Insectivore
Overview
An insectivore is a type of carnivore with a diet that consists chiefly of insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

s and similar small creatures. An alternate term is entomophage, which also refers to the human practice of eating insects
Entomophagy
Entomophagy is the consumption of insects as food. Insects are eaten by many animals, but the term is generally used to refer to human consumption of insects; animals that eat insects are known as insectivores...

.

The first vertebrate insectivores were Amphibian
Amphibian
Amphibians , are a class of vertebrate animals including animals such as toads, frogs, caecilians, and salamanders. They are characterized as non-amniote ectothermic tetrapods...

s. 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 exoskeleton
Exoskeleton
An exoskeleton is the external skeleton that supports and protects an animal's body, in contrast to the internal skeleton of, for example, a human. In popular usage, some of the larger kinds of exoskeletons are known as "shells". Examples of exoskeleton animals include insects such as grasshoppers...

s, thus the ability to eat insects is an extension of piscivory.
Although individually small, insects exist in enormous numbers - they number over a million described species and some of those species occur in enormous numbers.
Encyclopedia
An insectivore is a type of carnivore with a diet that consists chiefly of insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

s and similar small creatures. An alternate term is entomophage, which also refers to the human practice of eating insects
Entomophagy
Entomophagy is the consumption of insects as food. Insects are eaten by many animals, but the term is generally used to refer to human consumption of insects; animals that eat insects are known as insectivores...

.

The first vertebrate insectivores were Amphibian
Amphibian
Amphibians , are a class of vertebrate animals including animals such as toads, frogs, caecilians, and salamanders. They are characterized as non-amniote ectothermic tetrapods...

s. 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 exoskeleton
Exoskeleton
An exoskeleton is the external skeleton that supports and protects an animal's body, in contrast to the internal skeleton of, for example, a human. In popular usage, some of the larger kinds of exoskeletons are known as "shells". Examples of exoskeleton animals include insects such as grasshoppers...

s, thus the ability to eat insects is an extension of piscivory.

Overview of insects

Although individually small, insects exist in enormous numbers - they number over a million described species 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
Population
A population is all the organisms that both belong to the same group or species and live in the same geographical area. The area that is used to define a sexual population is such that inter-breeding is possible between any pair within the area and more probable than cross-breeding with individuals...

 of 1018 organisms. 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
Protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

 supplement, particularly when they are breeding..

Examples

Examples of insectivores include nightingale
Nightingale
The Nightingale , also known as Rufous and Common Nightingale, is a small passerine bird that was formerly classed as a member of the thrush family Turdidae, but is now more generally considered to be an Old World flycatcher, Muscicapidae...

s, aardwolf
Aardwolf
The aardwolf is a small, insectivorous mammal, native to Eastern and Southern Africa. The name means "earth wolf" in Afrikaans/Dutch. It is also called "maanhaar jackal". It is related to hyenas, but unlike its relatives, it does not hunt large prey. This unusual animal preys on insects...

s, echidna
Echidna
Echidnas , also known as spiny anteaters, belong to the family Tachyglossidae in the monotreme order of egg-laying mammals. There are four extant species, which, together with the platypus, are the only surviving members of that order and are the only extant mammals that lay eggs...

s, swallows, anteater
Anteater
Anteaters, also known as antbear, are the four mammal species of the suborder Vermilingua commonly known for eating ants and termites. Together with the sloths, they compose the order Pilosa...

s, carp
Carp
Carp are various species of oily freshwater fish of the family Cyprinidae, a very large group of fish native to Europe and Asia. The cypriniformes are traditionally grouped with the Characiformes, Siluriformes and Gymnotiformes to create the superorder Ostariophysi, since these groups have certain...

, frog
Frog
Frogs are amphibians in the order Anura , formerly referred to as Salientia . Most frogs are characterized by a short body, webbed digits , protruding eyes and the absence of a tail...

s, lizard
Lizard
Lizards are a widespread group of squamate reptiles, with nearly 3800 species, ranging across all continents except Antarctica as well as most oceanic island chains...

s, bat
Bat
Bats are mammals of the order Chiroptera "hand" and pteron "wing") whose forelimbs form webbed wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight. By contrast, other mammals said to fly, such as flying squirrels, gliding possums, and colugos, glide rather than fly,...

s, and spider
Spider
Spiders are air-breathing arthropods that have eight legs, and chelicerae with fangs that inject venom. They are the largest order of arachnids and rank seventh in total species diversity among all other groups of organisms...

s. Even large mammals are recorded as eating insects; the sloth bear
Sloth Bear
The sloth bear , also known as the labiated bear, is a nocturnal insectivorous species of bear found wild within the Indian subcontinent. The sloth bear evolved from ancestral brown bears during the Pleistocene and shares features found in insect-eating mammals through convergent evolution...

 is perhaps the largest insectivore. Insects also can be insectivores; examples are dragonflies
Dragonfly
A dragonfly is a winged insect belonging to the order Odonata, the suborder Epiprocta or, in the strict sense, the infraorder Anisoptera . It is characterized by large multifaceted eyes, two pairs of strong transparent wings, and an elongated body...

, hornet
Hornet
Hornets are the largest eusocial wasps; some species can reach up to in length. The true hornets make up the genus Vespa and are distinguished from other vespines by the width of the vertex , which is proportionally larger in Vespa and by the anteriorly rounded gasters .- Life cycle :In...

s, ladybugs, and praying mantises. Insectivory also features to various degrees amongst primates, such as marmoset
Marmoset
Marmosets are the 22 New World monkey species of the genera Callithrix, Cebuella, Callibella, and Mico. All four genera are part of the biological family Callitrichidae. The term marmoset is also used in reference to the Goeldi's Monkey, Callimico goeldii, which is closely related.Most marmosets...

s, tamarin
Tamarin
The tamarins are squirrel-sized New World monkeys from the family Callitrichidae in the genus Saguinus. They are closely related to the lion tamarins in the genus Leontopithecus.- Range :...

s, tarsiers, galagos and aye-aye
Aye-aye
The aye-aye is a lemur, a strepsirrhine primate native to Madagascar that combines rodent-like teeth and a special thin middle finger to fill the same ecological niche as a woodpecker...

. There is some suggestion that the earliest primates were nocturnal, arboreal insectivores.

Insectivorous plants

Insectivorous plants
Carnivorous plant
Carnivorous plants are plants that derive some or most of their nutrients from trapping and consuming animals or protozoans, typically insects and other arthropods. Carnivorous plants appear adapted to grow in places where the soil is thin or poor in nutrients, especially nitrogen, such as acidic...

 are plant
Plant
Plants are living organisms belonging to the kingdom Plantae. Precise definitions of the kingdom vary, but as the term is used here, plants include familiar organisms such as trees, flowers, herbs, bushes, grasses, vines, ferns, mosses, and green algae. The group is also called green plants or...

s that derive some or most of their nutrient
Nutrient
A nutrient is a chemical that an organism needs to live and grow or a substance used in an organism's metabolism which must be taken in from its environment. They are used to build and repair tissues, regulate body processes and are converted to and used as energy...

s (but not energy
Energy
In physics, energy is an indirectly observed quantity. It is often understood as the ability a physical system has to do work on other physical systems...

) from trapping and consuming animal
Animal
Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...

s or protozoans, typically insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

s and other arthropod
Arthropod
An arthropod is an invertebrate animal having an exoskeleton , a segmented body, and jointed appendages. Arthropods are members of the phylum Arthropoda , and include the insects, arachnids, crustaceans, and others...

s. Also known as carnivorous plants, they appear adapted to grow in places where the soil is thin or poor in nutrients, especially nitrogen
Nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

, such as acidic bog
Bog
A bog, quagmire or mire is a wetland that accumulates acidic peat, a deposit of dead plant material—often mosses or, in Arctic climates, lichens....

s and rock outcroppings. Insectivorous plants include the Venus flytrap
Venus Flytrap
The Venus Flytrap , Dionaea muscipula, is a carnivorous plant that catches and digests animal prey—mostly insects and arachnids. Its trapping structure is formed by the terminal portion of each of the plant's leaves and is triggered by tiny hairs on their inner surfaces...

, several types of pitcher plant
Pitcher plant
Pitcher plants are carnivorous plants whose prey-trapping mechanism features a deep cavity filled with liquid known as a pitfall trap. It has been widely assumed that the various sorts of pitfall trap evolved from rolled leaves, with selection pressure favouring more deeply cupped leaves over...

s, butterworts, sundew
Sundew
Drosera, commonly known as the sundews, comprise one of the largest genera of carnivorous plants, with at least 194 species. These members of the family Droseraceae lure, capture, and digest insects using stalked mucilaginous glands covering their leaf surface. The insects are used to supplement...

s, bladderwort
Bladderwort
Utricularia, commonly and collectively called the bladderworts, is a genus of carnivorous plants consisting of approximately 233 species . They occur in fresh water and wet soil as terrestrial or aquatic species across every continent except Antarctica...

s, the waterwheel plant
Waterwheel plant
Aldrovanda vesiculosa, commonly known as the waterwheel plant, is the sole extant species in the flowering plant genus Aldrovanda of the family Droseraceae. This plant feeds on small aquatic invertebrates using traps very similar to those of the Venus Flytrap. The traps are arranged in whorls...

, brocchinia
Brocchinia
Brocchinia is a genus of the botanical family Bromeliaceae, subfamily Pitcairnioideae. However, a recent DNA study suggests the breakup of the Pitcairnioideae subfamily into 6 new subfamilies and Brocchinia would be the sole genus of new subfamily Brocchinioideae . The genus is named for Giovanni...

 bromeliads, and others. These plants obtain nitrogen by trapping insects. They use a variety of mechanism such as pitfalls, sticky surfaces, hair-trigger snaps, bladder-trap and lobster-pot trap mechanisms.

Technically these plants are not strictly insectivorous, as they consume any animal small enough to be trapped by them; indeed, the larger varieties of pitcher plant have been known to consume small rodents and lizards. Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

 wrote the first well-known treatise on carnivorous plants
Insectivorous Plants (book)
Insectivorous Plants is a book by British naturalist and evolutionary theory pioneer Charles Darwin, first published on 2 July 1875 in London....

in 1875.
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