Top of the Food Chain – The Predator vs. Prey Relationship
A dwindling number of species, an increase in the number of pests, and population booms – all these can be explained even while taking only natural events into account. The predator vs. prey relationship contributes a huge deal to populations in the world’s ecosystem.
While hunters and poachers are the more widely known cause for the decreasing number of some animal species, the predator vs. prey relationship does nothing to help the cause. Let’s set up a situation of having a certain endangered species that is hunted by different species of predators. The more predators that hunt a certain prey, the less chances for survival the prey has. In this case, the hunted species cannot reproduce to ease the strains on their population fast enough before they are hunted down, not only by humans, but also by natural predators.
The opposite of the former situation can also be said for the increase in pests and population booms in some species. In this case, the predator vs. prey relationship has been reversed. It is the prey species that has a greater number than that of the predator species. The predator species cannot hunt the prey as much, in turn, not being able to control the number in the prey species population.
To further understand the complex predator vs. prey relationship, one can look at a hierarchy of predation or in simple terms, a food chain or food web. At the bottom of the food chain are producers or plants which are consumed by insects and some animals. These insects and animals may be consumed by other bigger animals. The bigger animals may be consumed by even bigger animals. At the top of the food chain are some of the larger animals that are either not hunted by predators due to their size or the most dominant predators present. However, this doesn’t mean that they are not to be preyed upon. Once the organisms at the top of the food chain die, they can be consumed by scavengers or animals that feed on dead carcasses or decomposed by micro organisms that proliferate due to decaying matter.
The predator vs. prey relationship is often just reduced to the hunter vs. the hunted relationship. However, this is actually just a small part of the inner workings of the relationship. The predator vs. prey relationship is nature’s own display of balance. The prey exists as a supplement for the survival of the predator while the predator exists as a control for the population. Not one species serves as prey alone and not one species serves as predator alone.