Discovery Science: Earth Biology – Animals – Predators

Earth Science: Biology – Animals – Predators

Predators are the hunters among the mammals. Found throughout the world, they have highly diverse lifestyles and widely varying methods of capturing their prey.

Predators have diverse lifestyles. Their most significant shared trait is daggerlike canine teeth and pairs of shearing carnassial cheek teeth that help them seize and tear into their prey.

Faster predators can increase their hunting speed by using only part of their feet. Martens, for example, utilize only half of their foot.

Others, such as bears, can increase speed by using the entire foot. Many animals use their excellent sense of smell to find their prey. Cats use their superior vision, which is functional even in semi- darkness. Social organization within animal groups relates to hunting and feeding.

Wolves and lions live and hunt in packs. Others, including martens, leopards, and brown bears, hunt alone.

Friend or foe?

From surviving rock and cave art, we know that humans have had a complex and ancient relationship with predators. Hu- mans and predators often hunted the same prey, and humans have always hunted predators—especially wild cats and bears—for their pelts.

For a time, conservation resulted in the reemergence of wolves, bears, and lynx in central Europe, which saw the reawakening of age-old fears in humans of these predators. Today, the creation of agricultural land from predator habitats has led to increased predator-human contacts while predator numbers are declining.

Ecologically, these predators are important; they help to control wild herds of herbivores, such as deer, and keep those populations from exceeding the level that can be supported by the available food supply.


Hunting behavior is innate and further refined through learning. Each species has a characteristic strategy. Wolves and jackals are coursing predators; they chase their prey in packs until the victim tires, then they surround the exhausted prey while several pack members attack it simultaneously.

Wolves coordinate their hunting through body movements, ear positioning, and vocalization, and group hierarchy determines which pack member has the privilege of eating first In contrast, cats are stealth hunters.

Whether they are small domesticated cats or large lions, felines sneak up on their prey with quiet steps and then pounce, using their claws to bring their victim down A bite to the throat or back of the neck usually kills the victim


ANATOMICALLY, giant pandas are classified as predators because recent genetic studies have shown they are bears, albeit bears that feed almost exclusively on bamboo