Feeding Behaviours

In the last blog post I mentioned that feeding behaviours are used when an animal needs to supplement certain nutrients in their diet. This may be due to the food that they consume doesn’t contain a large amount of that specific nutrient, and so over time, the species has evolved behaviours to deal with these issues. 

The names of feeding behaviours end in ‘phagy’ or ‘phagia’ depending on when they’re used. The ‘phagy’ or ‘phagia’ comes from the Greek word ‘phagein’, which means ‘to eat’. 

Here is a table with the names of different feeding behaviours

Feeding BehaviourItem Consumed
Coniophagy/phagiaFeeding on dust
Coprophagy/phagiaFeeding on faeces
Geophagy/phagiaFeeding on soil
Hermatophagy/phagiaFeeding on blood
Lithophagy/phagiaFeeding on stones
Monophagy/phagiaFeeding on a single type of food
Oplinophagy/phagiaFeeding on snakes
Osteophagy/phagiaFeeding on bone
Phytophagy/phagiaFeeding on plants
Polyphagy/phagiaFeeding on many types of food
Trichophagy/phagiaFeeding on hair or wool
Urophagy/phagiaFeeding on urine
Xylophagy/phagiaFeeding on wood

Giraffes are a known animal that perform osteophagy. They are herbivores and are in the browser category; however, they will perform this behaviour due to needing more calcium in their diet. 

Rabbits are known to perform coprophagy. As gross as it sounds, the rabbits will ingest their soft faeces that they produce during the day. This is due to not fully absorbing all the nutrients from their food the first time around and so by ingesting partially digested food, they are able to extract all the nutrients from it. This then means that they produce the usual dry pellets that you normally find. 

As I mentioned in the previous blog, animal nutritionists will look at the animals’ diet in the wild to create foods that meet all of the animals’ nutritional needs; however, they also need to be aware of any specific feeding behaviours such as the examples I have shared to include those nutrients within the diet as well. 

Some of these behaviours may be performed often by animals, such as coprophagy in rabbits or oplinophagy in snake eagles (it would be a bit odd to call them snake eagles if snakes weren’t a regular part of their diet). Some of these behaviours may be very rarely performed however; making it very exciting if you ever get to witness any of these. 

Information sources:

  • Carnaby. T. 2018. Beat About the Bush Exploring the Wild

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