Predators are creatures that catch and kill other animals for food. All sorts of techniques are employed by different animals to maximise their chance of catching prey, and to balance the energy expended in catching prey with the energy gained in eating it. Some execute long chases, outrunning their prey, others ambush or hunt in groups. Some construct elaborate traps and many have mechanisms for stunning or poisoning their victims.
The prey of the narrow-nosed planigale is often larger than it is.
The narrow-nosed planigale is one of Australia's smallest marsupials, and one of the toughest. Most of its meals are larger than it is, and will include scorpions and huge moths. In the underground cracks in which it shelters, it is almost 15 degrees cooler than out in the sun of the desert, but snakes are a constant threat. The inland taipan, for instance, is the world's deadliest snake and often slithers through the crevices in search of a meal.
A pistol shrimp uses its claw to deal out a deadly blow from a distance.
The pistol shrimp can snap its claws to communicate, but they can be used as a sonic weapon to prey on smaller shrimps. First the claw is cocked like a pistol and then fired. The effect is literally stunning. As the claw snaps shuts it fires a blast of bubbles. As the bubbles collapse they momentarily reach the temperature of the sun. This implosion, causes a shockwave that stuns the smaller shrimp and allows the pistol shrimp to collect its dinner.
In the desert, running on two legs gives a collared lizard the advantage.
Like a miniature tyrannosaur, the collared lizard hunts on two legs. It runs at an angle with its front legs lifted off the ground. But this lizard is more agile than any dinosaur and, size for size, it's much faster. Being smaller it gains in both speed and manoeuvrability. Most bipedal lizards live in deserts as this kind of running needs space. When hunting other lizards, two legs give it the edge.
A juvenile puma hones his hunting skills at night by "playing".
A juvenile puma hones his hunting skills at night by "playing", much like domestic cats do. Camerawoman Justine Evans reveals the puma's behaviour at night by using specialist night-time camera equipment.
The archer fish allows for gravity and refraction to squirt its prey into the water.
The archer fish catch prey with a water pistol technique. It makes the equivalent of a gun barrel by pressing its tongue against a groove in its mouth, closing its gills to force out the water in a jet. It is accurate up to two metres. This expert in ballistics even allows for the curving of the jet of water through gravity. It also adjusts for the way light bends between the boundary between water and air, which appears to shift the position of the target. By some amazing computation it changes its firing angle to compensate for this optical illusion.
In ecology, predation describes a biological interaction where a predator (an organism that is hunting) feeds on its prey (the organism that is attacked). Predators may or may not kill their prey prior to feeding on them, but the act of predation often results in the death of its prey and the eventual absorption of the prey's tissue through consumption. Other categories of consumption are herbivory (eating parts of plants) and detritivory, the consumption of dead organic material (detritus). All these consumption categories fall under the rubric of consumer-resource systems. It can often be difficult to separate various types of feeding behaviors. For example, some parasitic species prey on a host organism and then lay their eggs on it for their offspring to feed on it while it continues to live or on its decaying corpse after it has died. The key characteristic of predation however is the predator's direct impact on the prey population. On the other hand, detritivores simply eat dead organic material arising from the decay of dead individuals and have no direct impact on the "donor" organism(s).
Selective pressures imposed on one another often leads to an evolutionary arms race between prey and predator, resulting in various antipredator adaptations. Ways of classifying predation surveyed here include grouping by trophic level or diet, by specialization, and by the nature of the predator's interaction with prey.
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