What is an Apex Predator?

By Kimutai Gilbert on August 1 2017 in Environment

The saltwater crocodile as known as an apex predator.

There are several animals or organisms in the world who rely on other animals or organisms for their food. These types of organisms are known as predators and are found within different levels on the food chain. Predators are usually located on the top of the food chain above other creatures known as prey. The animals are referred to as apex predators. Apex predators are known to play a significant role in balancing the ecosystem. Several animals fall into this category and include wolves, bears, great cats, eagles, and hawks. Humans are known as the ultimate apex predators.

Saltwater Crocodile

Also known as an estuarine, the saltwater crocodile is the largest existing reptile and is known to be a dominant predator. They are characterized by their body length which ranges from 6.3 to 7.0 meters long and their weight which ranges between 1000 to 1200kg. The saltwater crocodile feed on prey by ambushing them and then drowning and swallowing them entirely. They are capable of feeding on any animal which crosses its territory.


The lion belongs to the family of cats and is the second largest existing cat after the tiger. Lions are apex predators although 50% of its feeds are achieved through scavenging. The animals hunt for prey at night which consists of mammals including wildebeests, zebras, giraffes, gazelles, and gemsbok. Lions usually prefer hunting prey weighting 190-550kg and generally avoid fully grown adults such as elephants and rhinoceroses. The attack of a lion is believed to be short and powerful. They attack fast and kill their prey through suffocation.

Killer Whale

The killer whale belongs to the oceanic dolphin family and is the largest in its family. The feeding choices vary with the killer whale; some of the species feed on fish whereas others hunt marine mammals like dolphins and seals. Being apex predators, no other animals prey on killer whales.

Ecological Role

According to studies, the loss in numbers of top-level predators such as wolves has led to an increase of smaller predators causing a significant imbalance in the ecosystem. Since predators maintain balance between prey and other species in the ecosystem, an imbalance in numbers negatively impacts the environment.

Apex predators are known as inhibitors of the population and impact irruptions of the prey and mesopredators which provides biodiversity. By feeding on weak, old, and dying animals, the health of the overall population can improve.

In conclusion, apex predators at the trophic level of the ecosystem play a significant role in ensuring healthy living in the ecosystem. They ensure organisms in the ecosystem are balanced which minimizes the high rate of extinction. The studies of these predators have been important for animal observations and wildlife management.

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