What Is Fluid Feeding?

Category: Feeding Behavior.

One of the most common feeding modes for animals is fluid feeding, alongside bulk feeding, phagocytosis, deposit feeding and filter feeding. What is fluid feeding? It is the process where animals in this classification can gain their nutrients by eating the fluid from the prey that they catch or attack.

Bedbug feeding on human blood. © CDC and WHO.

Examples of fluid feeders

Some important types of animals that are known for fluid feeding are spiders, hummingbirds, aphids, ticks, fleas, vampire bats, flies, leeches and mosquitoes. Other than the exception of the beautiful hummingbird, the animals and wildlife that typically use the fluid feeding method are considered to be the scariest and most unappealing of them all.

They have a bad reputation

Other than this, there’s another reason why fluid feeders have a bad reputation. Even though the fluids that these animals are eating are natural, the fluid that provides them with nutrients is actually, in most cases, blood (hematophagy) – although not all. These bloodsuckers are usually considered less desirable than animals that use other eating methods. Despite its lack of popularity, there have been fluid feeders around for hundreds of millions of years, 428 to be exact, when insects first began to move around on land and adopted the fluid feeding method.

Aphid feeding on plant sap. © Sanjay Acharya.

Common characteristics

The thing that all fluid feeders have in common is the fact that they need some sort of sharp mechanism on their body to pierce the skin or wall of a plant to obtain their food source. They also need a part of their body that has the ability to remove and suck out the fluid, so it can be used as nutrition for the fluid feeder.

An expert fluid feeder

One example of an experienced fluid feeder is an aphid. These insects have the ability to very proficiently suck out the fluids of plants, which is why you’ll often see large volumes of them in a flower patch or a field. This is especially true in areas where the plants being grown contain a sweeter fluid substance.

Green Violetear. Hummingbirds are fluid feeders. © Mdf.

The hummingbird

The most well liked fluid feeder, the hummingbird, utilizes the fluid feeding method by obtaining fluid nutrients from flowers. Aside from the hummingbird’s eating method, hummingbirds are an amazing animal, with their ability to fly backwards and being able to easily move both vertically and laterally.

Special beaks

In order for the hummingbirds to be able to feed, they use their beaks, which are long and curved, to drink the nectar fluid from the flowers. This method is what makes them fluid feeders. It’s a good thing that they are excellent in their ability to fluid feed, as their high metabolism always keeps them just on the brink of starving.

Bloodsucker fluid feeders

While the bloodsucker category of fluid feeders is unpopular, the least popular of all of them in this category are the fluid feeding animals that feast on blood. Other than humans disliking their bodies being used as a meal, this method of fluid feeding has the ability to spread dangerous diseases and infections, like Lyme disease, which can be fatal. One of the most villainized of these fluid feeders is the mosquito, which spreads malaria, which kills around 1.3 million people each year.

Fluid feeding is just one way to find food

Fluid feeding, like any other, is crucial in maintaining a balance in the world’s ecosystems, despite the unpopularity of some animals that fluid feed. Whether it’s a beautiful hummingbird getting nectar from a flower in the garden, or the horrible mosquito giving a person a fatal case of malaria, it’s important to know about fluid feeders and their behavior.

Other feeding modes

  1. Deposit feeding
  2. Filter feeding
  3. Phagocytosis feeding

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