Filtering animals - What they are and examples

All living beings require energy to fulfill their vital processes, and this is obtained from the nutrients that are consumed. The vast diversity of animal species that exist has different characteristics, among which are the way they feed, so that each group obtains and processes food in a particular way, which is linked to its own anatomical and physiological conditions, but is also related to the habitat in which they develop.

An example of this we have in the so-called filter feeders, that separate their food from an aqueous medium thanks to specialized structures for this purpose. At AnimalWised, we want to present you with information about these living beings, so that you know what this particular way of eating consists of and which animals are included in this group..

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  1. What are filter feeders?
  2. Examples of filter feeders
  3. Examples of filter birds
  4. Examples of filter fish
  5. Examples of filter feeders

What are filter feeders?

Filtering animals are named for their peculiar way of feeding. Filter feeding is usually carried out in aquatic environments and consists of capturing the food (which can be of both plant and animal origin) and then discard the water so that only the prey can be ingested.

¿What filter animals eat?

The diet of filter feeders can be very varied and in some cases more specific, and can be made up of:

  • Plankton.
  • Other animals.
  • Floors.
  • Algae.
  • Bacteria.
  • Organic matter remains.

Types of filter feeders

Filtering animals can feed in various ways:

  • Active animals: some filter feeders remain active in the aquatic environment constantly seeking their sustenance.
  • Sessile animals: we can also find sessile species that depend on the currents of the water so that these pass through their body and thus achieve to catch the food.
  • Animals that absorb water: in other cases, where currents do not facilitate this process, the animals absorb the water and with it the food, so that it is retained by the animal.

These species are present in diverse groups, from birds, mammals to a great variety of invertebrates. They have a fundamental role within the trophic networks of ecosystems. In addition, they can play an important role in water clarification and purification, as is the case with oysters. Let's get to know in more detail some examples of filter feeders.

Examples of filter feeders

Within the filtering mammals we find the mysticetes, which are the baleen whales, where we find the largest mammal on earth. These animals lack teeth, and instead possess flexible sheets made of keratin, which are called barbs and are located in the upper jaw. Thus, the whale when swimming keeps its mouth open so that the water enters. Then, with the help of the tongue, it expels it, and the prey of the appropriate size are retained in the barbs, which are then ingested.

This group of animals consumes fish, krill or zooplankton, since they are carnivores, but whatever the food is, it must be presented in large quantities for them to be interested in catching it. Baleen whales can feed at different depths, both on the bottom and on the surface.

Some examples of filter feeders are:

  • Southern Right Whale (Eubalaena australis).
  • Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus).
  • Gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus).
  • Dwarf right whale (Caperea marginata).
  • Fin whale (Balaenoptera borealis).

Examples of filter birds

Within birds, we also find some that feed through filtration. Specifically, they are individuals that live most of the time in bodies of water and some of them can even be excellent swimmers. These can be:

  • Filtering birds exclusively: as is the case with flamingos.
  • Mixed feeding birds: others can combine this mode of feeding with other adaptive strategies, as is the case of ducks, which have filtering structures, but also have a kind of small "teeth " inside their beaks, with which they can directly attach to The prey.

Among the foods that these birds filter we can find shrimp, mollusks, larvae, fish, algae and protozoa. In some cases, they can ingest small amounts of mud to consume certain bacteria present in this sediment.

Examples of filter fish

In the group of fish, there are also several species that are filter feeders, and their food can consist of plankton, small crustaceans, other smaller fish and in some cases algae. Among filter fish, we find for example:

  • Whale shark (Rhincodon typus).
  • Basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus).
  • Broadmouth shark (Megachasma pelagios).
  • Atlantic tarpon (Brevoortia tyrannus).

Generally, these animals let water enter through their mouth, which passes to their gills, in which they are found. spiny structures that retain food. Once the water is expelled, they go on to consume the food.

Examples of filter feeders

Within invertebrates, we find the greatest diversity of filter feeders, and as in the case of filter feeders, they are exclusively aquatic. Let's learn about examples of various filter feeders:

  • Bivalve mollusks: within this group we find oysters, mussels and scallops. In the case of oysters, with the movement of their cilia, they suck the water and the food is trapped in a viscous substance that they have in their jowls. Oysters filter various pollutants that reach the water, processing them in such a way that they are no longer dangerous. For their part, mussels feed on phytoplankton and suspended organic matter, also using cilia so that the marine liquid flows into the body..
  • SpongesPorifers are also filtering invertebrates that have a very well adapted body system for this process, which has multiple chambers with flagella that retain organic particles, bacteria, protozoa and plankton in general, to feed. This group is also capable of storing polluting substances present in water..
  • Crustaceans: Two members of this group that represent filter feeders very well are krill and misidaceans, both of which are marine habitats. Despite their tiny size, they are quite efficient at filtering and collecting suspended particles or phytoplankton, on which they feed. Filtration occurs through structures called "feeding baskets ", where it is retained and then consumed..

Filtering animals have a important ecological role within aquatic ecosystems, since they renew the water through its filtering process, thus keeping the amounts of particles suspended in this medium stable. In this way, their presence becomes very important within these spaces. In addition, as we have commented, they have a great relevance in trophic relationships, as they constitute one of the first levels of these complex webs.

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