An apex predator is an animal that lives at the top, or apex, of its food chain and has no natural predators. Because these apex predators frequently have extensive home ranges and low population densities, human meddling and habitat encroachment can pose severe dangers to their existence. However, apex predators play vital ecological responsibilities, such as regulating prey populations and changing prey behavior in ways that benefit other species.
These are 10 of many apex predators in the world:
1. Orca (Orcinus orca)
The orca, often known as the killer whale, is a strange hybrid of a ferocious predator and a charismatic marine mammal. These big, black-and-white dolphins can be found in all of the world’s oceans. Orcas are extremely social creatures that migrate in pods and use complicated kinds of communication.
Adults, which may weigh up to six tons, can eat 100 pounds of food each day, which includes seals, sea lions, smaller whales and dolphins, fish, sharks, squid, turtles, sea birds, and sea otters. Orcas are organized apex predators who hunt in groups to pursue and exhaust their prey. They occasionally prey on whale calves, taking them from their moms and drowning them.
2. Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias)
Scientists believe that great whites are clever, curious, and social creatures who fear orcas. Great white sharks have a wide range that includes cold temperate and subtropical waters. These apex predators prey on marine mammals as well as turtles and seabirds. A popular hunting tactic involves swimming right beneath its victim and attacking from below.
3. Tiger (Panthera tigris)
Tigers are mainly solitary nighttime hunters, locating prey mostly by sight and sound rather than smell. Deer, buffalo, goats, leopards, wild pigs, elephants, crocodiles, and birds are among their prey. Smaller prey is killed by biting the back of the neck and breaking the spinal cord; larger prey is killed by seizing the throat and crushing the trachea, causing suffocation.
4. Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus)
Polar bears are almost never far from sea ice. They hunt seals and other small mammals, fish, and marine birds, and scavenge seal, walrus, and whale corpses. The ringed seal is their favored prey. A bear will wait for seals to come up for air near a fracture in the ice. If the seal is basking, the bear will stalk or swim beneath the ice in order to catch it off guard by appearing through a crack.
5. Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis)
Grizzlies are omnivores who eat a variety of rodents, insects, elk calves, deer, fish, berries, roots, pine nuts, and grasses throughout the year. They also prey on large mammals such as elk and bison. These apex predators feed voraciously throughout the summer and early fall as they store fat to endure the winter months in torpor, a state in which their body temperature, heart rate, breathing rate, and metabolism all decrease.
6. African Lion (Panthera leo)
Lions prefer plains or savanna settings, but they can also be found in forested, semi-desert, and alpine areas. Lions live and hunt in prides, but the killing is normally done by a single lion, usually a female, who suffocates or breaks the prey’s neck.
Prey varies by area, but elephants, buffalo, giraffes, and gazelles, as well as impalas, warthogs, and wildebeests, are abundant. Lions will hunt birds, rodents, fish, ostrich eggs, amphibians, and reptiles, as well as scavenge, if larger food is not available.
7. Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)
Saltwater crocodiles, the world’s largest living reptile, dwell around the beaches of northern Australia, New Guinea, and Indonesia, but can also be found in Sri Lanka and India, southeast Asia, Borneo, and the Philippines.
When hunting, the apex predator submerges itself, leaving just its eyes and nose visible above the water’s surface, in search of prey as little as a crab, turtle, or bird and as enormous as a monkey, buffalo, or boar. It can lunge and kill with a single snap of its massive jaws, and it often eats food underwater.
8. Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
These massive birds are among the largest raptors in North America. They prefer to dwell near rivers, lakes, and oceans to hunt fish, but their diet also includes aquatic birds and small mammals such as squirrels, rabbits, and sea otter pups.
They scan the sky or a perch for prey, then swoop to capture it in their keen talons. Bald eagles eat carrion as well as take prey from other birds.
9. Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis)
The Komodo dragon is native to Indonesia’s lower Sunda region, where it lives in tropical savannah lowlands. These dark brown lizards can weigh up to 360 pounds and grow to be about 10 feet long. Although carrion is their preferred meal, Komodo dragons will attack huge prey such as goats, pigs, deer, wild boar, horses, water buffalo, and even lesser Komodo dragons.
These apex predator ambush their victim, biting them to inject lethal venom and then following the animal until it dies. They can consume up to 80% of their body weight in a single feeding.
10. Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja)
When threatened, the harpy eagle has stunningly piercing black eyes, fluffy grey feathers around the face, and long black feathers at the crown of the head that lift in an alarming posture. It is one of the world’s largest eagles, standing over three feet tall and having a wingspan of about seven feet.
The apex predators of neotropical rainforest preys largely on sloths and monkeys, but it can also catch lizards, birds, rodents, and even tiny deer with talons longer than a grizzly bear’s claws. Unfortunately, it is threatened by deforestation and poachers.
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