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A hypercarnivore is an animal where more than 70% of the diet is meat from vertebrate animals, with the balance consisting of nonvertebrate foods which may include fungi, fruits and other plant material.[1][2] Some examples include dolphins, eagles, snakes, marlin, most sharks, and such invertebrates as octopuses and sea stars. Additionally, this term is also used in paleobiology to describe taxa of animals which have an increased slicing component of their dentition relative to the grinding component.[2] Hypercarnivores need not be superpredators. Salmon are exclusively carnivorous, yet they are prey at all stages of life for a variety of organisms.

Many prehistoric mammals of the clade Carnivoramorpha (Carnivora and Miacoidea without Creodonta), along with the early Order Creodonta, and some mammals of the even earlier Order Cimolesta, were hypercarnivores. The earliest carnivorous mammal is considered to be the Cimolestes that existed during the Late Cretaceous and Tertiary Periods in North America about 65 million years ago. Theropod dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex that existed during the late Cretaceous, although not mammals, were obligate carnivores.

Large hypercarnivores evolved frequently in the fossil record, often in response to an ecological opportunity afforded by the decline or extinction of previously dominant hypercarnivorous taxa. While the evolution of large size and carnivory may be favored at the individual level, it can lead to a macroevolutionary decline, wherein such extreme dietary specialization results in reduced population densities and a greater vulnerability for extinction.[3] As a result of these opposing forces, the fossil record of carnivores is dominated by successive clades of hypercarnivores that diversify and decline, only to be replaced by new hypercarnivorous clades.

See also


  1. ^ Van Valkenburgh, B. (1988). "Trophic diversity in past and present guilds of large predatory mammals". Paleobiology 14: 155–73.  
  2. ^ a b Holliday, J.A; Steppan, S.J. (2004). "Evolution of hypercarnivory: the effect of specialization on morphological and taxonomic diversity". Paleobiology 30 (1): 108–128. doi:10.1666/0094-8373(2004)030<0108:EOHTEO>2.0.CO;2.  
  3. ^ Van Valkenburgh, B. (2004). "Cope's Rule, Hypercarnivory, and Extinction in North American Canids". Science 306: 101. doi:10.1126/science.1102417. PMID 15459388.  


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