What's for dinner? Meat? Insects? Plants? All of the above?
An animal skull's form (morphology) and dentition (form and number of teeth) gives clues as to how and what it eats. Dentition and eye placement are tools that have evolved for specific functions. Some teeth are shaped perfectly for stabbing, cutting or slicing, while others work well to grind. Eye socket placement and orientation gives further clues. Eyes positioned and oriented forward, for binocular vision, are helpful for targeting prey and calculating distance; eyes positioned and oriented laterally (to the sides) allow for greater peripheral vision and the ability to see threats from wide angles. Each of these adaptations helps its owner acquire nutrition, avoid threats and survive to reproduce.
- Carnivore (cougar) – eats primarily animal meat or flesh; from Latin caro, meaning 'meat' or 'flesh'
- Insectivore (elephant shrew) – a carnivore that specifically eats insects; from Latin insectum meaning 'insect'
- Herbivore (white-tailed deer) – eats plant material; from Latin herba meaning 'herb'
- Omnivore (raccoon) – eats a large variety of food sources (plant, animal meat, insects, etc.); from Latin omnes meaning 'all'
The name of each group ends in the suffix 'vore' – from the Latin word meaning 'to eat', or 'to devour'. The prefixes identify what the animal specialises in eating.
Instructors will be able to discuss the skull and teeth features of each animal and how they serve their dietary needs. Topics examining the niches of a balanced ecosystem can also be explored. Additionally, each animal can be compared to their prospective habitats, bringing into focus discussions of animal adaptation, animal behaviour and environmental concepts.