The world is littered with predators and scavengers who totally live and feed on flesh of other animals. Just as there are many predatory species, there has to be many successful prey species, without which the predators would not be fed properly. The oceans and seas have more predators than the land. There it is a big-fish eats small-fish culture. In fact it is biggest fish (whale shark) eat very small fish (krill). Learn about the factors that would make a predator really successful.
- The first major factor is the predator to prey population ratio. When there is more numbers of prey, the success of predators are higher. The greatest migration from Serengeti offers large number of prey to the big cats and crocodiles. The wolves chasing the reindeer are true stories.
- The number of varieties available to be eaten upon. The predators that do not specialize on a particular species are known to survive better. When crocodiles do not get zebras, they can always turn to fish, whereas lions do not. So, more lions die when the prey is not around than the crocs.
- The predator should be able to eat their prey completely. In case of cheetahs, their success ratio is only 5% or 10% (1 kill in 10 or 20 attempts). However, the painful part is that since they have parted with power in exchange to speed, they would be shooed off their kill even by smaller looking hyenas. So only if they kill 4 times, they can eat once, which diminishes their chances to become the apex predator.
- Can the same prey be reused for the next meal? Though this sounds awkward, there are many species that do not kill their prey completely. They eat till their fill and allow the prey to grow back until they can be hunted upon again. For instance, certain species of piranha live by biting off chunks of fins from other fishes of the same pond. Some fishes eat only one or two limbs of the starfish without killing the animal, which later on grows back these limbs. Though tigers are known to kill huge sambar deer and wild bison, they do not leave the remains away. They hide what they cannot eat to come back and taste it again.
- What are the various hunting strategies used to win the trophy. Is it going solo or in a well organized group? Both have their own pros and cons. Refer to http://scienceray.com/biology/solitary-or-groups-which-is-successful/ for more details.
- Number of qualities and features that they possess in their arsenal is very important. Dolphins echolocate the fish that hide themselves in sand using their sonar skills, while the hammerhead sharks use electric impulses readers, which are scattered on their head to identify their prey. The snakes can smell their prey out using their forked tongues and Jacobson’s organ in the roof of their mouth.
- What is the number of attempts to successful kill ratio of a predator? This percentage also determines the survival of the species. The highest percentage would probably go to the capuchins or chimpanzees (80-90%). Do not be surprised, these vegetarians often reveal their carnivorous ways and not many prey species can escape from their brainy strategies.