Predation interaction: definition and types with examples (2023)

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Predation is a type of ecological interaction in which one species kills and feeds on another.

  • The organism that kills and feeds on the dead organism is called the predator, while the organism that dies is called the prey.
  • Predation differs from feeding on dead organisms, but predators also feed as part of their feeding behavior.
  • Predators can hunt as solitary hunters or as group hunters, where a group of species hunt prey together.
  • The interaction is positive for the predator, as it gains energy to survive and reproduce, being harmful to the prey.
  • The most common form of predation is observed between two species from two different trophic levels in the food chain, but there are some exceptions.
  • Although predators are often associated with carnivorous animals, there are plants and insects that indulge in predatory activities.
  • Predation is an essential interaction as it plays an important role in maintaining population size in different communities, which also promotes biodiversity.
  • Predators are highly specialized organisms with the heightened senses needed to capture prey. These animals actively seek out prey or chase it for long periods of time. Once spotted, they consider attacking it before finding a good time to kill prey.
  • Solitary hunters like the tiger track and attack prey alone, while a pack of wolves can attack prey as a group and share resources.
  • Prey also develops various anti-predator adaptations such as camouflage, mimicry, and alarm calls to ward off predators.
  • In a complex environment where multiple predators feed on the same prey, competition between predators can occur.
Predation interaction: definition and types with examples (1)

types of predators

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Predators are classified into different species based on prey and predator-prey ratio.

1. Carnivore

  • Carnivores are the most common type of predator where the predator kills the prey and feeds on its meat.
  • The predators involved in carnivores are usually large animals like animals, sharks and wolves that prey on smaller animals like rabbits and deer.
  • Carnivores are common among higher animals, and predators or carnivores come in different sizes and feed on different groups of smaller animals.
  • This type of predator can be classified based on its eating habits. Obligate carnivores are animals that feed exclusively on animal flesh to survive. Optional carnivores are animals that can eat meat but don't need it to survive.

Example: wolves

  • Wolves are carnivorous animals that hunt and feed on large herbivores such as deer, elk and sheep. They also eat smaller animals such as rodents, rabbits and beavers.
  • They usually hunt in packs, and hunting is facilitated by various adaptations such as strong jaws, keen senses, and powerful bodies.
  • The wolf pack consists of female wolves who care for and defend the pups and male wolves who are involved in foraging and providing food.
  • Wolves communicate through facial expressions and scent markings. The territory of wolf packs depends on the availability of prey and defense against neighboring packs.

2. Herbivores

  • Herbivory is a type of predator where predators feed on autotrophs like plants and algae.
  • Herbivory is generally not considered a type of predation, as predatory interaction is often associated with carnivorous animals.
  • As in all other forms of predation, predators and prey develop different forms of adaptation in herbivore interaction.
  • Many herbivores have adaptations that allow them to determine which plants contain the highest quality nutrients and the lowest defenses.
  • Although predators are said to harm prey, some plants can benefit from the interaction. Herbivores feed on the fruits of plants and lead to seed dispersal in newer areas.

Example: giraffe

  • The giraffe is a herbivore that feeds on the leaves of various plants and grasses. Acacia trees are one of the most common food sources for giraffes.
  • Giraffes have adaptive strategies, such as long necks, that allow them to reach leaves and fruit high up in trees.
  • They have been known to eat hundreds of pounds of leaves in a week. As they feed mainly on leaves and shoots, the percentage of grass in their diet is quite small.
  • Prey plants, such as acacias, also develop defense mechanisms, such as releasing toxic substances from their leaves and ethylene gas, which signals surrounding trees to produce the toxins.

3. Parasitism

  • Parasitism is also a form of predation in which the parasite consumes the host's nutrients, resulting in decreased host fitness and even death.
  • In extreme cases, the parasites produce various forms of the disease, at which point the parasites are called pathogens.
  • Although parasites do not normally kill their hosts, a specific group of parasites called parasitoids are known to feed on the host and eventually cause its death.
  • The parasitic organism in most cases is much smaller than the host, which differs in size from predators and prey from predators.

Example: you had

  • The tapeworm is one of the most common parasites in humans and cattle, being found in the digestive tract of the hosts.
  • The organism enters the intestine through contaminated food and drink, where it attaches to the intestinal wall.
  • The organism's attached head has various structures, such as hooks and suckers, that allow the organism to obtain nutrients from the digestive walls.
  • Parasite interaction can cause malnutrition and other digestive disorders in the host.
  • A tapeworm does not usually kill the host, but it can live in the host for up to 30 years, leading to continued parasitism.

4. Mutualism

  • Mutualism is a mode of interaction between two species in which both species benefit from the interaction.
  • One species provides the other with a resource or service, and the other also returns an advantage.
  • Mutualism does not lead to the death of either species, as both species benefit.
  • Mutualism, unlike other predatory interactions, requires that the species involved share similar functional and ecological characteristics.

Example - Intestinal microorganism in humans

  • Various parts of the human body are made up of a group of beneficial microorganisms that exist in mutual interaction with the host.
  • Gut flora is one of the largest and most prominent human microflora. These microorganisms colonize all parts of the digestive tract.
  • Microorganisms produce various digestive enzymes that help humans digest food. They also protect the host from pathogenic microorganisms.
  • The host, in turn, provides nutrients and habitat. The mutual relationship can last for years.

Read too:

  • Trophic level: definition, food chain, food web, pyramid, examples
  • asexual reproduction vs. sexual - definition, 16 differences, examples
  • Sexual reproduction – Definition, Characteristics, Phases, Types, Examples
  • Asexual Reproduction – Definition, Characteristics, Types, Examples
  • Parasitism Interaction - Definition and types with examples
(Video) Difference between Predation and Parasitism

5. Cannibalism

  • Cannibalism is also a type of predatory interaction in which an organism of one species feeds on another organism of the same species.
  • It is a common ecological interaction in animals and has been observed in about 1,500 different species.
  • Cannibalism is usually seen in nutrient-poor environments, causing species to feed on each other.
  • Cannibalism is an important event that helps conserve species populations so that food and other resources are more readily available to the competing population.
  • Cannibalism is particularly prevalent in the aquatic ecosystem, with around 90% of organisms involved in cannibalistic activities.

Example: black widow spider

  • A form of cannibalism is observed in spiders, in which the female spider eats the male after mating.
  • It is a form of sexual cannibalism that is almost always optional, as it only occurs in extreme situations.
  • There are several theories about this interaction, but the most accepted one explains that the female spider kills the male to obtain energy and food for the young.

references and sources

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