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depredation; plundering.

act of plundering or robbing.

predatory behavior.

a relation between animals in which one organism captures and feeds on others.

Origin of predation

Words nearby predation.

  • predation pressure
  • predatory pricing

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use predation in a sentence

The nonprofit Wild Animal Initiative, for example, believes we should reduce all kinds of animal suffering, even, perhaps, suffering due to predation .

A similar process of political facsimile, this time mimicking QAnon’s tendency to baselessly allege sexual predation , is also occurring worldwide.

Flattening his alleged predation into SVU tropes steers us away from the question of why 17-year-olds make dating profiles for old men and put them online with cute selfies.

One of Darwin’s great insights was the idea that everyday events—small mutations, predation , competition—could slowly change species, given time.

Catnip probably didn’t evolve in response to predation from ancient mosquitoes or fruit flies, he says.

Starvation, disease, war, and predation were common threats for a majority of our evolutionary history.

WGA is classified as a lectin—a term for a protein produced by an organism to protect itself from predation .

This “double whammy” of predation and competition enables jellyfish to cripple a food chain by essentially nibbling at its ankles.

The whole thing combines a French disregard for sexual predation with our own culture of uptight sensationalism.

The transition from peace to predation therefore depends on the growth of technical knowledge and the use of tools.

The conventions of the business world have grown up under the selective surveillance of this principle of predation or parasitism.

Young in the nest would seem to be especially susceptible to predation by the pilot black snake.

Further verification of predation on mammals, reptiles and amphibians by this species is needed.

In addition to known predation by mountain lions and coyotes on porcupines, the bobcat kills porcupines.

British Dictionary definitions for predation

/ ( prɪˈdeɪʃən ) /

a relationship between two species of animal in a community, in which one (the predator) hunts, kills, and eats the other (the prey)

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

predation definition

Predation n., plural: predations [prɪˈdeɪʃən] Definition: The symbiotic relationship between a predator and its prey

Table of Contents

In ecology, predation is a mechanism of population control. Thus, when the number of predators is scarce the number of prey should rise. When this happens the predators would be able to reproduce more and possibly change their hunting habits. As the number of predators rises, the number of prey declines. This results in food scarcity for predators that can eventually lead to the death of many predators.

Predation Definition

What does predation mean? What is predation? We can define predation as the ecological process in which an animal (or an organism) kills and feeds on another animal (or an organism). The animal that kills another animal to feed on is called a “ predator “. The one that is killed to be eaten is known as prey . The best example of predation is in carnivorous interaction. A carnivore is an animal that gets its energy only by eating meat or animal tissues. Thus, in carnivorous interaction, one animal feeds on another. Examples are wolves hunting a deer or a moose, an owl hunting the mice, and the lion hunting various animals.

Shark capturing prey

Predation in Ecology

An ecological science definition of predation is that it is an ecological process where energy is transferred from one living being to another based on the nature and behavior of the predator.

How does predation work? In another context, predation means the reliance of one organism on another by consuming it as its food. Using predation, the organisms get the energy to increase their life and reproduce to sustain the existence of their species.

Animals that are an easy target include the young and the old. The young are without sufficient experience or knowledge yet are highly vulnerable to predator attacks. The old animals, in turn, are not as vigorous as they have been during their prime and so would not be able to defend themselves fully as they have been.

Often, the predator is larger than its prey. The larger animal consumes the smaller ones as their food as mostly seen in seas (where large fishes are preying on small fishes or insects). However, there are instances as well when small animals are preying on large ones and this is not an easy task. A group hunting technique referred to as group predation makes predation of larger animals possible. Examples of group predation are a group of lions, wolves, or hyenas that can kill much larger animals. Lions are seen to kill big buffalos that are sometimes five times the weight of individuals. Group predation is commonly seen in ants as well.

Predation is not only seen in animals but also in other living beings, such as carnivorous plants. Examples include pitcher plants and Venus flytrap that prey on insects and flies. As you will see, there are three stages of venus flytrap predation. Firstly, the trap (which is a pair of modified leaves) is open waiting for prey to enter. When a prey (e.g. fly) gets into the plant’s trap, it generates stimuli that signal the plant to close a bit. By the next stimulation, the plant totally shuts its trap sealing the prey inside. The trap then serves as a digestive organ, secreting enzymes that digest the prey.

Read: Understanding the Venus Flytrap.

As for the pitcher, there is a pool of water containing digestive enzymes that digest the insect into absorbable food. The digestive enzymes dissolve the insect and the plant gets the nutrients.

Predator Definition

What is a predator? We can define predators as the species that use other species as their food. There are animal predators such as cats, wolves, lions, etc., and plant predators such as pitcher-plant. Predator and prey have an ecological relationship that keeps the population of both in control. When a predatory animal starts consuming its prey, the population of prey will decrease while that of the predator will increase. After some time there will be less prey while more predators. The lesser food will result in a decrease in the population of predators and as result, the population of prey will start increasing. This predator-prey relationship is naturally present on earth for millions of years. Further details about this have been discussed in the Population dynamics of predator and prey .

There are several types of predators depending on their size, biology, and nature of predation. However, predators are largely considered carnivores or meat-eaters . Other references though include herbivores and parasites as predators based on the definition of predation that incorporates the ecological flow of energy between organisms. [Ref.: Sih, et al.] However, we will focus more on the carnivores as predators in the next sections.

predators - collage

Predators’ hunting techniques

Predators search, assess, pursue, and then kill the prey. These actions of a predator are known as the foraging cycle . The search involves finding the right kind of prey. For example, a wolf will not search for a very oversized animal such as buffalo, rather its preference will be a smaller animal such as moose. Similarly, an insect named “mantid” would prefer to catch small prey. This is because it uses its forelegs to capture and eat the prey and its forelegs are not very large or strong. Thus there is a positive correlation between the size of prey and types of predators. Once the prey is searched, the predator can assess either wait for it or pursue it . It also depends on the nature of the predator and the density of prey. Of course, a plant will not pursue a fly. However, some predators such as tigers and lions can first wait and then pursue their prey once it’s in their range.

Predators use different methods of hunting. One of the methods is to capture the prey. There are several capturing techniques that different predators use. The techniques can involve ambush ( lions, panthers, and other carnivorous animals use this method ), ballistic interception ( such as a frog catches a fly passing nearby with a sudden jerk of its sticky tongue ), and pursuit (chasing).

  • In the ambush technique , the animal observes the environment and waits for prey silently in a more hidden area. The purpose of an ambush is to launch a surprise attack on the prey thus leaving limited chances of its survival. Ambush technique is used by both vertebrate predators ( frogs, angel sharks, etc. ) and non-vertebrate predators ( mantis shrimps, trapdoor spiders, etc. )


  • Ballistic interception is the technique in which the predator first observes the movement of its prey, predicts its motion, and then intercepts by attacking the animal with the predator’s natural tool. Examples of predators that use ballistic attacks are vertebrates such as chameleons and non-vertebrate such as dragonflies.

  • Pursuit is another technique where the predators chase the fleeing prey. Chasing prey involves the agility and skill of the predator. If prey moves in a single direction, the capture depends upon the speed of the predator. The one with higher speed will win. But in most cases, the prey seldom moves in a straight line (for example chasing a deer). In such a situation the predator must react in a timely manner by calculating and following the intercept path.

A predator blindly following the haphazardly moving prey will lose it eventually. The best technique the predator uses is parallel navigation where every move of the prey brings it closer to the predator. Some predators camouflage before the actual pursuit. This helps them to be as close to the prey as possible. Thus minimum pursuit may be required. Contrary to high-speed pursuit done by lions, tigers, cats, etc., there is another kind of pursuit that requires extreme endurance and persistence. In such kinds of pursuits, the predator chases the prey for long distances at slow speed. The chase may linger for hours. The African dog is the best example of such a predator. It follows its prey for many miles at a relatively slow speed. Hunting in a group is known as group pursuit predators. Lions and wolves show such behavior. Such pursuit can help capture and handle a larger prey.

Predators’ prey handling

After capturing the prey, the predator has to handle its prey for eating. This is the fight of predator versus prey where the predator wants to eat while the prey wants to escape. The predators can kill the prey or sometimes eat alive. There are prey animals that are very dangerous to handle due to the presence of their innate defense mechanisms, such as sharp claws, teeth, poisonous spines, etc. For example, catfish can lock its spine in an erect position suddenly. If it is in the mouth of a predator, it can severely damage the predator’s mouth. The predators avoid this danger by tearing up the prey before eating.


The principle of evolution is based on the survival of the fittest. Predation has an impact on the fitness of both the prey and the predators. In order to survive and reproduce for the continuation of their species, both predators and prey need to acquire adaptations to enable them to eat, and at the same time, avoid being eaten. The survival mechanism is passed to offspring in genetically determined traits.  Natural selection  is the basis of the selection of improved predation for predators and avoiding predation by prey.

Predators adaptations

The adaptation in predators helps them capture their prey easily. Predators usually exhibit traits such as sharp claws, teeth, body structure, and venom that increase the ability to capture the prey. Apart from these traits, a predator also needs very sharp sensory organs to locate and observe the prey. The adaptation resulted in an acute sense of smell, hearing, and viewing. For example, the raptor ( birds of prey ) can spot their prey from a mile away. Similarly, the owl catches the mice by locating the sound. Pit viper snakes can sense heat from the prey which helps it chase. The bat and dolphins use sound waves to navigate and locate potential prey.

birds of prey

Prey adaptations

Prey adaptation in nature helps the prey to avoid detection or capture. Some species use color and camouflage methods to avoid detection. These include leaf insects, small lizards, moths, frogs, and other herbivorous animals. The prey freezes at its position once it detects the predator. The lack of movement makes it difficult for a predator to search visually. There are situations when predators come too close, in such conditions the prey will suddenly flee. The predator may start the chase. Prey will avoid capture by moving away from the predator or sitting on another area where it becomes invisible. However, such tactics don’t work every time. Some prey animals confuse or surprise the predators to get some extra time to flee. Lizards drop their tails to confuse the predator. Predator catches the tail while the lizard flees away. Similarly, moths can flash brightly colored hindwings in front of predators to confuse and threaten them. The brightly colored species are considered toxic among predators. Not all species exhibiting vivid colors are toxic but they mimic to avoid being eaten. Examples of such mimicry include the swallowtail butterfly which mimics the distasteful species of Amauris and Danaeus.

thanatosis - playing dead

Chemical adaptations

Both predators and prey have shown chemical adaptation. The predators use chemicals to attack the prey while prey uses the chemicals to counter-attack or avoid being eaten. Prey uses venom , poisons , and toxins as their defense. The venomous snakes use their toxic venom to take down their prey. These snakes can kill a larger animal using their venom by injecting it into the bloodstream of its prey while biting. In a few moments, the animal will die. The snakes don’t chew, but swallow their prayers. The larger snakes have been seen to eat whole goats or dear.

Some prey have acquired mechanisms that make them less palatable to their predators. For example, caterpillars and monarch butterflies can eat milkweed, which is a poisonous plant for most omnivores and herbivores. By eating this plant, the butterflies also get the toxins. That makes them unappetizing to the predators.

Population Dynamics of Predators and Prey

There is a natural balance between the population of predators and the prey. If there are no predators, the population of the prey can increase exponentially. It can increase the carrying capacity of the environment. Predators help to control the prey population by consuming it as their food. When the population of prey increases, the number of predators also increases as there is more food available. But an increase in the predator population could lead to a decline in the prey population. This, in turn, has its effect on the predator population, which also decreases because of the scarcity of food. Thus there are cyclic fluctuations in the population of prey and predators.

The population dynamics of snowshoe hare and lynx were studied by the researchers. They found that over the period of time the hare population was fluctuating and with these fluctuations, the population of lynx was also changing in synchrony.

population dynamics chart - hare and lynx

Apart from predator and prey, some other factors also play their role in population dynamics. These factors are environmental and human interference. If there are multiple predators for the same prey, the population of prey will abruptly fall while the predators either need to find a new place or new prey to feed themselves. Thus, the food web (food cycle) in such conditions becomes very complex to study.

Researchers have found that in northern temperate regions the food web is simple and a population cycle exists. Researchers have also made computer mathematical models to simulate the population dynamics of the species. This will help the scientists to study the population cycle and thus help avoid the extinction of species.

Energy Flow and Trophic Levels

The trophic level of an organism indicates the position it occupies in the food cycle. The food cycle or food web is the system comprising producers, consumers, and decomposers. Producers include the autotrophs and they produce their food from soil, water, air, and light. They do not eat other animals as prey. Consumers are also known as heterotrophs . They cannot produce their food and need to eat other organisms which can be animals, plants, insects, etc. Lastly, decomposers are the organisms that decompose food or animal waste. Bacteria are natural decomposers.

Based on these three identities, the trophic levels are defined as follows: LEVEL-01: Producers (plants and algae make their own food) LEVEL-02: Herbivores (The animals that eat the plant to live) LEVEL-03: Carnivores (Eat herbivores) LEVEL-04: Carnivores (Eat other carnivores- prey on predators)

predation definition

Predation Examples

There are several examples of predation. Humans are one of the biggest examples of predation. Unlike plants, humans and other mammals cannot produce their own food. Therefore they need to eat other animals or plants to survive.

Carnivorous predation

Carnivorous predation is one of the most common kinds of predation. The best example of carnivorous predation is lion hunting zebras, rhinos, buffalo, and wolves. Wolves hunt large herbivores such as deer, sheep, and elk. Wolves have strong jaws, powerful bodies, and an acute sensory system that helps them find, capture, and kill their prey.

Owls seem like innocent birds, however, they are predators for mice. Owls also eat other things such as frogs, snakes, lizards, rabbits, and squirrels. An owl is also an example of carnivorous predation.

Apart from owls, many other birds are carnivorous predators, for example, eagles, hawks, falcons, vultures, etc. All of these birds eat other species such as mice, chickens, snakes, fishes, etc.

Some plants have also shown carnivorous behavior such as pitcher plant capturing and digesting the flies. Similarly, venus flytraps also work in the same manner. These plants are usually found in soils that are not very rich in nutrients.

Herbivorous predation

In herbivorous predation, the predator eats plants, grass, leaves, algae, etc. Herbivores are adapted to their mode of feeding for example rabbit is a herbivore and will eat certain types of grass and leaves. It is unable to eat strong stems and plants. Elephants are also herbivores and can eat tough plants and stems because of their flat teeth which grind easily. Examples of other herbivore predation are cow eating grass, goat and sheep eating plant leaves, monkeys eating fruits, gorillas eating soft stems and leaves of the plant. Apart from animals, some insects have also shown herbivorous predation behavior such as grasshoppers eating plant leaves, stems, and flowers.

Parasitic predation

An example of parasitic predation where parasites don’t kill the animal are mites, ticks, and lice. The host of the parasite is usually a human, animal, or plant. Parasitic fungi are also examples of parasitic predation because they rely on their host of food.

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  • AfricaFreak. 2017. “Are There Any Natural African Elephant Predators?”  https://africafreak.com/african-elephant-predators.
  • AnimalWised. 2019. “What Do Frogs Eat.” https://www.animalwised.com/what-do-frogs-eat-feeding-pet-frogs-3193.html.
  • ASEC. 2018. “Natural Predation of The Great White Shark.” https://ultimate-animals.com/predation-of-the-great-white-shark/.
  • Education. 2019. “Herbivore.” https://educationinaction.org/water-rocks-vocabulary/herbivore.
  • NatGeoKids. 2019. “Awesome 8 Carnivorous Plants.” https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/awesome-8-hub/carnivorous-plants/.
  • Peta. 2019. “Avocado, Cereal, and 13 Other Foods You Should Never Feed Your Rabbit.”  https://www.peta.org/living/animal-companions/foods-rabbits-shouldnt-eat/.
  • Predator, Hunting. 2020. “Why Anti-Hunters Are Dead Wrong About Wolves.”  https://www.petersenshunting.com/editorial/anti-hunters-dead-wrong-about-wolves/272873.
  • Reddit. 2018. “Ecology.” https://www.reddit.com/r/natureismetal/comments/b52qi7/cheetah_chasing_a_thomsons_gazelle.
  • Reddit. 2020. “Snow Owl in Hunt.”  https://www.reddit.com/r/NatureIsFuckingLit/comments/fqkd6p/snowy_owl_in_the_hunt/.
  • Sih, A., Crowley, P., McPeek, M., Petranka, J., and Strohmeier, K. 2019. Predation, Competition, and Prey Communities: A Review of Field Experiments . Annual Reviews. https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.es.16.110185.001413
  • Toppr. 2018. “Tropic Leves.” https://www.toppr.com/ask/content/concept/trophic-levels-and-energy-flow-267613/.
  • Zoo. 2020. “Zoo Face Book Page.” https://web.facebook.com/zoosvictoria/photos/cheetahs-are-ambush-predators-what-does-this-mean-it-means-they-wait-lurking-in-/10156767199153068/?_rdc=1&_rdr.

Last updated on January 13th, 2022

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Definition of predate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

Definition of predate  (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive + intransitive

Example Sentences

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'predate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

back-formation from predator or predatory

1854, in the meaning defined above

1941, in the meaning defined above

Dictionary Entries Near predate


Cite this Entry

“Predate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/predate. Accessed 11 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition

Kids definition of predate, more from merriam-webster on predate.

Britannica English: Translation of predate for Arabic Speakers

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Predation, Herbivory, and Parasitism

predation definition

Individual organisms in a community interact in many different ways. An interaction may benefit both individuals, or the interaction may benefit one organism to the detriment of the other. An interaction between two organisms that benefits one to the detriment of the other is an antagonistic interaction. Predation, herbivory, and parasitism are specific types of antagonistic interactions.

Predation and Adaptation

Predation influences the fitness of both predators and prey. Individuals must both feed and avoid being eaten to survive and reproduce. Genetically-determined traits that improve an organism’s ability to survive and reproduce will be passed on to its offspring. Traits associated with improved predation for predators and escaping predation for prey tend to be positively selected by natural selection. Predators exhibit traits such as sharp teeth, claws, and venom that enhance their ability to catch food. They also possess extremely acute sensory organs that help them to find potential prey. Consider the ability of raptors to spot potential prey from over a kilometer away, the acute sense of smell of moles, the ability of owls to locate mice by sound, the ability of pit vipers to sense body heat when tracking prey, and the ability of bats and dolphins to echolocate. Predators catch their prey either by pursuing potential prey or by ambushing them. Organisms that give chase are capable of short bursts of speed. Those that lie in wait tend to be camouflaged to avoid detection (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Adaptations to predation (A) Cheetahs can sustain bursts of speed while chasing prey. (B) Species that lie in wait for their prey, such as the orchid mantis, are cryptically colored to avoid detection.

In a similar manner, prey species exhibit traits that help them avoid detection or capture. Many, such as leaf insects, moths, a variety of frogs and small lizards, and herbivorous mammals, are cryptically colored to make them more difficult to see. Behaviorally, they freeze after detecting the presence of a predator. This lack of movement helps them better blend in with their background and inhibits the ability of the predator to find them. But when predators venture too close, prey will take flight, running or flying to escape. When a chase ensues, prey will typically survive if they stay out of reach until the predator tires. Some species buy extra time by distracting the predator. Examples include moths that flash brightly colored hindwings, lizards that drop their tails, and insect larvae that discharge slime. Such actions surprise the predator and give the prey time a few extra moments to escape. When a predator chases after potential prey, the predator is running for its dinner. The prey is running for its life. If the predator fails to capture the prey, it goes hungry, but it will not experience a large decline in fitness as a result of the interaction. In contrast, if the predator catches the prey, the captured individual loses any future opportunities to reproduce. This “life-dinner principle” sets up an evolutionary arms race between the two species (Dawkins & Krebs 1979). In this race, the prey experience strong selective pressure to evolve better adaptations to avoid being eaten. At the same time, predators must capture sufficient food to survive and reproduce, and they too are subjected to selective pressure for traits that allow them to hunt successfully. Over time, this arms race leads to traits that enable prey to better avoid capture, whereas predators become better able to capture prey.

Figure 2: Aposematic coloration Brightly colored animals, such as the red-spotted newt (a) and monarch butterfly (b), warn potential predators against consumption. Such organisms contain toxins.

In contrast to the examples provided thus far, some prey exhibit bright coloration. Such aposematic coloration helps prevent predation by signaling to potential predators that the vividly-colored individual is toxic. Toxins may be manufactured within the body, as with the red-spotted newt, or they may be acquired passively via consumption of toxic plants, as with the monarch butterfly (Figure 2).

Figure 3: Batesian mimicry Non-toxic Papilio dardanus swallowtail butterfly females occur in a variety of forms, each of which mimics the physical appearance of toxic species.

Not all species that exhibit vivid coloration are truly toxic. Some have evolved patterns and colors that mimic those of toxic species. Examples of such Batesian mimicry include the extraordinarily polymorphic Papilio dardanus swallowtail butterfly in southern Africa and Madagascar (Salvato 1997). Females of this species occur in a wide variety of physical appearances, nearly all of which mimic distasteful species of the Danaeus and Amauris genera with which they co-occur (Figure 3).

In parasitism, an individual organism, the parasite, consumes nutrients from another organism, its host, resulting in a decrease in fitness to the host. In extreme cases, parasites can cause disease in the host organism; in these situations, we refer to them as pathogens. We divide parasites into two categories: endoparasites, which live inside the body of their hosts, and ectoparasites, which live and feed on the outside of the body of their host. Examples of endoparasites include flukes, tapeworms, fungi, bacteria, and protozoa. Ectoparasites include ticks and lice, plants, protozoa, bacteria, and fungi. Plants and animals typically act as hosts. In most situations, parasites do not kill their hosts. An exception, however, occurs with parasitoids, which blur the line between parasitism and predation. The best-known parasitoids include several species of wasp, which immobilize — but do not kill — a host by stinging it. The female then carries the host to a burrow, where she lays eggs within the host’s body. After the larvae hatch, they consume the living tissues of the host, eventually killing it (Figure 4a).

Figure 4: Parasitoidism A parastic wasp stings its prey before laying eggs on or in it (a). The larvae will consume the insect after hatching. The fruiting bodies of entomogenous fungi extend from the insect it consumed (b).

Entomogenous fungi also act as parasitoids; they infect the bodies of insects, either through the mouth while foraging or by penetrating the outer cuticle of the insect’s body (Ferron 1978, Roy et al. 2006). Spores circulate inside the host, whose body provides the nutrients needed for fungal growth. Eventually, the fungal load becomes too great for the host, and the insect dies (Figure 4b). The major distinguishing difference between parasitoids and predators is that parasitoids feed on living tissue, whereas the predator kills its prey before, or in the process of, consuming it.

Parasite Transmission

For all parasites, the host exists as an island of habitat. But the island lives for a finite period of time, and the parasites must find a new host before the existing one dies. Transmission to a new host can happen either directly, or through a vector. In direct transmission, the parasite moves from one host to another of the same species without an intermediate organism. In vector transmission, an intermediate organism, the vector, transfers the parasite from one host to the next.

Figure 5: Complex life cycle of the Plasmodium parasite The life cycle requires both the primary human host and the intermediate Anopheles mosquito host for completion.

Many endoparasites have a complex life cycle that involves two hosts, and the parasite must spend time in both to complete its life cycle. Take, for example, the protozoan parasite Plasmodium , which causes malaria. Plasmodium must spend time in humans and in an Anopheles mosquito to complete its life cycle. The mosquito acts as a vector, transferring Plasmodium from infected humans to uninfected individuals. Additionally, the mosquito acts as an intermediate host. When a female mosquito ingests blood containing Plasmodium , some of the red blood cells contain gametes (eggs and sperm). In the mosquito’s gut, the gametes come together to form a zygote, the development of which results in sporozoites. It is this life stage that can then go on to infect a new human when the mosquito feeds (Figure 5).

References and Recommended Reading

Coley, P. D. & Barone J. A. Herbivory and plant defenses in tropical forests. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 27, 305-335 (1996).

Dawkins, R. & Krebs, J. Arms races between and within species. Proceedings of the Royal Society, London, Series B, Biological Sciences 205, 489-511 (1979).

Ferron, P. Biological control of insect pests by entomogenous fungi. Annual Reviews of Entomology 23, 409-442 (1978).

Roy, H. E., Steinkraus, D. C., et al. Bizarre interactions and endgames: entomopathic fungi and their arthropod hosts. Annual Review of Entomology 51, 331-357 (2006).

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  • Ecology: Definition, Types, Importance & Examples

Predation (Biology): Definition, Types & Examples

The definition of an ecosystem is a community of different species and populations of organisms interacting with each other and their environment in a particular geographical area on Earth. Ecosystems account for all relationships between living and nonliving things.

One way to describe some of the relationships in an ecosystem is through a food chain or a food web . Food chains describe a hierarchal systems or series that show and describe the relationships between organisms in terms of which organisms are eaten by those higher on the food chain.

Another way to describe what you can see on a food web is through predator-prey relationships. These relationships, also described as predation , occur when one organism (the prey) is eaten by another organism (the predator). In relation to the food chain , the organism one step higher on the hierarchy is considered a predator of the organism (or the prey) a step below them on the hierarchy.

Definition of Predation

Symbiotic relationships describe long-term and close relationships between organisms of different species. Predation is a specific type of symbiotic relationship because the predator and prey relationship is a long-term and close one within an ecosystem.

Specifically, predation is defined as one part of a symbiotic relationship when an organism is a predator against a different species of organism, called the prey, where they capture and eat that organism for energy/food.

Types of Predation

Within the term predation are specific kinds that are defined by how the predator-prey interactions and relationship dynamics work.

Carnivory. Carnivory is the first type of predation that is most commonly thought of when we think of predator and prey relationships. As the name suggests, carnivory is a type of predation that involves the predator consuming the meat of other animals or non-plant organisms. Organisms that prefer to eat other animal or insect organisms are thus called carnivores .

This type of predation and the predators that fall within this category can be further broken down. For example, some organisms must eat meat in order to survive. They're called obligatory or obligate carnivores native lions. Examples include members of the cat family, such as mountain lions, cheetahs, Africa native lions and house cats.

Facultative carnivores, on the other hand, are predators that can eat meat to survive, but they don't need it to survive. They can also eat non-animal food like plants and other types of organisms to survive. Another word for these types of carnivores is omnivores (meaning they can eat anything in order to survive). People, dogs, bears and crayfish are all examples of facultative carnivores.

Examples of carnivory include wolves eating deer, polar bears eating seals, a venus fly trap eating insects, birds eating worms, sharks eating seals and people eating meat from animals like cattle and poultry.

Herbivory. Herbivory is the a type of predation where the predator consumes autotrophs like land plants, algae and photosynthetic bacteria. Many don't consider this to be a typical predator-prey type since predation colloquially is associated with carnivory. However, since one organism is consuming another, herbivory is a type of predation.

The term herbivory is most commonly used as a descriptor for animals that eat plants. Organisms that eat plants only are called herbivores.

As with carnivory, herbivory can be divided into subtypes. Organisms that eat both plant and animal food are not considered herbivores since they don't solely eat plants/autotrophs. Instead, they're called omnivores or facultative carnivores (as was previously discussed).

The two main subtypes of herbivory are monophagous and polyphagous herbivores. Monophagous herbivory is when the predator species eats solely one type of plant. A common example would be a koala bear that only eats leaves from trees.

Polyphagous herbivores are species that eat multiple kinds of plants; most herbivores fall under this category. Examples include deer eating multiple types of grasses, monkeys eating various fruits and caterpillars that eat all types of leaves.

Parasitism . Both herbivory and carnivory require the organism being preyed upon to die in order for the predator to gain their nutrients/energy. Parasitism, however, does not necessarily require death of the prey (although it is often a side effect of the relationship).

Parasitism is defined as a relationship where one organism, called the parasite , benefits at the expense of a host organism. Not all parasitism is considered predation since not all parasites feed off of their host. Sometimes parasites use the host for protection, shelter or reproductive purposes.

In terms of predation, the parasite would be considered the predator while the host organism would be considered the prey, but the prey doesn't always die as a result of the parasitism.

A common example of this head lice. Head lice use the human scalp as a host and feed off of the blood on the scalp. This causes negative health effects (itching, scabs, dandruff, death of tissue on the scalp and more) for the host individual, but it doesn't kill the host.

Mutualism . Mutualism is another predator-prey relationship that doesn't result in the death of the prey. It describes a relationship between two organisms where both organisms benefit. Most mutualistic relationships are not examples of predation, but there are a few examples of this.

The most common example involves the endosymbiotic theory where one unicellular organism may have engulfed (a.k.a., ate) what we now know as mitochondria and chloroplasts. Current theories say that mitochondria and chloroplasts were once free-living organisms that were then eaten by larger cells.

They then became organelles and benefitted from the protection of the cell membrane while the organisms that engulfed them gained an evolutionary advantage of performing photosynthesis and cellular respiration.

Predator-Prey Relationships, Population Cycles and Population Dynamics

As you now know, predators are higher in the food chain than their prey. Most predators are considered to be secondary and/or tertiary consumers, although primary consumers that eat plants could be considered predators under the definition of herbivory.

Prey almost always outnumbers predators, which relates back to the concept of energy flow and the energy pyramid. It's estimated that only 10 percent of energy flows or is transferred between trophic levels; it makes sense that top predators are lower in numbers since there's not enough energy that can flow to that top level to support larger numbers.

Predator-prey relationships also involved what's known as predator-prey cycles. This is the general cycle:

Predators keep prey populations in check, which allows the number of predators to increase. This increase results in a decrease in prey populations as the predators consume the prey. This loss of prey then leads to a decrease in predator numbers, which allows prey to increase. This continues is a cycle that allows the ecosystem overall to stay stable.

An example of this is the relationship between the wolf and rabbit populations: as rabbit populations increase, there is more prey for wolves to eat. This allows the wolf population to increase, which means more rabbits must be eaten to support the larger population. This will cause the rabbit population to decrease.

As the rabbit population decreases, the larger wolf population can no longer be supported because of a lack of prey, which will cause death and a decrease in overall wolf numbers. Fewer predators allows more rabbits to survive and reproduce, which increases their population once again, and the cycle is back to the beginning.

Predation Pressure and Evolution

Predation pressure is one of the main influences on natural selection , which means that it also has a huge influence on evolution. Prey must evolve defenses to fight or avoid potential predators in order to survive and reproduce. In turn, predators must evolve ways to overcome those defenses in order to get food, survive and reproduce.

For prey species, individuals without these advantageous traits to avoid predation are more likely to be killed by predators, which drives natural selection of those favorable qualities for prey. For predators, individuals without advantageous traits that allow them to find and capture prey will die, which drives natural selection of those favorable qualities for predators.

Defensive Adaptations of Prey Animals and Plants (Examples)

This concept is most easily understood with examples. These are the most common examples of predation-fueled adaptations:

Camouflage. Camouflage is when organisms can use their coloring, texture and general body shape in order to blend in with their surroundings, which helps them avoid being spotted and eaten by predators.

An amazing example of this would be various species of squid that can change their appearance based on their environment to essentially become invisible to predators. Another example is the coloring of eastern American chipmunks. Their brown fur allows them to blend in to the forest floor, which makes them harder for predators to spot.

Mechanical. Mechanical defenses are physical adaptations that protect both plants and animals from predation. Mechanical defenses can make it hard or even impossible for potential predators to consume the organism, or they could cause physical harm to the predator, which makes the predator avoid that organism.

Plant mechanical defenses include things like thorny branches, waxy leaf coatings, thick tree bark and spiny leaves.

Prey animals can also have mechanical defenses to work against predation. Turtles, for example, have evolved their hard shell that makes them hard to eat or kill. Porcupines evolved spikes that make them both hard to consume and that can cause physical harm to potential predators.

Animals can also evolve the ability to outrun predators and/or to fight back (through biting, stinging, and so on) against predators.

Chemical. Chemical defenses are adaptations that allow organisms to use chemical adaptations (as opposed to physical/mechanical adaptations) to defend themselves against predation.

Many plants will contain chemicals that are toxic to predators when consumed, which leads to predators avoiding that plant. An example of this is the foxglove, which is toxic when eaten.

Animals can evolve these defenses, too. An example is the poison dart frog that can secrete toxic poison from glands on the skin. These toxins can poison and kill predators, which results in those predators usually leaving the frog alone. The fire salamander is another example: They can secrete and squirt a nerve poison out of special glands, which can injure and kill potential predators.

Other common chemical defenses include chemicals that make the plant or animal taste or smell bad to predators. This helps prey avoid predation as predators learn to avoid organisms that smell or taste bad. A prime example is the skunk that can spray a foul-smelling liquid to deter predators.

Warning Signals. While the color and look of organisms is often used as a way to blend into the environment, it can also be used as a warning to stay away to reduce predation risk.

This is called warning coloration , and it is usually bright, like poisonous frogs of the rainforest or bright stripes of venomous snakes, or bold in pattern, like the black and white stripes of the skunk. These warning colors are often accompanied with defenses like a foul smell or toxic chemical defenses.

Mimicry. Not all organisms actually evolve these types of defenses. Instead, some rely on mimicking those that do in hopes it will confuse predators.

For example, the venomous coral snake has distinctive red, yellow and black striping that acts as warning coloration against predators. Other snakes like the scarlet king snake have evolved to also have this striping, but they're actually harmless and non-venomous. The mimicry gives them protection since predators now think they're actually dangerous and should be avoided.

Predator Adaptations

Predators also adapt in order to keep up with the adaptations of their prey. Predators can use camouflage in order to hide from prey and make a surprise attack, which can help them catch their prey and avoid any dangerous defenses the prey might have.

Many predators, especially large predators at higher trophic levels, evolve superior speed and strength along with other mechanical adaptations that allow them to overtake their prey. This can include the evolution of "tools" that help them overcome mechanical and chemical defenses like thicker skin, sharp teeth, sharp claws and more.

Chemical adaptations also exist in predators. Instead of using poison, venom, toxins and other chemical adaptations as defenses, many will use these adaptations for the purpose of predation. Venomous snakes, for example, use their venom to take down prey.

Predators can also evolve chemical adaptations that allow them to overcome chemical defenses of their prey. For example, milkweed is a poisonous plant to almost all herbivores and omnivores. Monarch butterflies and caterpillars, however, eat only milkweed and have evolved to not be affected by the poison. In fact, this also gives them a chemical defense as the milkweed toxins that get on the butterflies make them unappetizing to predators.

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About the Author

Elliot Walsh holds a B.S in Cell and Developmental Biology and a B.A in English Literature from the University of Rochester. He's worked in multiple academic research labs, at a pharmaceutical company, as a TA for chemistry, and as a tutor in STEM subjects. He's currently working full-time as a content writer and editor.

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Meaning of predation in English

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  • anti-hunter
  • anti-hunting
  • fishing line
  • fishing pole
  • fly fishing
  • overfishing

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a skilled and trained cook who works in a hotel or restaurant, especially the most important cook

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Definition of predation noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary

  • Goldfish are particularly prone to predation by cats and birds such as herons.

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Definition of 'predation'

Predation in american english, predation in british english.

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What does predation mean?

Definitions for predation prɪˈdeɪ ʃən pre·da·tion, this dictionary definitions page includes all the possible meanings, example usage and translations of the word predation ., princeton's wordnet rate this definition: 0.0 / 0 votes.

depredation, predation noun

an act of plundering and pillaging and marauding

  • predation noun

the act of preying by a predator who kills and eats the prey

Wiktionary Rate this definition: 0.0 / 0 votes

act of predating

Etymology: From praedatio, praedationem.

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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 seed predators and destructive frugivores are predators. Predators may actively search for or pursue prey or wait for it, often concealed. When prey is detected, the predator assesses whether to attack it. This may involve ambush or pursuit predation, 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, mimicry of well-defended species, 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.

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Predation is a biological interaction between two organisms where a predator feeds on its prey. The predator is usually the larger and stronger organism, while the prey is the smaller and weaker one. This process is crucial for the predator's survival as it gets its nourishment from the prey and is fundamental for the balance of nature, contributing to biodiversity and population control.

Webster Dictionary Rate this definition: 0.0 / 0 votes

Predation noun

the act of pillaging

Etymology: [L. praedatio, fr. praedari to plunder.]

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In ecology, predation describes a biological interaction where a predator feeds on its prey. Predators may or may not kill their prey prior to feeding on them, but the act of predation often results in the death of its prey and the eventual absorption of the prey's tissue through consumption. Other categories of consumption are herbivory, mycophagy and detritivory, the consumption of dead organic material. All these consumption categories fall under the rubric of consumer-resource systems. It can often be difficult to separate various types of feeding behaviors. For example, some parasitic species prey on a host organism and then lay their eggs on it for their offspring to feed on it while it continues to live or on its decaying corpse after it has died. The key characteristic of predation however is the predator's direct impact on the prey population. On the other hand, detritivores simply eat dead organic material arising from the decay of dead individuals and have no direct impact on the "donor" organism. Selective pressures imposed on one another often leads to an evolutionary arms race between prey and predator, resulting in various antipredator adaptations. Ways of classifying predation surveyed here include grouping by trophic level or diet, by specialization, and by the nature of the predator's interaction with prey.

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Chaldean Numerology

The numerical value of predation in Chaldean Numerology is: 1

Pythagorean Numerology

The numerical value of predation in Pythagorean Numerology is: 3

Examples of predation in a Sentence

Phillip Barden :

Fossilized behavior is exceedingly rare, predation ( the act of predator attacking prey) especially so, as paleontologists, we speculate about the function of ancient adaptations using available evidence, but to see an extinct predator caught in the act of capturing its prey is invaluable.

Alison Towner :

I've seen some incredible things working with the Dyer Island Conservation Trust, butone thing I never ever expected to see was predation pressure from killer whales, we had never even seen an Orca here prior to 2011.

Mark Pearson :

Often the one at foot will hop away because it’s terrified as its mother has just been shot. Now the chances of the shooter catching that little joey and killing it is slim, so it dies from predation , starvation and exposure.

Democratic Representative Katie Hill :

I'm leaving because of a misogynistic culture that gleefully consumed my naked pictures, capitalized on my sexuality, and enabled my abusive ex to continue that abuse, this time with the entire country watching, yet a man who brags about his sexual predation ... sits in the highest office of the land.

Curry Rogers :

Precocial young can avoid predation on their own, and there is a much smaller chance of the entire brood succumbing to predation at once.

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Translations for predation, from our multilingual translation dictionary.

  • Raub, Jagd German
  • saalistus Finnish
  • prédation French
  • pemangsaan Indonesian
  • 捕食 Japanese
  • pemangsaan Malay
  • predatie Dutch
  • охо́та, хи́щничество Russian

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  • A.   sesquipedalian
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  • D.   commensal

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  1. Predation Definition & Meaning

    1 : the killing by one living organism of another for food These small fish are most vulnerable to predation just after sunset, when larger fish, such as barracuda and jacks, chase them into the shallow water near shore to feed on them. Anne Brooke

  2. Predation Definition & Meaning

    1 1425-75; late Middle English <Latin praedātiōn- (stem of praedātiō) a taking of booty, plundering, equivalent to praedāt ( us ), past participle of praedārī to plunder, catch (see predator) + -iōn- Words Nearby predation precut precycle pred. predacious predate predation

  3. Predation

    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).

  4. Predation

    noun the act of preying by a predator who kills and eats the prey see more noun an act of plundering and pillaging and marauding synonyms: depredation see more Cite this entry Style: MLA "Predation." Vocabulary.com Dictionary, Vocabulary.com, https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/predation. Accessed 17 Aug. 2023. Copy citation VocabTrainer™

  5. Predation

    predation, in animal behaviour, the pursuit, capture, and killing of animals for food. Predatory animals may be solitary hunters, like the leopard, or they may be group hunters, like wolves. The senses of predators are adapted in a variety of ways to facilitate hunting behaviour.

  6. Predation

    Predation refers to a flow of energy between two organisms, predator and prey. In this interaction, the prey loses energy, and the predator gains energy. The word 'predation' derives from the Latin word praedari, meaning 'to plunder'.Predation includes carnivory, as well as interactions like grazing, parasitism, and symbiotic mutualism.

  7. Predation & herbivory (article)

    Predation is an interaction in which one organism, the predator, eats all or part of the body of another organism, the prey. Herbivory is a form of predation in which the prey organism is a plant. Predator and prey populations affect each other's dynamics. The sizes of predator and prey populations often go up and down in linked cycles.

  8. Predator Definition & Meaning

    1 : an organism that primarily obtains food by the killing and consuming of other organisms : an organism that lives by predation The threadworm is a tiny nematode; its manifold kin include human parasites such as the hookworm, although the lab species is no parasite but an abundant, free-living predator of soil bacteria. Eleanor E. MacCoby

  9. Predation Definition and Examples

    A predation is a form of a symbiotic relationship between two organisms of unlike species in which one of them acts as a predator that captures and feeds on the other organism that serves as the prey. Predation in Ecology

  10. Predate Definition & Meaning

    : to prey on (something or someone) Animals predate other animals in nature, but that is hardly commensurate with a massive worldwide farming industry that breeds species purely for our purpose. Jenny Diski Are high-profile men that sexually predate women finally starting to lose immunity? Alex McKinnon


    noun [ U ] biology specialized uk / prɪˈdeɪ.ʃ ə n / us / prɪˈdeɪ.ʃ ə n / Add to word list the fact that an animal hunts, kills, and eats other animals: For local cattle ranchers, predation by mountain lions is a problem. SMART Vocabulary: related words and phrases Hunting & fishing angler angling anti-hunt anti-hunter anti-hunting barb fisher

  12. Predation, Herbivory, and Parasitism

    In predation, one organism kills and consumes another. Predation provides energy to prolong the life and promote the reproduction of the organism that does the killing, the predator, to the...

  13. Predation (Biology): Definition, Types & Examples

    Specifically, predation is defined as one part of a symbiotic relationship when an organism is a predator against a different species of organism, called the prey, where they capture and eat that organism for energy/food. Types of Predation


    predation meaning: 1. the fact that an animal hunts, kills, and eats other animals: 2. the fact that an animal hunts…. Learn more.

  15. Predation

    1. the act of plundering or robbing; depredation. 2. predatory behavior. 3. Ecol. the capture and consumption of prey. [1425-75; late Middle English < Latin praedātiō = praedā (rī) to plunder, catch (see predator) + -tiō -tion]

  16. Predation

    A predator is an animal that hunts, catches, and eats other animals. For example, a spider eating a fly caught at its web is a predator, or a pack of lions eating a buffalo. The animals that the predator hunts are called prey. Predators mostly do not eat other predators.

  17. predation noun

    Definition of predation noun in Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Meaning, pronunciation, picture, example sentences, grammar, usage notes, synonyms and more. ... Goldfish are particularly prone to predation by cats and birds such as herons. Word Origin late 15th cent. (in the Latin sense): from Latin praedatio ...

  18. Predation

    Predation is the ecological process by which energy is transferred from living animal to living animal based on the behavior of a predator that captures and kills a prey before eating it. Predators occupy the upper levels of food chains.

  19. Predation

    Predation is the interaction between a prey and a predator in which energy is transferred from one creature to the other. Predator is the organism that preys on other organisms, also known as prey. Predation occurs when a predator creature consumes one or more prey organisms. The predator always reduces the fitness of the prey.

  20. Predation definition and meaning

    Predation definition: a relationship between two species of animal in a community , in which one (the predator... | Meaning, pronunciation, translations and examples

  21. Predation definition in American English

    Predation definition: a relationship between two species of animal in a community , in which one (the predator... | Meaning, pronunciation, translations and examples in American English

  22. Predation Interaction- Definition and Types with Examples

    Predation Definition. Predation is a type of ecological interaction where one of the species kills and feeds on the other. The organism that kills and feeds on the dead organism is called the predator, whereas the organism that gets killed is called the prey. Predation is different from scavenging on dead organisms, but predators also scavenge ...

  23. What does predation mean?

    act of predating Etymology: From praedatio, praedationem. Wikipedia Rate this definition: 0.0 / 0 votes Predation Predation is a biological interaction where one organism, the predator, kills and eats another organism, its prey.