch varies considerably; in some species it might include a small part of their nutrient intake and in others it might be an indispensable source of nutrients. As a rule, however, such animal food, however valuable it might be as a source of certain critically important minerals, is not the plants' major source of energy, which they generally derive mainly from photosynthesis.[13]:14

Insectivorous plants might consume insects and other animal material trapped adventitiously, though most species to which such food represents an important part of their intake are specifically, often spectacularly, adapted to attract and secure adequate supplies. Their prey animals typically, but not exclusively, comprise insects and other arthropods. Plants highly adapted to reliance on animal food use a variety of mechanisms to secure their prey, such as pitfalls, sticky surfaces, hair-trigger snaps, bladder-traps, entangling furriness, and lobster-pot trap mechanisms.[13]:14–17 Also known as carnivorous plants, they appear adapted to grow in places where the soil is thin or poor in nutrients, especially nitrogen, such as acidic bogs and rock outcroppings.[13]:13

Insectivorous plants include the Venus flytrap, several types of pitcher plants, butterworts, sundews, bladderworts, the waterwheel plant, brocchinia and many members of the Bromeliaceae. The list is far from complete, and some plants, such as Roridula species, exploit the prey organisms mainly in a mutualistic relationship with other creatures, such as resident organisms that contribute to the digestion of prey. In particular animal prey organisms supply carnivorous plants with nitrogen, but they also are important sources of various other soluble minerals, such as potassium and trace elements that are in short supply in environments where the plants flourish. This gives them a decisive advantage over other plants, whereas in nutrient-rich soils they tend to be out-competed by plants adapted to aggressive growth where nutrient supplies are not the major constraints.

Technically these plants are not strictly insectivorous, as they consume any animal that they can secure and consume; the distinction is trivial, however, because not many primarily insectivorous organisms exclusively consume insects. Most of those that do have such a restrictive diet, such as certain parasitoids and hunting wasps, are specialised to exploit particular species, not insects in general. Indeed, much as large mantids and spiders will do, the larger varieties of pitcher plant have been known to consume vertebrates such as small rodents and lizards.[13]:13 Charles Darwin wrote the first well-known treatise on carnivorous plants in 1875.[14]

See also


  1. ^ Miller, George A. (2009). ""WordNet – About Us." : entry on insectivorous". Princeton University. Retrieved 1 April 2010.
  2. ^ Gullan, P. J.; Cranston, P. S. (2005). The Insects: An Outline of Entomology. Malden: Blackwell Publishing. p. 455. ISBN 978-1-4051-1113-3.
  3. ^ 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.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Capinera, John L. (Editor). (2008). Encyclopedia of Entomology, (2nd ed). Springer Reference. ISBN 1-4020-6242-7, ISBN 978-1-4020-6242-1. Ltd preview in Google Books. Accessed on 1 Apr 2010.
  5. ^ Dudley, Robert (2002). "Flight and the Pterygote Insecta". The biomechanics of insect flight: form, function, evolution. Princeton University Press. pp. 3–35. ISBN 978-0-691-09491-5.
  6. ^ a b Whitney, Stephen R.; Sandelin, R. (2004). Field Guide to the Cascades & Olympics. The Mountaineers Books. p. 317. ISBN 978-0-89886-808-1. Retrieved 2010-04-01.
  7. ^ ""Long-beaked Echidna (Zaglossus bruijni)" (entry)". West of Scotland & Ayr Group. Retrieved 1 April 2010.
  8. ^ Holekamp, Kay E. "Aardwolf (Proteles cristata)". Archived from the original on 17 April 2010. Retrieved 1 April 2010.
  9. ^ Hill, Dennis S. (1997). The economic importance of insects. Springer. p. 198. ISBN 978-0-412-49800-8. Retrieved 2010-04-01.
  10. ^ Stetoff, Rebecca (2006). The Primate Order. Marshall Cavendish. p. 92. ISBN 978-0-7614-1816-0.
  11. ^ Jones, S., Martin, R., & Pilbeam, D., eds. (1994). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-32370-3.CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)
  12. ^ Weiss, M. L., & Mann, A. E. (1985). Human Biology and Behaviour: An Anthropological Perspective. Boston: Little Brown & Co. ISBN 0-673-39013-6.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  13. ^ a b c d Slack, Adrian; Gate, Jane (2000). Carnivorous Plants. MIT Press. p. 240. ISBN 978-0-262-69089-8.
  14. ^ Darwin, C. (1875). Insectivorous plants. London: John Murray. Archived from the original on 2006-09-23.

Astroconodon is an extinct genus of mammal from the Cretaceous of North America. Part of Eutriconodonta, it was a small sized predator, either a terrestrial insectivore and carnivore, or a semi-aquatic piscivore.

It is the first Cretaceous eutriconodont found.


Borisodon is an extinct genus of eutherians which existed in what is now Kazakhstan during the Turonian age. It was described by J. David Archibald and Alexander Averianov in 2012, as a new genus for the species Sorlestes kara, which was originally described by Nessov in 1993. The type specimen was a mandible (CCMGE 101/12455), discovered at Near Ashchikol' Lake, drill core. Borisodon was a tree-climbing insectivore.

Cape golden mole

The Cape golden mole (Chrysochloris asiatica) is a small, insectivorous mammal of the family Chrysochloridae, the golden moles. It is native to certain south western regions of South Africa. The species is a solitary subterranean insectivore, confined to the coastal regions of the south-western and southern Cape. When foraging for soil invertebrates, these golden moles excavate superficial burrows using their conical nose shield and highly modified forefeet. They have also been observed to venture on to sandy beaches, presumably to feed on amphipods and isopods occurring there.

Chiriquinan serotine

The Chiriquinan serotine (Eptesicus chiriquinus) is a species of house bat.

The Chiriquinan serotine is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List due to its wide distribution and the unlikelihood of its speedy decline. However, the species is poorly known and may be rare. Its worst known threat is habitat modification, and it has been known to exist in protected areas.The Chiriquinan serotine is found in Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guiana, and Amazônia Legal. Its type locality is in Boquete, Chiriquí from an elevation of 4,000 ft (1,200 m). The species is an insectivore and is likely forest-dependent. It prefers moist habitats, montane tropical forests, or evergreen forests.It is considered to be distinct from the little black serotine and the Brazilian brown bat. The IUCN Red List includes Eptesicus montosus with the Chiriquinan serotine.


The desman, a snouted and naked-tailed diving insectivore of the tribe Desmanini, belongs to one of two Eurasian species of the mole family, Talpidae.

This tribe consists of two monotypic genera of semiaquatic insectivores found in Europe: one in Russia and the other in the northwest of the Iberian peninsula and Pyrenees. Both species are considered to be vulnerable. They have webbed paws and their front paws are not well-adapted for digging.

The list of species is:

Genus Desmana

Russian desman (D. moschata)

Genus Galemys

Pyrenean desman (G. pyrenaicus)


Drepanosaurus (Dre-pan-o-sore-us) is a genus of arboreal (tree-dwelling) reptile that lived during the Triassic Period. Drepanosaurus is a genus of Drepanosauridae, a group of diapsid reptiles known for their prehensile tails. Only one adult Drepanosaurus specimen and two immature specimens have ever been found and all lacked a head and neck. Drepanosaurus was probably an insectivore, and lived in a coastal environment in what is now modern day Italy, as well as in a streamside environment in the midwestern United States.

Dusky broadbill

The dusky broadbill (Corydon sumatranus) is a species of bird in the family Eurylaimidae, the broadbills. It is native to Southeast Asia. It may be slowly declining due to habitat loss, especially from logging, but it has a large enough range that it is still considered to be a least-concern species.This species, like most in its family, is an insectivore.


The grandala (Grandala coelicolor) is a bird species now placed in the family Turdidae. It is an arboreal insectivore. It ranges across the northeastern Indian Subcontinent and some adjoining regions, existing primarily in the low-to-mid altitudes of the Himalayas. It is found in Bhutan, India, Myanmar, and Nepal, as well as Tibet and other areas of China.


Haldanodon exspectatus is an extinct mammaliaform, specifically a docodont. It lived in the Upper Jurassic (Kimmeridgian, about 145 million years ago). Its fossil remains have been found in Portugal, in the well-known fossil locality of Guimarota, which is in the Alcobaça Formation. It was an insectivore and may have been semi-aquatic.

Highland streaked tenrec

The highland streaked tenrec (Hemicentetes nigriceps) is an insectivore which lives in the central upland regions of Madagascar. Its black and white striped body is covered with quills, which it will raise when agitated. The spines detach and remain in the body of an inquisitive predator.

The highland streaked tenrec uses its long snout to burrow under leaves and bark, searching for earthworms, its primary food.

List of feeding behaviours

Feeding is the process by which organisms, typically animals, obtain food. Terminology often uses either the suffixes -vore, -vory, -vorous from Latin vorare, meaning "to devour", or -phage, -phagy, -phagous from Greek φαγεῖν (phagein), meaning "to eat".

List of mammals of Alabama

The U.S. state of Alabama is home to these known indigenous mammal species. Historically, the state's indigenous species included one armadillo species, sixteen bat species, thirteen carnivore species, six insectivore species, one opossum species, four rabbit species, twenty-two rodent species, and three ungulate species. Four of these native species have become extirpated within the state, including the American bison, cougar, elk, and the red wolf.There are six known introduced mammal species in the state. These include the black rat, brown rat, fallow deer, feral swine, house mouse, and nutria. Several other mammal species have had verifiable sightings within the state, but are believed by biologists to be without established breeding populations. These include the California sea lion (in Mobile Bay), ring-tailed cat, and jaguarundi.Human predation and habitat destruction has placed several mammal species at risk of extirpation or extinction. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources lists the conservation status of each species within the state with a rank of lowest, low, moderate, high, and highest concern.


Macrocranion is a genus of extinct mammal from the Eocene epoch of Europe and North America. Exceptional fossils have has been found in the Messel Pit of Germany. Macrocranion species are often described as forest-floor predators, about the size of small squirrels but with longer limbs.The genus is represented at the Messel Pit site by two species:

M. tupaiodon had woolly fur with no spikes. Although possibly an omnivore, fossil remains indicate the specimen had eaten fish near the time of its death. This small animal was approximately fifteen cm in length, with long back legs capable of considerable speed.

The fossil M. tenerum is five cm long. The species also had long legs for rapid movement, but its fur included a spiky protection. The long legs, however, indicate the animal couldn't have effectively rolled up for defense. Fossilized stomach remains show that M. tenerum's diet included ants, so it may have been an insectivore.

The oldest species are M. vandebroeki from the Paleocene-Eocene transition of Northern Europe and M. junnei from the Wasatchian (Early Eocene) of Wyoming.


Microsyops annectens is a plesiadapiform primate found in Middle Eocene in North America. It is in the family Microsyopidae. It was a tree-dwelling insectivore. It appears to have had a more developed sense of smell than other early primates.


Miocochilius is an extinct genus of small notoungulate mammals (insectivore typotheres) native to South America. The genus lived during the Middle Miocene epoch (Laventan in the SALMA classification). The genus contains two described species, the type species M. anomopodus described in 1953 by Ruben Arthur Stirton and M. federicoi, described and included in the genus by Darin A. Croft.

Fossils of Miocochilius have been found at the Lagerstätte of La Venta in the Honda Group of Colombia, where it is the most abundant mammal, the Honda Group of Bolivia (M. federicoi) and the Ipururo Formation in the Ucayali Basin of Peru. The typothere lived alongside a rich faunal assemblage comprising many other mammals, crocodylians, turtles and lizards.


Palaeoryctes is an extinct genus of mammal from Middle to Late Palaeocene of North America.

Palaeoryctes resembled a modern shrew, being slender and sharp-nosed, with typical insectivore teeth. It was around 12.5 centimetres (4.9 in) long, and weighed around 20 to 60 grams (0.71 to 2.12 oz). The molars of Palaeoryctes had little function other than piercing.


Pappotherium is an extinct genus of mammals from the Albian (early Cretaceous) of Texas, US, known from a fossilized maxilla fragment bearing two tribosphenic molars, discovered within the Glen Rose Formation near Decatur, Wise County, Texas.

The fossil was discovered by Bob H. Slaughter within some deposits dating back to 112.6 – 109 million years ago. On the basis of the morphology of the molars' cusps, in 1965 Slaughter established the new genus Pappotherium and the new species P. pattersoni; he also created an apposite family, Pappotheriidae. Both this family and the genus are nowadays still monotypic.

Slaughter argued that Pappotherium should have been a basal form close to the metatherian-eutherian divergence point; this mammal likely was an arboreal insectivore.Etymologically speaking, the name Pappotherium is a compound of the Latin words pappus (from ancient Greek πάππος, páppos, “grandfather”) and therium (from ancient Greek θηρίον, thēríon, “beast”, a common suffix among extinct mammals), with the full meaning of “mammal-grandfather”.

The second part of the unique species' name, pattersoni, was instead chosen in honor of the American paleontologist Bryan Patterson.

More recently, it has been recovered as a possible deltatheroidean. The most recent phylogeny including Pappotherium is reproduced below.


Paschatherium is a small extinct mammal of the Perissodactyla order, with an insectivore-like dentition.

Its morphology indicates an arboreal form, adapted climbing and running on trees. Paschatherium must have been extremely numerous in the latest Paleocene and earliest Eocene of Europe, since it makes up the majority of all mammal fossils in some fossil sites.Paschatherium has been viewed as a possible ancestor of our modern elephants, sea cows and hyraxes. However, a 2014 cladistic analysis places it within stem perissodactyls.

Scutigera coleoptrata

Scutigera coleoptrata is a small, typically yellowish-grey centipede with up to 15 pairs of long legs. Originating in the Mediterranean region, the species has spread to other parts of the world, where it can live in human homes, thus gaining the name house centipede. It is an insectivore; it kills and eats other arthropods, such as insects and arachnids.



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