A polar bear as the predator feeding on a bearded seal
Meat ants cooperating to feed on a cicada far larger than themselves

In an ecosystem, predation is a biological interaction where a predator (an organism that is hunting) feeds on its prey (the organism that is attacked). [1] Predators may or may not kill their prey prior to feeding on it, but the act of predation often results in the death of the prey and the eventual absorption of the prey's tissue through digestion. Predation is often, though not always, carnivory, one of several heterotrophic consumer-resource interactions. [2] Different feeding behaviors such as parasitism, parasitoidism, micropredation and predation form a continuum rather than being entirely separate strategies. [1] Predation strategies can be classified by trophic level or diet, by specialization, and by the predator's interaction with prey.

Coevolutionary selective pressures imposed on each other by predator and prey often result in an evolutionary arms race, resulting in antipredator adaptations in the prey and adaptations that improve hunting efficiency in the predator.

By function

Predators can be classified by their consumer-resource interactions [2] with their prey. Two factors are considered here: how close the predator and prey (or host) are, and whether the prey is directly killed by the predator, where true predation and parasitoidism involve certain death.

True predation

Humpback whales filtering thousands of krill from seawater, using their baleen systems

A true predator is one that kills and eats another living thing. Predators may hunt actively for prey in pursuit predation, or sit and wait for prey to approach within striking distance in ambush predation. [3] [4] Some predators kill large prey and dismember or chew it prior to eating it, as do humans; others may eat their prey whole, as do bottlenose dolphins swallowing fish, [5] [6] white storks swallowing frogs, [7] or baleen whales swallowing thousands of krill or small fish at once. [8] Some predators use venom to subdue their prey before the predator ingests it, as in the box jellyfish, [9] while the venom of rattlesnakes and some spiders also helps to digest the prey. [10] [11] Seed and egg predation are true predation, as seeds and eggs are potential organisms. [12] [13]


Grazing animals generally do not kill their prey, but like predators, they live by feeding on other organisms. While some herbivores like zooplankton live on unicellular phytoplankton and therefore inevitably kill what they eat, in a relationship sometimes called predation, [14] many others including cattle and sheep only eat a part of the plants that they graze. [15] Many species of plant are adapted to regrow after grazing damage. For example, the growing meristems of grasses are not at the tips as they are in most flowering plants, but at the base of the leaves. [16] Similarly, kelp is grazed in subtidal kelp forests, but continuously regrows from a meristem at the base of the blade where it joins the stipe. [17] Animals may also be 'grazed' upon; micropredators [18] such as female mosquitoes land on hosts briefly to feed on blood. Herbivore-plant interactions, as with predator-prey interactions, have driven plants to evolve defences such as thorns and chemicals to dissuade grazing. [4]


Micropredators interact with their hosts much like parasites, not killing their hosts. Parasitoids sooner or later kill their hosts, while predators kill their prey immediately. There is a continuum between these feeding strategies.

Parasites, like predators, live by feeding on another organism. The entomologist E. O. Wilson has characterised parasites as "predators that eat prey in units of less than one". [19] Parasites often do not kill their hosts, the exception being parasitoids which always do, thus blurring the line between parasitism and predation. [4] Equally, small parasites such as mosquitoes exploit their hosts much as micropredators such as moth caterpillars on an oak tree and grazers do, though endoparasites in particular have a close association with their host species; again there is essentially a continuum between these feeding interactions. [2] [20]


Parasitoids are organisms living in or on their host and feeding directly upon it, eventually leading to its death. They are much like parasites in their close associations with their hosts. Unlike typical parasites, they always kill their hosts, but often not instantly. Parasitoid wasps are solitary insects that live a free life as adults, laying eggs on or in other insects such as lepidopteran caterpillars. The wasp larvae feed on the growing host, eventually killing it. Parasitoids make up as much as 10% of all insect species. [21] [22]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Predasie
العربية: افتراس
aragonés: Depredación
беларуская: Драпежніцтва
bosanski: Predacija
català: Depredació
dansk: Prædation
eesti: Kisklus
español: Depredación
Esperanto: Predado
euskara: Harraparitza
føroyskt: Predatión
Frysk: Predaasje
galego: Depredación
한국어: 포식
Ido: Predato
isiXhosa: I-Predator
íslenska: Afrán
italiano: Predazione
עברית: טריפה
ಕನ್ನಡ: ಭಕ್ಷಕ
latviešu: Plēsonība
Bahasa Melayu: Pemangsaan
日本語: 捕食
norsk: Predasjon
norsk nynorsk: Predasjon
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Yirtqichlik
português: Predação
русский: Хищничество
Scots: Predation
Simple English: Predation
slovenščina: Plenilstvo
српски / srpski: Predacija
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Predacija
suomi: Saalistus
svenska: Predation
татарча/tatarça: Ерткычлык
тыва дыл: Шүүргедекчи
українська: Хижацтво
Tiếng Việt: Săn mồi
Zazaki: Seydwan
中文: 捕食