Word of the Week: scavenger

scavenger (SKA-vehn-jur) noun. organism that eats dead or rotting biomass, such as animal flesh or plant material.

Photo of a hyena.
Photograph by Chris Johns

A scavenger is an organism that mostly consumes decaying biomass, such as meat or rotting plant material. Many scavengers are a type of carnivore, which is an organism that eats meat. While most carnivores hunt and kill their prey, scavengers usually consume animals that have either died of natural causes or been killed by another carnivore.

Photo of a polar bear.
Polar bears are animals that scavenge and eat living things. Photograph by Mary Ford

Scavengers play an important role the food web. They keep an ecosystem free of the bodies of dead animals, or carrion. Scavengers break down this organic material and recycle it into the ecosystem as nutrients.

National Geographic Great Nature Project

The Great Nature Project celebrates global biodiversity through the display of photos of living things. Use the Great Nature Project to look at more photos of scavengers, like vultures.

Can you find scavengers, carnivores, herbivores near where you live? How about the things they eat?

Share your photos and contribute to a biodiversity database.

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