Scavenging desert animals include ravens, vultures, crows, foxes and coyotes. Additionally, many scavenging insects subsist on dead organisms. Some of the desert’s scavengers are capable of capturing their own prey, but as food can be scarce in the desert, they are always looking to scavenge an easy meal.
Scavengers are a type of consumer, just as carnivores are. The primary difference between the two groups is that carnivores typically hunt and kill their prey, while scavengers eat dead or nearly dead prey. Sometimes, scavengers subsist on food that carnivores killed. However, some scavengers, such as some insects, consume dead plants instead.
Scavengers often have adaptations that aid their scavenging habits. For example, coyotes and foxes have a strong sense of smell, which helps them to locate carcasses. Vultures have a strong sense of smell, which is a rare trait among other bird species. Vultures have also evolved into bald creatures, which helps them to stay clean while inserting their heads into dead animals. Even sedentary animals are capable of traveling efficiently over long distances to increase their chances of detecting food.
Scavengers play an important role in desert ecosystems. By eating dead organisms, they help to recycle the minerals in their bodies back into the ecosystem.