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Desert Diary
Biology/Meat Eaters


Vegetarianism among animals seems to be the route of choice. It's not hard to find major groups that, for all practical purposes, limit their diet to plants. Finding large categories of animals that feed strictly on other animals is much more difficult. Even most members of such related groups of species as the mammalian carnivores often partake of plants for part of their sustenance. One, the Giant Panda, even has forsaken meat for, of all things, bamboo!

There are two major groups, though, that appear to rely entirely on animal prey for food. Both groups are common in the Chihuahuan Desert and, interestingly enough, both tend to inspire fear in many people—the spiders, who like vampires suck the juices from their prey, and the snakes, who swallow their prey whole. Do these animals scare people because of our empathy for animals being drained of vital fluids or swallowed whole and possibly alive? Or maybe for the more practical reason that some spiders and snakes have poisons powerful enough to sicken and sometimes kill?
pen and ink


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.


A Checkered Gartersnake (Thamnophis marcianus)—like all snakes, a true carnivore. Photograph by Carl S. Lieb.



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