Necrophagy vs. Scavenging
I’ve heard some statements in the dog world claiming that dogs are necrophagous. I believe there is a “lost in translation” in these words. Also, adjective a species with a specific behavior pattern is a standard and repetitive error committed by individuals in dog training which may create more confusion than clarity.
Necrophagy or necrophagous animals describes an organism that (1) feeds on dead animals or carrion, or (2) that feeds on what is initially another living organism (or tissue) that is killed as a result of being fed on. The organism then continues to feed and obtain nutrients from the dead tissue. The term is usually applied to a microorganism feeding on a plant or plant material. The significant studies on necrophagy are related to insects such as ants, bees, larvae, and termites. You can also find studies with alligators, the paper on necrophagy in ecology, and a broad approach to intraspecific necrophagy, also called cannibalism.
A scavenging or a scavenger animal is an organism that mostly consumes decaying biomass, such as meat or other organic matter, but not limited. Scavengers are much more flexible about what they eat than necrophagous animals, which makes scavenger animals better at adapting to new environments than other organisms. Altig et al. (2007), Getz (2011), and Wilson and Wolkovich (2011) make a clear distinction between scavenging and (inadvertent) necrophagy patterns.
Other fitness, variabilities, and environmental influences in these behavior patterns make it difficult to attribute or classify them without further observations and registered data.
This is one of the reasons why I’m persistent with the importance of the language used in dog training to avoid disinformation. It is also essential that the audience increase their criterion of the content quality they read on social media.
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Altig, R., Whiles, M.R., Taylor, C.L., 2007. What do tadpoles really eat? Assessing the trophic status of an understudied and imperiled group of consumers in freshwater habitats. Freshw. Biol. 52, 386–395.
Choe, J.C. (2019). Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior, Second Edition, Four Volume Set. Academic Press. ISBN: 978-0-12-813252-4.
Collins Dictionary of Biology, 3rd ed. © W. G. Hale, V. A. Saunders, J. P. Margham 2005.
Getz, W.M., 2011. Biomass transformation webs provide a unified approach to consumer-resource modeling. Ecol. Lett. 14, 113–124.
Sincerbox, S.N., and DiGangi, E.A. (2018). Forensic Taphonomy and Ecology of North American Scavengers. Academic Press. ISBN: 978-0-12-813243-2.
Wilson, E.E., Wolkovich, E.M., 2011. Scavenging: how carnivores and carrion structure communities. Trends Ecol. Evol. 26, 129–135.