The Animal Kingdom – Predators And Prey
In the natural world, many animals live by eating individuals of other species. Sometimes, animals are both predators and prey – which means that while they hunt another animal for food, they themselves can become prey for a larger predator!
Predators may stalk quietly or camouflage themselves (blend in with the surroundings), and then attack suddenly, pouncing on their prey! Sharp teeth, powerful jaws, fangs or stingers as well as muscle strength, powerful hearing and eyesight help predators get the job done.
Prey will either try to hide in a safe place like a tunnel or burrow or may use camouflage. Many prey species can run extremely fast and some can taste really bad or are poisonous. Some even lie down on the ground and pretend to be dead! Prey animals also warn each other when a predator is near or live in groups, often standing together, to protect younger ones.
Photo: Ram Narayanan.
Photographed near Mysore, Karnataka, the photographer saw this Common Kingfisher diving into the waters of a lake several times. Common Kingfishers have long, sharp and strong beaks that are perfect for catching and holding prey. Their amazing eyesight allows them to spot fish from their perch. On diving into the water, a membrane covers their eyes like a pair of goggles and they then use touch to know when to snap their beaks shut. On catching a fish, these birds usually whack it against a perch to kill it. Small fish make up more than 60 per cent of their diet.
Common Indian Jackal
Photo: Arun Baweja.
The common Indian jackal is usually a scavenger, which means it feeds on the bodies of animals killed by other predators. Sometimes it looks for rodents, small reptiles and insects to add to its menu and if it needs to hunt a deer or antelope, it rounds up some of its buddies and they go hunting together. Did you know that if a jackal can’t find prey, it will even eat vegetables?
Oriental Garden Lizard
Photo: Pushpal Goswami.
An agamid lizard found widely in Asia, it is also referred to as blood sucker. However, this has to do with the bright red throat of the male in the breeding season rather than its eating habits. It usually feeds on insects and small animals such as rodents and other lizards. Seen here with a gecko in its mouth, the garden lizard usually swallows its prey whole. Though it has teeth, they are not designed to tear into prey.
Photo: Satpal Singh.
The spider wasp gets its name from its habit of feeding on – you guessed it, spiders! It often kills spiders that are bigger than itself, injecting it with fluid that will paralyse it. Because its prey is usually bigger than itself, the wasp will make a burrow near the attacked spider or use the prey’s burrow for itself! It then drags the paralysed spider, in this case, a crab spider, into the burrow so that its babies can feed on it.
Grey-headed Fish Eagle
Photo: Rishad Naoroji.
A remarkable hunter, the Grey-headed Fish Eagle, as its name indicates, preys mainly on fish, though it may occasionally take reptiles. This eagle will perch on tree branches near water bodies and on sighting prey, will make a quick, short flight to grab it with its curved talons and then fly away. If the prey is too heavy, it will drag it to the bank.
Photo: Hemant Kumar.
This semi-aquatic and non-venomous snake is seen near ponds, streams and other freshwater bodies. It usually stalks its prey and then holds it with its strong jaws. It swallows its prey whole immediately. It has an opening in its lower jaw called the glottis, which allows the snake to swallow the prey without self-suffocating. The long teeth in the back of the upper jaw help it hold and puncture the prey that includes fish, frogs, toads, insects, lizards, mice and small birds and snakes.
Ants (Family Formicidae)
Photo: Animish Mandrekar.
You know the tiny ant crawling around your house? It’s a super hunter despite its size! Did you know that some species can carry food that is three times heavier than themselves? And that one species found in the Amazon builds a huge trap using plant fibre? The trap has lots of holes and when an insect comes near, there are lots of ants waiting to catch it! Most ants communicate using chemicals so if one spots something tasty, it call its comrades to the spot. An ant will usually eat nectar, seeds, fungus and insects such as this caterpillar of Charaxes sp. but many together can even feed on a bird.
Photo: Asela Karunaratne.
The leopard is an amazing hunter. It can run super fast, reaching speeds of 58 km./hour and is so strong that it can climb up trees while carrying its prey. Its spotted coat helps it blend in with its surroundings. It is an opportunistic hunter, which means it’ll catch almost anything it can find from monkeys to monitor lizards such as the one seen in this image.
Photo: Mahesh Reddy.
The Indian Roller usually hunts for its prey on the ground, looking for insects, small reptiles and even amphibians. It’s a really smart bird and if it sees a tractor moving across a patch of land, it will fly behind it looking for invertebrates that have been moved from their homes. During the summer, it looks for lights which have attracted lots of insects and has a lovely little dinner! One of its favourite foods is the winged termite.
First appeared in: Sanctuary Cub, May, 2013.