Scavenging is both a carnivorous and a herbivorous feeding behavior in which the scavenger feeds on dead animal and plant material present in its habitat. Scavengers play an important role in the ecosystem by consuming the dead animal and plant material. Decomposers and detritivores complete this process, by consuming the remains left by scavengers.
Scavenger is an alteration of scavager, from Middle English skawager meaning "customs collector", from skawage meaning "customs", from Old North French escauwage meaning "inspection", from schauwer meaning "to inspect", of Germanic origin; akin to Old English scēawian and German schauen meaning "to look at", and modern English "show" (with semantic drift).
Obligate scavenging is very rare in the animal kingdom, due to the difficulty of finding enough carrion without expending too much energy. In vertebrates, only vultures and possibly some pterosaurs are obligate scavengers, as terrestrial soaring flyers are the only animals able to find enough carrion.
Most scavenging animals are facultative scavengers that gain most of their food through other methods, especially predation. Many large carnivores that hunt regularly, such as hyenas and jackals, but also animals rarely thought of as scavengers, such as African lions, leopards, and wolves will scavenge if given the chance. They may also use their size and ferocity to intimidate the original hunters (the cheetah is a notable exception). Almost all scavengers above insect size are predators and will hunt if not enough carrion is available, as few ecosystems provide enough dead animals year-round to keep its scavengers fed on that alone. Scavenger wild dogs and crows frequently exploit roadkill.
Scavengers of dead plant material include termites that build nests in grasslands and then collect dead plant material for consumption within the nest. The interaction between scavenging animals and humans is seen today most commonly in suburban settings with animals such as opossums, polecats and raccoons. In some African towns and villages, scavenging from hyenas is also common.
In the prehistoric eras, the species Tyrannosaurus rex may have been an apex predator, preying upon hadrosaurs, ceratopsians, and possibly juvenile sauropods, although some experts have suggested the dinosaur was primarily a scavenger. The debate about whether Tyrannosaurus was an apex predator or scavenger was among the longest ongoing feud in paleontology; however, most scientists now agree that Tyrannosaurus was an opportunistic carnivore, acting mostly as a predator but scavenging when it could. Recent research also shows that while an adult Tyrannosaurus rex would energetically gain little though scavenging, smaller theropods of approximately 500 kg may have potentially gained levels similar to that of hyenas, though not enough for them to rely on scavenging.
Animals which consume feces, such as dung beetles, are referred to as coprovores. Animals that collect small particles of dead organic material of both animal and plant origin are referred to as detritivores.
In the 1970s Lewis Binford suggested that early humans primarily obtained meat via scavenging, not through hunting.[need quotation to verify] In 2010 Dennis Bramble and Daniel Lieberman proposed that early carnivorous human ancestors subsequently developed long-distance running behaviors which improved the ability to scavenge and hunt: they could reach scavenging sites more quickly and also pursue a single animal until it could be safely killed at close range due to exhaustion and hyperthermia.
In modern humans, necrophagy (eating of dead/decaying flesh) occurs rarely in most societies. This is likely an adaptation to the risk of disease, due to humans having lower levels of protective acids in the digestive tract, compared to species that are dedicated scavengers. Many instances have occurred in history, especially in times of war, where necrophagy and cannibalism can emerge as a survival behavior.
"Scavenger" appears as an occupation in the 1911 Census of England and Wales. This job title applied to someone who cleans the streets and removes refuse, generally a workman (a modern-day garbage collector, janitor, or street cleaner) employed by the local public-health authority.
In India, the term "manual scavenging" is used to describe the removal of raw (fresh and untreated) human excreta from buckets or other containers that are used as toilets or from the pits of pit latrines. The workers pile the excreta into baskets and may carry these on their heads to locations sometimes several kilometers from the latrines. India has officially prohibited the employment of manual scavengers since 1993, but the practice continues as of 2014[update].
The term "scavenger" originated as "scavager" or "scaveger", an official concerned with the receipt of custom duties and the inspection (scavage) of imported goods. The "scavagers" are found[by whom?] with such officials of the City of London as an aleconner or beadle. These officials seem to have been charged also with the cleaning of the streets, and the name superseded the older rakyer for those who performed this duty. These professions are essential to urban settings operating at the highest capacity. The garbage-collection jobs and scavenging professions allow urban populations to continue unhindered by outbreaks of disease most commonly caused by the build-up of physical waste. These jobs had great importance before the times of functional sewer systems and of indoor plumbing.
White-backed vultures feeding on a carcass of a wildebeest
A white shark scavenging on a whale carcass
An Ibiza wall lizard scavenging on fish scraps left over from another predator
Human endurance running performance capabilities compare favourably with those of other mammals and probably emerged sometime around 2 million years ago in order to help meat-eating hominids compete with other carnivores. [...] [S]mall teeth, larger bodies and archaeological remains suggest that hominids started to incorporate meat and other animal tissues in the diet at least 2.5Ma, probably by hunting as well as scavenging. [...] [Endurance running] might have enabled hominids to scavenge carcasses from lions after they were abandoned but before hyenas arrived, as modern hunter-gatherers still do in East Africa.
This article lacks ISBNs for the books listed in it. (July 2010)
None of the audio/visual content is hosted on this site. All media is embedded from other sites such as GoogleVideo, Wikipedia, YouTube etc. Therefore, this site has no control over the copyright issues of the streaming media.
All issues concerning copyright violations should be aimed at the sites hosting the material. This site does not host any of the streaming media and the owner has not uploaded any of the material to the video hosting servers. Anyone can find the same content on Google Video or YouTube by themselves.
The owner of this site cannot know which documentaries are in public domain, which has been uploaded to e.g. YouTube by the owner and which has been uploaded without permission. The copyright owner must contact the source if he wants his material off the Internet completely.