Vultures perform the most important role in the ecosystem. In fact, more important than all the other animals combined because they recycle 70% of all the nutrients of all the dead ungulates that die in the ecosystem. They’re responsible for disposing of them and recycling their nutrients. Also, they certainly helped to prevent the spread of diseases.
The toes and talons of vultures aren’t as agile and able as most other raptor species in killing prey. Vultures entire a very particular niche as scavengers acting as the janitors of the bush. There is a clear interspecies hierarchy between them that considers the general size of the bull, the shape of their body size, and even their social habits. The more gregarious Cape and white back vultures are almost exclusively scavengers, dominating at a carcass just in their sheer numbers.
Why do not vultures get sick?
The world’s 23 species of vultures have evolved the ultimate friggin palate. They pretty much eat exclusively dead things with the help of their amazing digestive systems. The stomach breaks down food using gastric juices comprised mainly of hydrochloric acid to dissolve bonds, protein molecules, and digestive enzymes. That continues the dismantling process. The average levels of a normal human gastric system are between 1 and 2 on the pH scale.
- The stomach acids of some vultures come in between zero and one so corrosive that they can dissolve certain metals.
It is super cool, but unless they’re trying to eat a robotic raccoon not particularly useful. That’s why the bird’s super strong acid cocktail is always at killing a whole mess of pathogens that would be lethal to lesser scavengers from Salmonella and cholera to anthrax botulism, even rabies. In addition to laying the smackdown on nasty bugs in the digestive tract and pumping blood thick with bacteria-fighting antibodies.
Vultures have a few more tricks up their feathered sleeves to stay healthy. They do poop directly on their legs which is a strange kind of brilliant. For one, this evaporating slurry of waste is a great way to cool down on a hot day. The whitish slop contains some of that great acid which acts as a great sanitizer on legs. That has been needed in rot.
Also, the waste keeps killing pathogens in the grass around the carry and helping to prevent the spread of disease to other animals, even to soil and water systems. So vultures are kind of like a hazmat cleanup crew. Their bald head also keeps it clean since they’ve got to get all up and mushy chest cavities and guts.
Why do vultures vomit? Vultures projectile vomits to protect themselves from predators, but this is only half true. They do indeed produce an impressive hurl storm. But it probably isn’t to spew rabies and coyote’s faces. However, vulture vomit may burn those unlucky enough to get splattered. It’s perhaps more to do with the fact that they’ve gorged so much on meat that they’re too heavy to lift off quickly. Thus they need to lighten the load. At that point, any potential predator would presumably think hot acid vomit and leave the bird alone!
Solitary or sometimes slightly gregarious species are also scavengers, but they will hunt and kill small prey sources when the opportunity presents itself. And species are like the hooded vulture. For example, it will even feed on invertebrates. Lappet-faced vultures will all kill the wide range of small prey. And the latter two species even sometimes are capable of killing baby antelope.
Lappet-faced vultures have even been recorded to hunt flamingos fledglings cooperatively. So vultures do hunt not all of them, but some are capable of doing so. And when the opportunity presents itself, they’re going to grab it.
Chuang Zhou, Guannan Wang, Genome-wide analysis reveals the genomic features of the turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) as a scavenger.