Apex predator

An apex predator, also known as an alpha predator or top predator, is a predator at the top of a food chain, with no natural predators.[a][5][6]

Apex predators are usually defined in terms of trophic dynamics, meaning that they occupy the highest trophic levels. Food chains are often far shorter on land, usually limited to being secondary consumers – for example, wolves prey mostly upon large herbivores (primary consumers), which eat plants (primary producers). The apex predator concept is applied in wildlife management, conservation and ecotourism.

Apex predators have a long evolutionary history, dating at least to the Cambrian period when animals such as Anomalocaris dominated the seas.

Humans have for many centuries interacted with apex predators including the wolf, birds of prey and cormorants to hunt game animals, birds, and fish respectively. More recently, humans have started interacting with apex predators in new ways. These include interactions via ecotourism, such as with the tiger shark, and through rewilding efforts, such as the proposed reintroduction of the lynx.

Lion waiting in Namibia
The lion is one of Africa's apex land predators.[1]
The saltwater crocodile is the largest living reptile[2] and the dominant predator throughout its range.[3]
Comparison of size of orca and great white shark
The great white shark (bottom) was originally considered the Apex predator of the ocean; however, the killer whale (top) has proved to be a predator of the shark

Ecological roles

Effects on community

Skua Runde
The great skua is an aerial apex predator, both preying on other seabirds and bullying them for their catches.[7]

Apex predators affect prey species' population dynamics and populations of other predators, both in aquatic and in terrestrial ecosystems. Non-native predatory fish, for instance, have sometimes devastated formerly dominant predators. A lake manipulation study found that when the non-native smallmouth bass was removed, lake trout, the suppressed native apex predator, diversified its prey selection and increased its trophic level.[8] As a terrestrial example, the badger, an apex predator, predates on and also competes with the hedgehog, a mesopredator, for food such as insects, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and ground-nesting bird's eggs. Removal of badgers (in a trial investigating bovine tuberculosis) caused hedgehog densities to more than double.[9] Predators that exert a top-down control on organisms in their community are often considered keystone species.[10] Humans are not considered apex predators because their diets are typically diverse, although human trophic levels increase with consumption of meat.[11]

Effects on ecosystem

Apex predators can have profound effects on ecosystems, as the consequences of both controlling prey density and restricting smaller predators, and may be capable of self-regulation.[12] They are central to the functioning of ecosystems, the regulation of disease, and the maintenance of biodiversity.[13] When introduced to subarctic islands, for example, Arctic foxes' predation of seabirds has been shown to turn grassland into tundra.[14] Such wide-ranging effects on lower levels of an ecosystem are termed trophic cascades. The removal of top-level predators, often through human agency, can cause or disrupt trophic cascades.[15][16][17] For example, reduction in the population of sperm whales, apex predators with a fractional trophic level of 4.7, by hunting has caused an increase in the population of large squid, trophic level over 4 (carnivores that eat other carnivores).[18] This effect, called mesopredator release,[19] occurs in terrestrial and marine ecosystems; for instance, in North America, the ranges of all apex carnivores have contracted whereas those of 60% of mesopredators have grown in the past two centuries.[20]


Canis lupus pack surrounding Bison
The gray wolf is both an apex predator and a keystone species, affecting its prey's behaviour and the wider ecosystem.

Because apex predators have powerful effects on other predators, on herbivores, and on plants, they can be important in nature conservation.[21] Humans have hunted many apex predators close to extinction, but in some parts of the world these predators are now returning.[22] They are increasingly threatened by climate change. For example, the polar bear requires extensive areas of sea ice to hunt its prey, typically seals, but climate change is shrinking the sea ice of the Arctic, forcing polar bears to fast on land for increasingly long periods.[23]

Dramatic changes in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem were recorded after the gray wolf, both an apex predator and a keystone species (one with a large effect on its ecosystem), was reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 as a conservation measure. Elk, the wolves' primary prey, became less abundant and changed their behavior, freeing riparian zones from constant grazing and allowing willows, aspens and cottonwoods to flourish, creating habitats for beaver, moose and scores of other species.[24] In addition to their effect on prey species, the wolves' presence also affected one of the park's vulnerable species, the grizzly bear: emerging from hibernation, having fasted for months, the bears chose to scavenge wolf kills,[25] especially during the autumn as they prepared to hibernate once again.[26] The grizzly bear gives birth during hibernation, so the increased food supply is expected to produce an increase in the numbers of cubs observed.[27] Dozens of other species, including eagles, ravens, magpies, coyotes and black bears have also been documented as scavenging from wolf kills within the park.[28]

Human trophic level

21 Walrus Hunt 1999
Humans sometimes hunt other animals for food and materials such as fur, sinew, and bone, as in this walrus hunt in the Arctic, but their status as apex predators is debated.

Ecologists have debated whether humans are apex predators. Sylvain Bonhommeau and colleagues argued in 2013 that across the global food web, a fractional human trophic level (HTL) can be calculated as the mean trophic level of every species in the human diet, weighted by the proportion which that species forms in the diet. This analysis gives an average HTL of 2.21, varying between 2.04 (for Burundi, with a 96.7% plant-based diet) and 2.57 (for Iceland, with 50% meat and fish, 50% plants). These values are comparable to those of non-apex predators like anchovy or pig.[11] Peter D. Roopnarine criticised Bonhommeau's approach, arguing that humans are apex predators, and that the HTL was based on terrestrial farming where indeed humans have a low trophic level, mainly eating producers (crop plants at level 1) or primary consumers (herbivores at level 2), which as expected places humans at a level slightly above 2. Roopnarine instead calculated the position of humans in two marine ecosystems, a Caribbean coral reef and the Benguela system near South Africa. In these systems, humans mainly eat predatory fish and have a fractional trophic level of 4.65 and 4.5 respectively, which in Roopnarine's view makes those humans apex predators.[b][29]

Evolutionary history

Anomalocaris BW
Anomalocaris was an apex predator in the Cambrian seas.[30]

Apex predators are thought to have existed since at least the Cambrian period, around 500 million years ago. Extinct species cannot be directly determined to be apex predators as their behaviour cannot be observed, and clues to ecological relationships, such as bite marks on bones or shells, do not form a complete picture. However, indirect evidence such as the absence of any discernible predator in an environment is suggestive. Anomalocaris was an aquatic apex predator, in the Cambrian. Its mouthparts are clearly predatory, and there were no larger animals in the seas at that time.[30]

Carnivorous theropod dinosaurs including Allosaurus[31] and Tyrannosaurus[32] have been described as apex predators, based on their size, morphology, and dietary needs.

A Permian shark, Triodus sessilis, was discovered containing two amphibians (Archegosaurus decheni and Cheliderpeton latirostre), one of which had consumed a fish, Acanthodes bronni, showing that the shark had lived at a trophic level of at least 4.[c][33]

Among more recent fossils, the sabre-tooth cats, like Smilodon, are considered to have been apex predators in the Cenozoic.[34]

Interactions with humans

37-svaghi, caccia,Taccuino Sanitatis, Casanatense 4182.
Dogs have been used in hunting for many centuries, as in this 14th century French depiction of a boar hunt.

In hunting

Humans hunted with wolves and in turn with domestic dogs for some 40,000 years; this collaboration may have helped modern humans to outcompete the Neanderthals.[35][36] Humans still hunt with dogs, which have often been bred as gun dogs to point to, flush out, or retrieve prey.[37] The Portuguese Water Dog was used to drive fish into nets.[38] Several breeds of dog have been used to chase large prey such as deer and wolves.[39]

Eagles, which are apex predators, are used in falconry, hunting birds or mammals.[40]

In ecotourism

Tiger shark size
Tiger sharks are popular ecotourism subjects, but their ecosystems may be affected by the food provided to attract them.

Ecotourism sometimes relies on apex predators to attract business.[41][42] Tour operators may in consequence decide to intervene in ecosystems, for example by providing food to attract predators to areas that can conveniently be visited.[41] This in turn can have effects on predator population and therefore on the wider ecosystem.[41] As a result, provisioning of species such as the tiger shark is controversial, but its effects are not well established by empirical evidence.[41] Other affected apex predators include big cats and crocodiles.[42]


Lynx Lynx (10597310204)
The reintroduction of predators like the lynx is attractive to conservationists, but alarming to farmers.

In some densely populated areas like the British Isles, all the large native predators like the wolf, bear, wolverine and lynx have become locally extinct, allowing herbivores such as deer to multiply unchecked except by hunting.[43] In 2015, plans were made to reintroduce lynx to the counties of Norfolk, Cumbria, and Northumberland in England, and Aberdeenshire in Scotland as part of the rewilding movement.[44] The reintroduction of large predators is controversial, in part because of concern among farmers for their livestock.[44] Conservationists such as Paul Lister propose instead to allow wolves and bears to hunt their prey in a "managed environment" on large fenced reserves.[44]

See also


  1. ^ Zoologists generally exclude parasites from trophic levels as they are (often much) smaller than their hosts, and individual species with multiple hosts at different life-cycle stages would occupy multiple levels. Otherwise they would often be at the top level, above apex predators.[4]
  2. ^ However, humans had a network trophic level (NTL) of 4.27 in the coral reef system, compared to an NTL of 4.8 for the blacktip shark in the same system. Therefore, humans were not the topmost apex predator there.[29]
  3. ^ Its trophic level would be exactly 4 if the fish was a pure herbivore, higher if the fish was itself carnivorous.


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External links

Apex Predator (Crooked I album)

Apex Predator is the debut studio album by American rapper and Slaughterhouse member Crooked I. The album was released on July 30, 2013, by Treacherous C.O.B. and Empire Distribution. The album features guest appearances from K-Young, Tech N9ne and Tena Jones.

Apex Predator (disambiguation)

An apex predator is a predator residing at the top of a food chain on which no other creatures prey.

Apex Predator may also refer to:

Apex Predator (Crooked I album) or its title track "Apex Predator (My Gun Go)"

Apex Predator – Easy Meat, a 2015 album by Napalm Death, or its title track

Randy Orton or The Apex Predator (born 1980), American professional wrestler

"Apex Predator", a 2013 song by Otep from Hydra

"Apex Predator", a 2014 song by Cavalera Conspiracy from Pandemonium

Apex Predator, a beer brewed by Off Color Brewing

Apex Predator – Easy Meat

Apex Predator – Easy Meat is the fifteenth studio album by British grindcore band Napalm Death, released on 23 January 2015 through Century Media. Since the band recorded the album in segments, recording took almost a year. In advance of the release, Napalm Death issued details of the then upcoming album such as artwork and track listing as well as two new songs. The first video clip taken from Apex Predator coincided with the release. Reviews of Apex Predator were overwhelmingly positive, while it also entered a number of American and European charts.


Aspinothoracidi is a clade of placoderms, extinct armored fish most diverse during the Devonian. The gigantic apex predator Dinichthys, is the best-known member of this group. Many other genera, such as the infamous Dunkleosteus, were previously thought to be close relatives of Dinichthys and were grouped together in the family Dinichthyidae, though more recent studies have restricted that family to only its type species.


Bretesuchus is an extinct genus of sebecosuchian mesoeucrocodylian within the family Sebecidae known from northwestern Argentina. It was a large apex predator (total length approximately 4 m).


Cariamiformes (or Cariamae) is an order of primarily flightless birds that has existed for over 60 million years. The group includes the family Cariamidae (seriemas) and the extinct families Phorusrhacidae, Bathornithidae, Idiornithidae and Ameghinornithidae. Though traditionally considered as a suborder of Gruiformes, both morphological and genetic studies show that they belong to a separate group of birds, Australaves, whose other living members are Falconidae, Psittaciformes and Passeriformes.This proposal has been confirmed by a 2014 study of whole genomes of 48 representative bird species. This analysis shows that the Cariamiformes are basal among extant Australaves, while falcons are next most basal; in combination with the fact that the two most basal branches of Afroaves (New World vultures plus Accipitriformes, and owls) are also predatory, it is inferred that the common ancestor of 'core landbirds' (Telluraves) was an apex predator. However, some researchers like Darren Naish feel that this assessment is biased towards the more well known, predatory representatives of the clade, and indeed at least one form, Strigogyps, appears to have been herbivorous.The earliest known unambigous member of this group is Paleocene taxon Paleopsilopterus itaboraiensis. An isolated femur from the Cape Lamb Member of the Lopez de Bertodano Formation, Vega Island, Antarctica was briefly described as a cariamiform femur in 2006. This specimen, which dates to the late Cretaceous period 66 million years ago, was originally reported as indistinguishable from the femurs of modern seriemas, and belonging to a large bird about 1 metre (3.3 ft) tall. Because of its age and geographic location, it was argued that this unnamed species may have been close to the ancestry of both cariamids and phorusrhacids. However, a subsequent study published by West et al. (2019) reinterpreted this specimen as a fossil of an unnamed large-bodied member of an non-cariamiform genus Vegavis.


A carnivore , meaning "meat eater" (Latin, caro, genitive carnis, meaning "meat" or "flesh" and vorare meaning "to devour"), is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of animal tissue, whether through predation or scavenging. Animals that depend solely on animal flesh for their nutrient requirements are called obligate carnivores while those that also consume non-animal food are called facultative carnivores. Omnivores also consume both animal and non-animal food, and, apart from the more general definition, there is no clearly defined ratio of plant to animal material that would distinguish a facultative carnivore from an omnivore. A carnivore at the top of the food chain, not preyed upon by other animals, is termed an apex predator.

"Carnivore" also may refer to the mammalian order Carnivora, but this is somewhat misleading: many, but not all, Carnivora are meat eaters, and even fewer are true obligate carnivores (see below). For example, while the Arctic polar bear eats meat almost exclusively (more than 90% of its diet is meat), most species of bears are actually omnivorous, and the giant panda is exclusively herbivorous. There are also many carnivorous species that are not members of Carnivora.

Outside the animal kingdom, there are several genera containing carnivorous plants (predominantly insectivores) and several phyla containing carnivorous fungi (preying mostly on microscopic invertebrates such as nematodes, amoebae and springtails).

Carnivores are sometimes characterized by their type of prey. For example, animals that eat mainly insects and similar invertebrates are called insectivores, while those that eat mainly fish are called piscivores. The first tetrapods, or land-dwelling vertebrates, were piscivorous amphibians known as labyrinthodonts. They gave rise to insectivorous vertebrates and, later, to predators of other tetrapods.Carnivores may alternatively be classified according to the percentage of meat in their diet. The diet of a hypercarnivore consists of more than 70% meat, that of a mesocarnivore 30–70%, and that of a hypocarnivore less than 30%, with the balance consisting of non-animal foods such as fruits, other plant material, or fungi.

Coded Smears and More Uncommon Slurs

Coded Smears and More Uncommon Slurs is a compilation album by British grindcore band Napalm Death, released on 30 March 2018 through Century Media. It contains previously unreleased material from various album recording sessions, b-sides, limited edition bonus tracks and split recordings. A music video for "Standardization", the compilation's opening track, was released on 8 May 2018.

Crocodylus anthropophagus

Crocodylus anthropophagus is an extinct species of crocodile from Plio-Pleistocene from Tanzania. It lived 1.84 million years ago. It was a large-sized apex predator reaching a length of 7.5 m (25 ft).


The Dinichthyloidea is an extinct superfamily of placoderms, armored fish most diverse during the Devonian. They contain numerous extremely large species, such as Titanichthys, presumed to be a planktivore, the apex predator Dinichthys, as well as numerous other genera of diverse size and habits, such as the tiny Rhachiosteus, the superficially tuna-like Bungartius, and the selenosteids and trematosteids.


Dunkleosteidae is an extinct family of arthrodire placoderms. The gigantic apex predator Dunkleosteus terrelli is the best known member of this group. While they were previously thought to be close relatives of the genus Dinichthys (when they were not synonymized as each other) and grouped together in the family Dinichthyidae, more recent studies have shown that the two taxa represent two very distinct clades within Arthrodira. The reappraisal of Kiangyousteus lead to a restructuring of the family, with the inclusions of the benthic, aberrant Heterosteus (and the other members of Heterosteidae) as the sister taxon of Dunkleosteus, and the Late Emsian Xiangshuiosteus as the sister taxon of Eastmanosteus calliaspis (with the direct implication that E. calliaspis does not belong in Eastmaneosteus), and the removal of Westralichthys from the family (now thought to be the most basal member of the superfamily Dunkleosteoidea, and sister taxon of Panxiosteidae and Dunkleosteidae)

Food chain

A food chain is a linear network of links in a food web starting from producer organisms (such as grass or trees which use radiation from the Sun to make their food) and ending at apex predator species (like grizzly bears or killer whales), detritivores (like earthworms or woodlice), or decomposer species (such as fungi or bacteria). A food chain also shows how the organisms are related with each other by the food they eat. Each level of a food chain represents a different trophic level. A food chain differs from a food web, because the complex network of different animals' feeding relations are aggregated and the chain only follows a direct, linear pathway of one animal at a time. Natural interconnections between food chains make it a food web.

A common metric used to the quantify food web trophic structure is food chain length. In its simplest form, the length of a chain is the number of links between a trophic consumer and the base of the web and the mean chain length of an entire web is the arithmetic average of the lengths of all chains in a food web.Many food webs have a keystone species (Such as Sharks) . A keystone species is a species that has a large impact on the surrounding environment and can directly affect the food chain. If this keystone species dies off it can set the entire food chain off balance. Keystone species keep herbivores from depleting all of the foliage in their environment and preventing a mass extinction.Food chains were first introduced by the Arab scientist and philosopher Al-Jahiz in the 10th century and later popularized in a book published in 1927 by Charles Elton, which also introduced the food web concept.

Hydra (Otep album)

Hydra is the sixth studio album by the heavy metal band Otep. It was released in 2013 on Victory Records. Hydra is a concept album. This is the first album to feature drum programming as opposed to live drums.

Keystone species

A keystone species is a species that has a disproportionately large effect on its natural environment relative to its abundance. Such species are described as playing a critical role in maintaining the structure of an ecological community, affecting many other organisms in an ecosystem and helping to determine the types and numbers of various other species in the community. A keystone species is a plant or animal that plays a unique and crucial role in the way an ecosystem functions. Without keystone species, the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether. Some keystone species, such as the wolf, are also apex predators.

The role that a keystone species plays in its ecosystem is analogous to the role of a keystone in an arch. While the keystone is under the least pressure of any of the stones in an arch, the arch still collapses without it. Similarly, an ecosystem may experience a dramatic shift if a keystone species is removed, even though that species was a small part of the ecosystem by measures of biomass or productivity.

It became a popular concept in conservation biology, alongside flagship and umbrella species. Although the concept is valued as a descriptor for particularly strong inter-species interactions, and it has allowed easier communication between ecologists and conservation policy-makers, it has been criticized for oversimplifying complex ecological systems.


A mesopredator is a mid-ranking predator in the middle of a trophic level, which typically preys on smaller animals. Mesopredators often vary in ecosystems depending on the food web. It is also important to note that there is no specific size or weight restrictions to qualify as a mesopredator, as it depends on how large the apex predator is, and what the mesopredator's prey is. When new species are introduced into an ecosystem, the role of mesopredator often changes; the same happens if a species is removed.

Napalm Death

Napalm Death are a British extreme metal band formed in Meriden, West Midlands, England, in 1981. While none of its original members remain in the group since December 1986, the lineup of vocalist Mark "Barney" Greenway, bassist Shane Embury, guitarist Mitch Harris and drummer Danny Herrera has remained consistent of the band's career since 1992's Utopia Banished, although, from 1989 to 2004, Napalm Death were a five-piece band after they added Jesse Pintado as the replacement of one-time guitarist Bill Steer; following Pintado's departure, the band reverted to a four-piece rather than replace him.

The band is credited as pioneers of the grindcore genre by incorporating elements of crust punk and death metal, using a noise-filled sound that uses heavily distorted, down-tuned guitars, grinding overdrive bass, high speed tempo, blast beats, vocals which consist of incomprehensible growls or high-pitched shrieks, extremely short songs and sociopolitical lyrics. The band's debut album Scum, released in 1987 by Earache Records, proved substantially influential throughout the global metal community. According to the Guinness World Records, their song "You Suffer" is the shortest song in the world, at only 1.316 seconds long.

Napalm Death have released sixteen studio albums, and are listed by Nielsen SoundScan as the seventh best-selling death metal band in the United States.

Outline of sharks

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to sharks:

Sharks (superorder Selachimorpha) are a type of fish with a full cartilaginous skeleton and a highly streamlined body. The earliest known sharks date from more than 440 million years ago, before the time of the dinosaurs.

Salmon shark

The salmon shark (Lamna ditropis) is a species of mackerel shark found in the northern Pacific ocean. As an apex predator, the salmon shark feeds on salmon, squid, sablefish, and herring. They are known for their ability to maintain stomach temperature (homeothermy), which is unusual among fish. This shark has not been demonstrated to maintain a constant body temperature. The salmon shark is also known for an unexplained variability in the sex ratio between eastern and western populations in the northern Pacific.


Thalattoarchon is an extinct genus of ichthyosaur from the Middle Triassic of the western United States. The type species Thalattoarchon saurophagis (meaning "lizard-eating sovereign of the sea" in Greek) was discovered in Nevada, USA, in 2010 and formally described in 2013. It is known from a single skeleton, holotype FMNH PR 3032, consisting of a partial skull, vertebral column, hip bones, and parts of the hind fins. The total length of Thalattoarchon is estimated to have been at least 8.6 metres (28 ft). Thalattoarchon is thought to have been one of the first marine macropredators capable of eating prey that was similar in size to itself, an ecological role that can be compared to that of modern orcas. Thalattoarchon lived four million years after the first appearance of ichthyosaurs in the Early Triassic and is therefore the oldest known marine reptile to have been an apex predator. It lived eight million years after the Permian-Triassic extinction event, indicating a fast recovery of marine ecosystems after the mass extinction.

Food webs
Example webs
Ecology: Modelling ecosystems: Other components


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