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Movement and Feeding

Two of the characteristics of living things are that they feed and move. Most animals need to move in order to feed and some animals need to move fast to avoid being eaten. Different animals feed in different ways and eat different things.

Animal Movements

Herbivores, carnivores and omnivores have to move to find their food. Antelope herds keep moving to new areas to find fresh vegetation.

Oryx, Maasai Mara, Kenya © Shirley Burchill

These herds also need to be able to run fast in order to avoid predators, such as the lion.

Even small insects, such as honeybees, need to be able to move from flower to flower to collect nectar and pollen.

Different ways in which animals can move

Animals must push against a resistant support on order to move. This can be land, in the air or in the water. All three provide a resistant support. A lion's feet push against the ground, birds' wings push against the air and fishes' bodies push against water. The land is rigid (hard). Air and water are called fluids. Both are resistant but not hard.

There are different types of movement. Animals which live on dry land can walk, run, leap, hop, slither or burrow. Some animals can use two of these types of movement. animals which live in water usually swim. The crab, however, which lives in shallow sea water, walks on the sea bed. Other animals can fly in the air as well as move on land or swim.


Slug © Paul Billiet

A few animals slither along the ground. The snake, which is a reptile moves in this way. It can remain hidden in the grass as it quietly approaches its prey. Snails and slugs are both molluscs which slither towards their food. You can often see silvery trails in a garden where a snail or slug has recently slithered past.


Some mammals use their back (hind) legs to leap or hop in order to escape their predators. Leaping allows the deer to move faster forward than running. It also lets them jump over branches which might be in their way. 

Grant's Gazelle, Maasai Mara, Kenya © Shirley Burchill

Rabbits hop fast when they are in danger. They have powerful muscles in their hind legs. Hopping, for an animal such as the rabbit, uses less energy than running. The cat is a mammal which normally walks but it can run and leap very well when it is trying to catch a mouse or a bird.

Mammals are not the only animals that move on land. Frogs can swim in water and they also leap when they move on land. They have powerful leg muscles which help them to swim and to leap. Some insects also leap. The locust and the grasshopper can both fly but they move on land by leaping.

Animals which hop usually have large feet on their back legs. This gives them more push against the ground as they move their bodies into the air. The rabbit, the frog and the locust all have large feet on their back legs for this reason.


A few animals burrow through the earth in search of food. Burrowing animals have either no limbs at all, such as the earthworm, or limbs which are reduced in size. The bodies of burrowing animals are usually long, thin, smooth and flexible.

The earthworm actually eats the earth as it moves through it. Its body keeps anything which is nutritious and the rest of the earth passes out of the worm at the other end. To help the earthworm move through the soil it has two rows of bristles (stiff hairs) along both sides of its body.

The mole has short, flat, powerful front limbs which it uses as spades to dig through the earth. This digging movement is similar to the arm movements of a human when swimming breast stroke. moles are mammals which use contact to find their prey. The feed mostly on earthworms which they meet as they burrow through the soil. Their burrows act as traps which animals, such as earthworms, fall into.

Prairie dogs live communal lives in underground burrows.

Some snakes and shrews hunt in the burrows made by other animals.

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