When it comes to food most mammals are specialists - some eat nothing but termites, some just seeds, others eat only flesh, and one species, the giant panda, relies almost exclusively on bamboo. But, there is an alternative strategy for feeding. Instead of being a specialist you can be a generalist - an omnivore - able to eat such a variety of food that you can always make the most of whatever seems to be around at the time. It's the recipe for a successful story, and amongst this diverse group of animals are some of the most charismatic and widespread mammals on the planet. This strategy does, however, require many specialist skills. Omnivores, for example, need to be inquisitive, like the raccoon which, with its highly sensitive hands, searches for food both on land and underwater. They need to have a strong sense of smell, like the bizarre looking babirusa pig, which can easily detect the scent of ripe fruit wafting gently through dense tropical vegetation.
They need to be opportunists, like skunks in Texas which, for a few weeks a year, feast on baby bats that fall to the ground from cave walls. But, above all omnivores need to be adaptable - whether hibernating through periods of food scarcity, like the raccoon dog, or just making the most of whatever food happens to most plentiful at the time, like the grizzly bear which, at certain times of the year, can consume a staggering 30,000 calories a day (that's ten times more than an adult man!). Many of the world's most specialist mammals are now under increasing threat from human expansion into their habitats. These animals simply cannot adapt quickly enough to change. Not so the omnivores. Raccoons, raccoon dogs, foxes, pigs, rats and even bears have all found refuge in cities and towns across the globe. Their success in our world is a testament to their adaptability and very unfussy diet. Indeed, it's a strategy that has worked exceedingly well for the most successful mammal of all - humans.