How do animals identify what is food and what is not?

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I get it’s easy to identify meat as food as a carnivore, and the same graze a herbivore has been eating all its life. But even artificial food made by humans like pet food is eaten fairly quickly by an animal that has never seen it before. Is the smell or something? What do they look for in smelling food?

In: Biology

>But even artificial food made by humans like pet food is eaten fairly quickly by an animal that has never seen it before

Hmmm not so true for all animals. I don’t know for others but rats in lab have a huge neophobia, like they fear everything new, including the food we give them.

In order for them to realise that it’s food and that it can be eaten, you have to litteraly put them on food restriction so they are “starved” and start eating the food. They are really headstrong.

As for how does animals know what is food what is not ? I can’t really answer you but I can tell you that rodents are very good at discriminating “bad” food from “good” food. They associate good food with salty/sugary aliments and bad food with acid/bitter ones, if they taste something bitter, they will (unless they don’t have the choice) avoid the bitter food.

And rats have a very good memory for bad food experience. Let’s say a rat got a sick stomach from food A. Well if you put the rat in a room with food A, the rats will not eat it. And that works up to a year after a bad food experience.