Field guide training: Mammals – Part 3

Mammals can be classified regarding their nutrition. This is a topic that a field guide should be familiar with – receive further information in the following blog post.


In addition to gait and foot shape, the diet of mammals serves as a criterion for classifying them into systematic groups. The type of diet also provides information on preferred habitats for certain animals and their association with other species.

Diet is an important characteristic for the classification of mammalian species. The most important main groups are listed below:

  • Herbivores: Grazing herbivores and Browsing herbivores
  • Carnivores
  • Omnivores

The following general statements can be made to relate the gait of mammals to their diet:

-Plantigrade animals have, at least in Southern Africa, usually an omnivorous way of life, for example humans and primates.

-Digitigrade animals are often carnivores. However, some of these species can switch to an omnivorous lifestyle depending on environmental conditions, such as jackals, which occasionally eat fruit from bushes and trees, or genets.

-Unguligrade animals live almost exclusively herbivore, as with the digitigrade animals it can come to an omnivore behaviour under certain environmental conditions, however.


Depending on the type of food, the different diets can be divided into further categories:

Herbivore (Grazing herbivores)

  • Selective grazers: animals that eat only certain types of grass
  • Unselective bulk grazers: animals that are not restricted to a specific grass species
  • Browsing herbivores: leaves, fruits, roots or flowers serve as food
  • Fructivore: These animals are exclusively specialized in fruits
  • Mixed herbivore: animals that live as grazers, fructivores or leaf eaters


  • Insectivore
  • Piscivore, for example Otter

Adventures to get you dreaming

Our blog