What Are Apex Predators?
“Apex” is a word that means top, or highest. A predator is a carnivore that kills and eats other animals. So, an apex predator is one that sits at the very top of the food chain, and at the center of its food web. It is able to kill and eat the largest prey animals in its environment with little fear of itself falling prey to another predator. Most apex predators are able to drive away or even kill “lesser” predators that share their habitats. For example, when a pair of wolves moves into an area where there are coyotes, the coyotes often leave rather than risk dangerous fights with the larger wolves.
In the ocean, sharks and orcas are both apex predators. On land, apex predators include the big cats, the larger canines including wolves, members of the ursine family such as grizzlies, large raptors such as eagles, and predatory reptiles such as pythons and anacondas.
However, even the mightiest predator is not without natural enemies. Apex predators can be injured or killed by other apex predators, or even by larger or stronger members of their own kind during fights over food or mates. In addition, apex predators that are old, sick, or just badly outnumbered can sometimes be killed by a group of determined smaller predators. For instance, packs of hyenas and wild dogs sometimes kill large cats that would easily beat them in a one-on-one battle.