Wild nature is characterized by the struggle for survival, where all organisms seek to survive at all costs. Beyond the cruel interactions of hunting and chasing, the relationship between predators and prey is what allows communities to be in balance. In this article we will talk about the importance of predators and prey, their characteristics and examples.
Predators are living beings that hunt other organisms, called prey, in order to feed and subsist through a transfer of energy in the form of food . It is an interaction in which one organism is benefited, while the other involved is harmed. The predator can completely consume a prey, or only take a part of it, although it causes considerable damage.
Normally the bloodthirsty example of ferocious animals hunting other small herbivorous animals comes to mind, but there are more types of predation. Predators can be omnivorous or carnivorous animals that hunt other animals . They can also be animals that eat plants, a type of predation known as herbivory. Although it may not seem credible, a predator can also be a plant, when it comes to extraordinary adaptations where they can prey on other animals, such as insects. Some authors define parasitism as another type of predation, where the parasite feeds on its prey while it is alive. If you want to know more information about Parasitism: definition and examples , do not hesitate to read this article that we recommend.
The relationship between prey and predator plays an important role in population dynamics , since without predators there would be an abundance of prey and, therefore, also of food for them. Regulation also works in the same way, as the number of prey determines the number of predators.
Predator characteristics focus on their abilities to locate, capture, and consume prey. Therefore, we can highlight:
Keep in mind that the number of prey is also important, since it usually exceeds the number of predators.
Predation is not a gentle process, but a violent one, and the prey do not participate in it voluntarily.
Therefore, in the course of evolutionary competition, prey have incorporated and learned tools to defend themselves against predators, such as:
Predation is key in the system of life .
It is the mechanism for the transmission of carbon from the most basic to the most complex forms of life, also allowing to exert significant pressure (known as natural selection) on the species, from their competition to survive and reproduce .
Charles Darwin discovered in the 19th century that this pressure is one of the most efficient engines for evolution .
In order to better understand the interaction between predators and prey, we are going to exemplify some of these relationships below.
The boa constrictor is a species of snake native to Mexico. It was introduced to other ecosystems causing serious losses of wild biodiversity due to its predatory nature. It does not have a particular prey, but rather takes advantage of all the vertebrate animals it finds, which can be mammals, birds or reptiles. They have no venom, but instead use their heavy body to suffocate their prey . They hunt at night because they use the difference in temperature between the prey and the environment, detectable with their thermosensitive labial scales. This nocturnal behavior, added to its arboreal location, makes bats its favorite food.
Rafflesia is a genus of giant exotic flowers with a deep red color and 100 centimeters in diameter. They simulate a dead animal , since they give off an intense aroma of putrefaction and even the heat they emit simulates a recently dead animal. Although it is unpleasant to humans, the sarcophagus flies that lay their eggs in decomposing meat are inevitably attracted to them, where they are gobbled up as prey. They are unable to photosynthesize , so they are double predators. In addition to preying on flies, they parasitize trees to survive.
The case of the lynx and the hare is an excellent example to understand the role played by the relationship between predator and prey for population dynamics. The Canadian lynx feeds mainly on snowshoe hares and it has been observed that when hares are abundant, so are lynxes proportionally. These reach a point where they destroy the available hares , so they must consume other animals such as foxes or deer, which are not enough. This leads to a decrease in lynxes due to lack of food. This is when the hares recover and the cycle can begin again.
Both carnivorous predators and prey are immersed in a cycle or system that allows the transmission of carbon and nitrogen , fundamental elements of life, among them.
Herbivores, which obtain their nutrients from plant life, on the one hand have to feed constantly, since plants are less rich in chemical energy than animal tissue , and they also feed on substances that are difficult to assimilate.
His main problem is how to incorporate the nutrients obtained into his body, which often requires the generation of hyper specialized enzymes .
Instead, predators obtain abundant calories from the meat of their prey , in an extremely easy way to assimilate, but to do so they must first invest a variable amount of additional energy in the hunt.
This means that an exhausted predator will have a very low chance of catching prey.
Although there are powerful predators, they can be consumed by other animals. This is how we got to top predators. They are those that are at the highest level of the food chain , no predator consumes them. Thanks to them is that the structure of ecosystems is given, because they regulate other species either indirectly or directly. They are even indicators of healthy ecosystems. They are carnivorous and usually large. Some examples of them are:
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