When it comes to reptiles, we tend to think of them as fearsome carnivores or leaf-munching herbivores. But did you know a there’s a group of reptiles that enjoy having the best of both worlds on their menu?
They are omnivores, one of nature’s most flexible eaters.
These foodies of the reptile world enjoy a versatile diet and will eat almost anything that’s available to them. From crunchy insects and invertebrates to juicy fruits and leafy greens, omnivores take full advantage of the wide array of delicacies that Mother Nature has to offer.
So, if you find yourself curious to learn more about these interesting creatures, you might ask:
What are some reptiles that are omnivores?
Aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles, box turtles, iguanas, bearded dragons, and Chinese water dragons are among the omnivorous reptiles that enjoy eating both animal and plant matter. Additionally, some lizards such as the blue-tongued skink, the ocellated lizard, and the Lilford’s wall lizard also have an omnivorous diet.
In this article, we’ll explore several different reptile species with a wide-ranging appetite. But first, let’s learn a little more about what it means to be an omnivore and how these reptilian creatures differ from their carnivorous and herbivorous relatives.
What Is An Omnivore?
There are three main types of dietary consumers in the world: Carnivores, Herbivores, and Omnivores. Each of these groups has developed their own unique preferences and adaptations when it comes to fulfilling their dietary needs.
Carnivores are exclusively meat-eaters, relying entirely on the flesh of other animals for their source of protein. With sharp teeth and powerful claws, these creatures are well-equipped to hunt down and capture their prey to satiate their hunger for meat.
Herbivores, on the other hand, thrive on plant-based diets, nourishing themselves with an abundance of leaves, stems, flowers, and fruits. With more flattened teeth designed for chewing and grinding, herbivores are able to extract vital nutrients from the cellulose-rich vegetation they graze on.
But nestled between these two distinct groups are omnivores, the culinary adventurers of the animal kingdom. Omnivores have evolved to capitalize on the nutritional benefits that both meat and plants offer, allowing them to indulge in a broad range of food sources.
This ability to adapt to different food sources gives omnivores an advantage in different environments.
In the wild, they can survive in diverse habitats because they’re able to make the most out of available resources. And in captivity, this adaptability is beneficial for reptile owners because it gives them the flexibility to provide a varied diet to their pet.
What Do Omnivores Eat?
When it comes to mealtime, omnivores have a diverse palate that includes a wide array of both plant-based and animal-based foods.
On the plant side, they savor everything from fresh fruits and veggies to leafy greens and vibrant flowers. They’ll even treat themselves to some sweet nectar or bee pollen, at times.
When they crave a heartier meal, however, their instincts kick in and they’ll hunt for insects, invertebrates, crustaceans, and even small mammals and birds.
Some omnivores have also been known to scavenge their surrounding areas for nest eggs and carrion when the opportunity arises.
8 Types Of Omnivorous Reptiles
Now that we’ve explained what omnivores are and how they compare to other dietary consumers in the animal world, let’s explore some different types of reptile species that are omnivorous, both in the wild and in captivity.
1. Aquatic Turtles
First on our list are aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles, like the red-eared slider, common map turtle, and common snapping turtle. These omnivorous creatures have not only adapted to thrive in their natural habitats of lakes, ponds, and rivers, but they have also become popular choices as pets.
When it comes to their diet, these turtles are opportunistic eaters. They have a voracious appetite and will devour almost anything they can catch and fit into their mouths. Seriously – I have two map turtles, and they’re practically a garbage disposal!
For plant matter, turtles usually eat a mixture of aquatic vegetation such as algae and other freshwater plants, and it’s not uncommon for them to gobble up fallen fruits or vegetables that find their way into the water.
In fact, if housing one as a pet in a vivarium, chances are they’ll take a bite or six out of any aquatic plants that share in their living space.
But these turtles also have a carnivorous side as well. They’re skilled hunters, and will use their sharp beaks and strong jaws to prey on insects, worms, small fish, and even crustaceans they find in the water and along the banks.
For those who keep aquatic turtles as pets, providing a balanced and varied diet is essential. The dietary preferences of turtles can vary slightly depending on the species and individual needs, but most will happily chow down on leafy greens, veggies, commercial turtle pellets, or dried shrimp.
Live insects like crickets and mealworms, as well as small fish, can also be offered to provide them with animal protein and enrichment.
2. Box Turtles
Another turtle species that exhibits omnivorous behavior is the box turtle.
Unlike aquatic turtles, box turtles are land-dwellers that can be found in habitats ranging from forests to open grasslands.
Box turtles also have an appetite that knows no bounds. As omnivores, they like to feed on vegetation like plant leaves, mushrooms, fruits from cacti, apples, and berries.
They’ll also hunt down wriggling insects, worms, snails, and other invertebrates that are small enough to swallow.
As with aquatic turtles, if you happen to own a box turtle as a pet, it’s best to provide them with a balanced diet.
Offer them a mixture of fresh fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens, and don’t forget to supplement their meals with protein-rich sources like insects and worms, at times.
Offering a wide variety of meal options will keep your box turtle healthy and happy.
Iguanas, like the green iguana, the Cuban rock iguana, and the rhino iguana, are arboreal reptiles that live in the tropics. They are also commonly kept as pets.
Although they are classed as omnivores, iguanas are actually known more for their herbivorous diet. They enjoy munching on leafy greens like turnip, mustard, and dandelion greens, and they can also be found eating flowers, fruits, and growing shoots from over 100 different plant species.
In Panama, one of the green iguana’s favorite foods happens to be the wild plum – yummy!
But while their main focus is on devouring a variety of plant matter, iguanas have also adapted to occasionally include animal-based protein in their diets, whenever necessary.
They’ve been known to hunt and consume a variety of insects and small vertebrates, along with bird eggs and sometimes carrion.
Maintaining a healthy diet is vital for iguanas, especially in captivity. Providing them with a variety of greens, fruits, and vegetables, along with the occasional protein-rich snack will ensure that they receive the necessary nutrients they need.
It’s also important to note that captive iguanas have specific dietary requirements, including a proper calcium-to-phosphorous ratio, which promotes healthy bone development.
4. Bearded Dragons
Bearded dragons are without a doubt one of the most popular and beloved reptile pets. Not just because of their fun personalities and easy-care requirements, but also because they’re omnivorous so they’re not picky eaters.
Bearded dragons come from habitats where food can be scarce, so they have adapted to a wide variety of different foods. With their sharp vision and keen sense of smell, beardies are skilled foragers, always on the lookout for a tasty treat.
Interestingly, juvenile bearded dragons are more carnivorous, needing a good amount of protein as they develop. They have a special fondness for insects, and can eat up to three times a day on average!
Popular insect choices for juvenile (and occasionally adult) beardies include crickets, dubia roaches, superworms, mealworms, silkworms, hornworms, locusts, and other feeder insects.
As bearded dragons mature into adults, their eating habits shift. While they still enjoy an occasional insect snack, their diet increasingly includes plant-based foods like leafy greens and vegetables.
Want to make sure you’re feeding the right variety of foods to your beardie? The informative video above is packed with valuable advice for keeping your bearded dragon healthy and strong!
5. Chinese Water Dragons
Chinese water dragons are beautiful, vibrant lizards that are often kept as pets. Though they may look like a relative of the iguana, they’re actually more closely related to bearded dragons.
While Chinese water dragons are considered to be omnivorous, they prefer to eat mostly meat and insect protein over fruits and vegetables when possible. In the wild, they will feast on a variety of insects, fish, small mammals, and other reptiles.
Greens are not a necessity, but they will still munch on them if they feel like it, and fruits make for a delightful occasional treat.
In captivity, however, Chinese water dragons enjoy eating mostly insects. Dubia roaches, crickets, silkworms, hornworms, super worms, and black soldier fly larvae are staples in their diet. Frozen silversides and tilapia strips are good choices to offer them too.
But keep in mind that it’s essential to use caution when it comes to feeding live fish to your water dragon, as live fish can carry parasites.
Unless you are confident about the source, it’s best to avoid live fish. Goldfish and minnows aren’t a great option anyway, as they can lead to a vitamin B deficiency.
6. Blue-Tongued Skink
Blue-tongued skinks are fascinating reptiles known for their distinctive blue tongues and unique appearance. They make for a great reptile companion due to their docile nature and are very popular pets among the reptile community.
Like the other omnivores on this list, blue-tongued skinks have a broad diet that consists of both plant matter and animal protein.
In the wild, they feast primarily on snails but will also track down any insects, small mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians they can find.
If you own a blue-tongued skink or are thinking of getting one as a pet, feeding time should be pretty easy. These lizards will gladly consume a mixed assortment of chopped veggies, fruits, and dark, leafy greens, all of which can be found at your local market.
Commercially prepared omnivore reptile diets are also an option, and of course, you’ll also want to provide some yummy snacks such as crickets, mealworms, and other small critters they can hunt down and enjoy.
7. Ocellated Lizard
These eye-catching lizards are native to parts of Europe, mostly around Spain. While they’re not as commonly kept as pets compared to some of the other reptiles on our list, they’re truly beautiful and unique creatures.
Ocellated lizards boast stunning iridescent scales that showcase a vibrant array of colors, from cool greens and blues to warm yellows and browns.
When it comes to finding food, these lizards are active hunters! Unlike most other lizards that will wait for prey to come their way, ocellated lizards will track down their meals themselves.
Their diet is diverse with their main appetite being large insects, beetles, and snails. But they’re also known to raid birds’ nests for eggs and enjoy other small vertebrates, frogs, and mammals as part of their menu.
But Ocellated lizards wouldn’t be on our list if they were strictly carnivorous. These reptiles are resourceful enough to turn to fruits and other plant matter, especially in dry areas where food items may be scarce.
8. Lilford’s Wall Lizard
Another lizard native to parts of Spain that is more of a wild species and not commonly kept as a pet is the Lilford’s Wall Lizard. These guys are relatively small and brownish in color, with dark stripes running down their bodies and tails.
Lilford’s wall lizards have quite an appetite for a variety of foods. As true opportunists, they will feed on insects, snails, spiders, and other arthropods.
But they will also sneak up on birds’ nests and snatch up any leftovers from gulls that are regurgitating food scraps for their chicks.
They’ve also been observed to have cannibalistic tendencies, consuming juveniles of their own species and even nibbling on the tails of other lizards.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about these lizards, though, is that they play a vital role in the pollination process of certain plant species endemic to the islands they roam on.
These plants rely on the Lilford’s wall lizard to transfer pollen from one flower to another, ensuring their continued reproduction and survival.
So, there you have it! Some of the world’s most interesting omnivorous reptiles.
Omnivores are like the ultimate foodies, indulging in the best of both worlds.
Not only do they get to enjoy a more varied diet than most other reptiles, but their ability to embrace both plant-based and animal-based foods gives them a remarkable advantage in many different environments.
Whether they’re munching on fresh fruits and leafy greens or hunting down insects and small animals, these fascinating reptiles have proven they can adapt and find nourishment wherever they go.