Themes in Animal Diversity

Explain the themes that we see in examining animal diversity. Find and photograph examples of animals and describe their feeding and locomotory techniques.

Animals are defined by the way they interact with their food. All animals are heterotrophic, meaning they must acquire energy from outside sources because they cannot make it themselves. These outside sources are numerous and unique, so animal diversification is driven by the many ways in which this process can be accomplished. Some animals are filter feeders (capturing floating particles), deposit feeders (ingesting organic matter in or on a substrate), fluid feeders (sucking up liquids), or mass feeders (taking in chunks of food through a mouth).  Animals may be herbivores (plant-eaters), carnivores (feed on other animals), or detritivores (consume dead organic matter).

This heterotrophy defines not only their digestive systems, but also their sensory organs, morphology and patterns or reproduction. Animals vary in the way they sense touch, balance, smell, taste, sound, light, time, magnetism, electricity and pressure. This allows them to locate food sources. Morphologically, animals may have a variety of structures such as cilia, flagella, muscles, and limbs that allow them to move to a food source, capture it and ingest it. Feeding patterns also affects reproduction energy investment and timing.

Blue and Gold Macaws feed on nuts and buds. They move by hopping on their two legs or by flight.

Starfish prey on bivalves. They travel by using their numerous tube feet on their underside.

Snakes eat a variety of small animals. They move using lateral undulation to sliter.


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