Lesson Plan

Carnivores, Herbivores, Omnivores?

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Grade Level:
Sixth Grade-Eighth Grade
Biology: Animals, Biology: Plants, Conservation, Ecology, Environment, Wildlife Biology
45 minutes
Group Size:
Up to 24 (4-8 breakout groups)
National/State Standards:
Standard 6: Students assess the interrelated cycles and forces that shape Earth’s surface, including human interaction with Earth. (ASDOE Elementary Science Standards: Grade 6-8, pp. 56-73)


Most animals can be grouped by what and how many kinds of foods they eat. Animals that eat many different things are called generalists, while those that eat only one or a few foods are called specialists. True specialization is often a two-way dependency: an animal depends on a plant for food, and the plant depends on that animal to help it disperse its seeds. On remote islands like American Samoa, there are limited food supplies, and cyclones can cause serious shortages of food.


Students will be able to:

1. Define the vocabulary terms carnivore, herbivore, and omnivore.

2. Identify two examples for each of the vocabulary terms in American Samoa's ecosystem.

3. Describe how our actions can threaten the health of our ecosystems



The technical word for the generalist—omnivore—literally means “eats everything.” Humans probably have the broadest diet of any animal—we happily eat meat, vegetables, seeds, and fruit. Animals that are most likely to survive in new environments, like when they first arrived on Tutuila, are often omnivores. A good example is the rat (isumu), which can eat fruit, eggs, crabs, fungi, and probably many other things.

Carnivores are those species that eat almost exclusively other animals. We usually think of carnivores as fierce hunters, like wolves or lions, but actually any animal that eats other animals are carnivores. The Barn Owl, or lulu, is the only Samoan animal that hunts other birds and mammals, but there are lots of other carnivores, including fish-eating birds and multiple animals that eat insects.

Herbivores describe animals that eat only plants. This is a very general term, so it is better to specify what part of a plant is eaten, whether leaves, fruits, or nectar. Each kind of animal usually is good at eating only one, or at most two, of these parts of a plant, because they are so different. For example, to rely on leaves, you need strong teeth to grind up the tough fibers and a big stomach to process all that material. Cows and horses are well equipped for the job. At the other extreme, to rely on nectar (the sweet liquid inside of flowers), you need to be able to zip between lots of flowers and reach inside to suck up the small amount of juice in each one. Nectar-feeders tend to be small and energetic, with long beaks or tongues to reach inside flowers. Finally, to eat fruit, you need to be able to travel long distances, since trees with fruit are often hard to find.

There are no native Samoan animals that are specialists in eating leaves (except insects and snails). However, leaves are regular parts of the diet of fruit bats (pe'a) and the Pacific Pigeon (lupe). Perhaps the leaves contain a nutrient that can't be found in fruit, or maybe they help to fill up a hungry animal when there is little other food available.


1. Glue
2. Flash cards
3. Hole puncher

4. String and/or plastic ribbon
5. Pencils and/or pens

6. Markers
7. Scissors
8. Projector
9. Computer