Predation

Solitary predator: A polar bear feeds on a bearded seal it has killed.
Social predators: Meat ants cooperate to feed on a cicada far larger than themselves.

Predation is a biological interaction where one organism, the predator, kills and eats another organism, its prey. It is one of a family of common feeding behaviours that includes parasitism and micropredation (which usually do not kill the host) and parasitoidism (which always does, eventually). It is distinct from scavenging on dead prey, though many predators also scavenge; it overlaps with herbivory, as a seed predator is both a predator and a herbivore.

Predators may actively search for prey or sit and wait for it. When prey is detected, the predator assesses whether to attack it. This may involve an ambush or actively pursuit, sometimes after stalking the prey. If the attack is successful, the predator kills the prey, removes any inedible parts like the shell or spines, and eats it.

Predators are adapted and often highly specialized for hunting, with acute senses such as vision, hearing, or smell. Many predatory animals, both vertebrate and invertebrate, have sharp claws or jaws to grip, kill, and cut up their prey. Other adaptations include stealth and aggressive mimicry that improve hunting efficiency.

Predation has a powerful selective effect on prey, and the prey develop antipredator adaptations such as warning coloration, alarm calls and other signals, camouflage and defensive spines and chemicals. Sometimes predator and prey find themselves in an evolutionary arms race, a cycle of adaptations and counter-adaptations. Predation has been a major driver of evolution since at least the Cambrian period.

Definition

Spider wasps paralyse and eventually kill their hosts, but are considered parasitoids not predators.

At the most basic level, predators kill and eat other organisms. However, the concept of predation is broad, defined differently in different contexts, and includes a wide variety of feeding methods; and some relationships that result in the prey's death are not generally called predation. A parasitoid, such as an ichneumon wasp, lays its eggs in or on its host; the eggs hatch into larvae, which eat the host, and it inevitably dies. Zoologists generally call this a form of parasitism, though conventionally parasites are thought not to kill their hosts. A predator can be defined to differ from a parasitoid in two ways: it kills its prey immediately; and it has many prey, captured over its lifetime, where a parasitoid's larva has just one, or at least has its food supply provisioned for it on just one occasion.[1][2]

Relation of predation to other feeding strategies

There are other difficult and borderline cases. Micropredators are small animals that, like predators, feed entirely on other organisms; they include fleas and mosquitoes that consume blood from living animals, and aphids that consume sap from living plants. However, since they typically do not kill their hosts, they are now often thought of as parasites.[3][4] Animals that graze on phytoplankton or mats of microbes are predators, as they consume and kill their food organisms; but herbivores that browse leaves are not, as their food plants usually survive the assault.[5] However, when animals eat seeds (seed predation or granivory) or eggs (egg predation), they are consuming entire living organisms, which by definition makes them predators,[6][7] albeit unconventional ones: for instance, a mouse that eats grass seeds has no adaptations for tracking, catching and subduing prey and its teeth are not adapted to slicing through flesh.[8][6]

Scavengers, organisms that only eat organisms found already dead, are not predators, but many predators such as the jackal and the hyena scavenge when the opportunity arises.[9][10][5] Among invertebrates, social wasps (yellowjackets) are both hunters and scavengers of other insects.[11]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Predasie
العربية: افتراس
aragonés: Depredación
asturianu: Depredación
беларуская: Драпежніцтва
bosanski: Predacija
català: Depredació
dansk: Prædation
eesti: Kisklus
español: Depredación
Esperanto: Predado
euskara: Harraparitza
فارسی: درندگی
føroyskt: Predatión
Frysk: Predaasje
galego: Depredación
한국어: 포식
Ido: Predato
isiXhosa: I-Predator
íslenska: Afrán
italiano: Predazione
עברית: טריפה
ಕನ್ನಡ: ಭಕ್ಷಕ
latviešu: Plēsonība
Bahasa Melayu: Pemangsaan
Nederlands: Predatie
日本語: 捕食
norsk: Predasjon
norsk nynorsk: Predasjon
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Yirtqichlik
português: Predação
русский: Хищничество
Scots: Predation
Simple English: Predation
slovenščina: Plenilstvo
српски / srpski: Predacija
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Predacija
suomi: Saalistus
svenska: Predation
татарча/tatarça: Ерткычлык
тыва дыл: Шүүргедекчи
українська: Хижацтво
Tiếng Việt: Săn mồi
Zazaki: Seydwan
中文: 捕食