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Carnivore vs. Omnivore: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on October 14, 2023
Carnivores exclusively consume animal flesh, while omnivores eat a varied diet of both animal flesh and plants.

Key Differences

Carnivores are organisms that predominantly consume animal flesh, adapting various hunting or scavenging strategies to fulfill their dietary needs. In contrast, omnivores have a more diversified diet, incorporating both plant-based and animal-based food sources, allowing them to adapt to a wider range of environments.
The dietary specificity of carnivores involves the consumption of other animals, including herbivores, omnivores, or other carnivores, often having developed specialized physiological features like sharp teeth and claws for capturing and consuming prey. Omnivores, on the other hand, display a mixture of anatomical and physiological traits, enabling the consumption of a broader spectrum of foods, including fruits, grains, leaves, and animal matter.
Within the animal kingdom, carnivores, like lions and eagles, play a crucial role in controlling the population of other animals, maintaining ecological balance. Simultaneously, omnivores, like bears and humans, are adaptable feeders, able to derive energy and nutrients from multiple food sources, exhibiting flexibility in their feeding habits, and contributing to various ecological interactions.
While carnivores tend to have a higher metabolic rate to efficiently process high-protein diets, and a more developed sense of smell to locate prey, omnivores often exhibit a balance in sensory and metabolic adaptations, to efficiently utilize the diverse food sources available to them.
To summarize, carnivores are specialized, meat-eating organisms with adaptations suited to a predatory lifestyle, whereas omnivores possess the versatility to consume both plant and animal matter, adjusting their diets according to the availability of food sources in their environment.

Comparison Chart


Consumes only animal flesh.
Consumes both plant-based and animal-based foods.


Has sharp teeth and claws for hunting and consuming.
Exhibits a mix of adaptations for a varied diet.

Ecological Role

Controls animal populations through predation.
Exhibits flexibility in feeding habits and interactions.


Higher metabolic rate for processing proteins.
Balanced metabolism for varied nutrients.


Specialized diet and lifestyle.
Versatile and adaptable to different food sources.

Carnivore and Omnivore Definitions


An organism with a diet consisting mainly of meat.
The cheetah, a carnivore, is adept at hunting prey in its natural habitat.


An animal that eats both plants and animals.
Humans are omnivores, capable of consuming a varied diet consisting of plant and animal matter.


A meat-eater at the top of the food chain.
As a carnivore, the eagle plays a crucial role in maintaining ecological balance.


A creature that can derive energy and nutrients from multiple food sources.
Raccoons are adaptable omnivores, eating fruits, insects, eggs, and various other foods.


A creature adapted physiologically and anatomically to consuming flesh.
Sharks are marine carnivores with powerful jaws adapted to catching and eating prey.


An organism with a diverse diet including different food types.
Bears are omnivores, eating berries, fish, and a variety of other foods depending on availability.


An entity that predominantly consumes animal flesh for energy.
The spotted hyena is a scavenging carnivore, feeding on the remnants of kills left by other predators.


An entity that can consume and digest both plant and animal-based foods.
Pigs are omnivores, able to eat a broad range of food items, from grains to small animals.


An animal that feeds exclusively on other animals.
Lions are carnivores, relying on the consumption of other animals for sustenance.


A being capable of adjusting its diet based on the availability of food sources.
The opportunistic crow is an omnivore, feeding on fruits, small animals, and carrion.


Any of various mammals of the order Carnivora, including the dogs, cats, bears, weasels, raccoons, and seals, most of which are predatory flesh-eating animals.


An omnivorous animal
"Humans are quintessential omnivores" (Paul Rozin).


Any of various other flesh-eating animals.


One that takes in everything available, as with the mind.


An insectivorous plant.


An animal which is able to consume both plants (like a herbivore) and meat (like a carnivore).
Bears are omnivores: they can eat plants, but they also eat fish.


An organism that feeds chiefly on animals; an animal that feeds on meat as the main part of its diet.
As juveniles the crocodiles are frequently predated by larger carnivores.


A person who eats all kinds of foods


(zoology) A mammal belonging to the order Carnivora.
The panda and the panther are both carnivores.


An animal that feeds on both animal and vegetable substances


(informal) A person who is not a vegetarian.


A follower of the carnivore diet consuming only animal-based products, such as meat, eggs and dairy


One of the Carnivora.


Terrestrial or aquatic flesh-eating mammal; terrestrial carnivores have four or five clawed digits on each limb


Any animal that feeds on flesh;
Tyrannosaurus Rex was a large carnivore
Insectivorous plants are considered carnivores


Are all omnivores humans?

While humans are omnivores, many other animals, like pigs and bears, are also omnivores.

Are all carnivores predators?

While many carnivores are predators, some, like vultures, are scavengers.

Can a carnivore survive on a vegetarian diet?

Carnivores have specific nutritional needs that are not met by a vegetarian diet, leading to health issues.

Can omnivores have a vegetarian diet?

Omnivores can adapt to a vegetarian diet as they can derive necessary nutrients from plant matter.

Do all carnivores have claws?

Many carnivores have claws for hunting, but not all; for example, snakes are clawless carnivores.

Can an omnivore's diet change seasonally?

Yes, many omnivores have seasonal variations in their diet depending on food availability.

Can carnivores eat plants?

Carnivores are adapted to consume meat, and a plant-based diet doesn’t meet their nutritional needs.

Can omnivores digest cellulose?

Omnivores lack the ability to digest cellulose efficiently, relying on other nutrients from plants.

Do carnivores have sharper teeth than omnivores?

Typically, carnivores have more specialized, sharp teeth for tearing meat, while omnivores have a mix of teeth types.

Are omnivores at the middle of the food chain?

Omnivores can occupy various levels in the food chain, depending on their feeding habits and predators.

Are omnivores more adaptable than carnivores?

Generally, omnivores are more adaptable due to their ability to consume a varied diet.

Can omnivores have food preferences?

Omnivores can exhibit preferences for certain foods based on availability, nutritional value, and learned behavior.

Why are some animals carnivores and not omnivores?

Evolutionary adaptations and ecological niches determine whether an animal is a carnivore or an omnivore.

Are carnivores more aggressive than omnivores?

Aggression in animals is not strictly related to diet and can vary widely among both carnivores and omnivores.

Why don’t carnivores eat plants for easier food access?

Carnivores are physiologically adapted to consume meat, and plant matter doesn’t fulfill their specific nutritional requirements.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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