What Is a Predator?

These animals feed on their prey, which can range from insects to large mammals, birds, and other species, and each uses a variety of hunting techniques.
What Is a Predator?

Last update: 17 December, 2021

When an animal hunts for its food, it’s known as a predator. There are different types of predators, and even superpredators that feed on other predators and who are at the top of the food chain. Learn about them all in the following article.

What is predation?

Predation is a strategy that allows species to survive in nature. It involves the need to feed on other living things – prey – to acquire their nutrients. In ecology, this interaction is characterized by harming one organism (-) and benefiting another (+), and so it’s often referred to as a positive-negative relationship.

The relationship between prey and predators is fundamental to the ecosystem, as it also serves to regulate the populations of living things. In addition, all predators are also prey for other animals. This ensures that the balance is maintained and that there aren’t any species that are able to overpopulate the world. With the exception of humans of course.

Types of predators

Carnivores are the most famous predators in the animal kingdom, but they aren’t the only ones. These voracious animals can be classified according to the prey they feed on, so the following can be distinguished:

  • Carnivores: These are the best-known predators, because some of them feed on quite large animals. They specialize in hunting and stalking their prey, and have developed incredible strategies to do so.
  • Herbivores: Although it sounds strange, herbivores are also predators because they feed on other living beings (plants). The big difference is that they don’t need to stalk their prey, as plant species are immobile.
  • Cannibals: These are animals that feed on their own species. They’re actually a subclassification of carnivores, because they always feed on meat. Most cannibals are arthropods, although this behavior also occurs in prairie dogs, snakes, and bull sharks. It should be noted that they can feed on other prey and not only on their own kind.

Arms war

The relationship between prey and predator not only helps ecological balance, but is an essential component in the evolutionary process. This is because each organism tries to obtain advantageous characteristics in order to escape or to hunt. Thus, if prey become faster, predators will try to match their speed. This is called co-evolution and is one of the benefits of interaction.

Some people refer to this process as arms warfare, as it involves constantly generating new ‘weapons’ to outdo your opponent. In this way, species change and diversify over time, which fits perfectly with Darwin’s prediction of ‘natural selection’.

The predator and its relationship with its prey

Predation is one of the most important techniques for ensuring the balance between different species. A predator and its prey are related because they’re part of the same food chain.

It’s worth noting that a carnivore gets its energy from a herbivore, which had been nourished by plants or fruits. Among the most famous predators are the following:

1. Felines

Felines are the best prepared carnivores for hunting, as both their anatomy and their techniques allow them to obtain food.

2. Canids

These hunt smaller animals, whether herbivores or not, and almost always move in groups when getting their food.

3. Mustelids

One of the characteristics of these animals is that they’re small, but, at the same time, very well prepared for hunting. In addition, they can feed on reptiles or birds.

Examples of predators

Did you know that humans are the most fearsome super predator in the world? This is because their omnivorous diet and behavior are different from the rest of the species; the other animals that belong to the predator group hunt only for food. Some of them are:

1. Tigers

This feline is the super predator of Asia and its diet is based on buffaloes, wild boars, deer, and antelopes. But tigers are also ‘opportunistic’ and don’t turn their noses up at smaller animals such as hares, monkeys, or fish.

Normally, they hunt herbivores using their strength to attack and kill their prey, thanks to their powerful bite with which they can kill it immediately. Although they’re large, tigers can run up to 90 km/h and race towards their food with a roar, which often paralyzes the victim.

2. Grey wolves

Most wolf species have similar hunting habits: their prey are medium and large ungulates, such as sheep, goats, deer or reindeer.

A wolf.

This predator can consume rodents and birds, and has the capacity to consume between 3 and 4 kilos of food in one go. It does this because it doesn’t know when it’ll be able to feed again.

3. Badgers

These are omnivorous animals that feed mainly on bees, reptiles, or worms, depending on where they live. There are Asian, European, and American badgers. To get its food it uses its hearing and smell; its sight is limited, which is why it prefers to leave its burrow at night.

A badger.

4. Polar bears

Of all the species of bears that exist, the polar bear is the largest, and it’s also the only super predator in the Arctic. It feeds on the other individuals that inhabit the frozen areas, although its favourites are seal pups.

Polar bears can eat up to 30 kilos of food in a day. It’s interesting to note that they drink the blood of their prey to keep themselves hydrated, due to the fact that the water in that area is acidic and salty.

5. Imperial Eagle

It mainly feeds on rabbits, and it hunts them either alone or in pairs. In addition, this predator can choose other prey to feed on, such as hares, crows, foxes, pigeons, and small rodents.

Imperial eagle.

The imperial eagle has excellent eyesight that allows it to detect an animal from very far away. Once it has it in its sights, it swoops towards it with its claws out, with extraordinary precision.

6. Dolphins

These are one of the most intelligent marine predators. They’re found near the coasts and use sounds to communicate with each other and to reach their prey, which are mainly sardines, herring and cod. Because they hunt in groups, dolphins can surround a school of fish and make it easier to catch them. They also have sharp teeth that allow them to chew and tear their prey.

7. Spiders

All species of spiders are predators and use a web to trap their prey to prevent them from escaping. The spider only needs to lie in wait for a victim to fall into the sticky web. When that happens, they inject them with poison to paralyze them, then shoot gastric juices into them and digest them externally.

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