Predator-Prey Relationships

Date:  2021-03-04 18:06:21
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Living organisms have numerous ways of surviving depending on their biological composition. One of these ways is predation. Predation involves different organisms such as animals and plants. A predator is an organism that depends on another organism for food to survive while the prey is the victim of the predator. This relationship may involve two animals or an animal and a plant. For instance, when a lion preys on an antelope, we may refer to that as predation between animals. However, this may happen between an animal and a plant such as a grasshopper and leaf or a rabbit and lettuce.

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According to scientific research, both the predator and the prey evolve together. They both adopt different ways of surviving in their environment. The prey develops defense mechanisms such as camouflage, speed, hearing, and a good sense of smell, good sight, thorns, and poison to protect itself from the predator. These characteristics help the prey to detect the presence of the predator when approached and escape for safety. For instance, an antelope is easy to identify a lion approaching due to its high sense of hearing and use its speed to escape (Botkin, 2015, 8). It also has sharp horns for defense when captured by the predator.

However, the Predators have survival tactics that assist them in catching these preys despite their attentiveness. They make all the necessary tactics to ease their hustle for the prey. These tactics evolvements include camouflage, speed, strength, hearing ability, good sense of smell; immunity to the prey's poison, poison to kill their prey, sharp teeth, and digestive system. In a case where a cheater is preying on a gazelle, the cheater always goes against the wind to avoid been detected through its smell (Liu & Chen, 2007, 6). They also crawl on the grass which prevents them from been spotted and get closer to the gazelle as possible before striking for a kill. This is because the gazelle is fast and starting a chase from afar will be a daunting task for the predator. The cheater has sharp canines to pierce into the hard skin of its prey and make a killing.

The Predator-prey relationship determines the reproduction cycle between the predators and the preys. If the predator gets adequate food from the victim, it reproduces and increases the population of its species while that of the prey reduces. If the victim can survive from been feasted by the predator, it reproduces and enhance their population while that of the predator decreases. An example of this relationship is between the Crocodile and the Buffalo. During the wild beast migration, crocodiles have a stable supply of food, and they tend to reproduce more in that period. The crocodiles decrease the population of the buffalos (Botkin, 2015, 12). When there is no migration, these crocodiles have a limited supply of food and may starve to death leading to a reduction in their population. They also are not healthy enough to reproduce due to starvation.

In camouflage, the organisms tend to change their color to match that of their environment to escape the predator or capture their prey. Chameleons and Orchid Mantis are the perfect examples of this behavior. When a chameleon steps on a green leaf, its color changes to match that of its immediate environment, this helps it to stay safe from any possible threat and also hunt their preys (small insects). They also have a long tongue to enable them to capture their prey fast before they escape. Some organisms can also use colorization to warn predators, for example, some insects such as bees, hornets, and wasps have a warning colorization of black and yellow.

Also, some harmless species such as beetles have similar colorization to their predators. Their black and yellow color mimics and confuses the harmful organisms such as wasps that may harm them. Thus, this is a type of defense mechanism where a harmless organism mimics a potentially dangerous organism (Batesian mimicry). Another kind of imitation is the Mullerian mimicry where both the harmful and the unpalatable organisms resemble each other. Butterflies often use this mechanism to keep away any harmful organism and to escape any possible threat (Liu & Chen, 2007, 12). Some predators such as the alligator snapping turtle use mimicry to outsmart their prey. It has a pink-warm tongue to attract the prey (fish) and capture it.

Some organisms use harmful chemicals to protect themselves from attacks by the predators. When they sense any danger, they spray their body with a distinctive smell that keeps away the predator due to the repellant scent. For instance, the bombardier beetle sprays the predators with a toxic chemical to keep them away. Other animals are poisonous themselves and may eventually kill any predator that feeds on them. Such animals include the Dart frog (Milius, 2015, 4). However, despite the poisonous chemicals, some predators have evolved to be immune to these toxic chemicals by neutralizing them for survival.

A case of the Canadian lynx and the snowshoe hare demonstrates how the predator-prey relationship affects the population of different organisms. After the annual estimations of their population for about 75 years, a significant rise and fall were noted in the population of the hare in a ten-year cycle. The population of the lynx was affected two-years later. The Lynx depended on the hare species as the only source of food. This shows a clear pattern of interdependence in the two species populations.

The defense mechanisms of the prey can be a stabilizing factor in this interaction (Predator-prey relationship). Also, predation can have a significant influence on natural selection. Organisms that survive will dominate the population in their surroundings and vice versa. In cases where a particular predator depends on more than one type of prey, they are likely to increase in population. They will have a stable supply of food by alternating between these preys depending on the availability or scarcity of the preys (Milius, 2015, 2). Therefore, this will ensure that the number of prey is maintained hence positive-negative relationship. However, if a particular species of prey is abundant, the predator will be unable to decrease its population and may result in the maintenance of high predator density. The predator is likely to eliminate the alternate species leading to a destabilizing effect on the alternate prey.

In conclusion, predator-prey systems can be potentially unstable. When predators extinguish the population of their preys, they will experience starvation and die. However, natural factors are likely to promote the stability and coexistence of these organisms. Depending on the spatial heterogeneity in the surroundings of the organisms, some preys are likely to persist in their hideouts. Once the predators population decline, the prey have a chance to reproduce more and more and increase in population. They evolve behaviors to ensure their existence is not terminated due to either starvation or predation.

References

Milius, S. (2015, October 3). Predator-Prey Relationship Quantified: '3/4 Rule' in Physiology. Science News.

Botkin-Kowacki, E. (2015, September 4). Where Are All the Lions? Study Shakes Concept of Predator-Prey Ratios. The Christian Science Monitor.

Liu, K., & Chen, L. (2007, January 1). Harvesting control for a stage-structured predator-prey model. Discrete Dynamics in Nature and Society.

Krohne, D. T. (2001). General ecology. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

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