Amazing Predatory Tactics in the Wild
Predators- the beasts who are feared like none other. Those with one ace up their sleeves to deliver death to the unlucky. Man has long since been mesmerized by the beasts of the wild who have day in and day out ebbed the life out of others around them, to meet their most basic need- food. But success in slaying does not come easy, it is part nature and part nurture. Nature, because each predatory species has been endowed with certain gifts, which they leverage to the best of their abilities. Nurture, because making use of these nature’s gifts is not child’s play- animals must hone and tone their skills to make their mark in the quest for seeking food. Here is a look at how predators make use of different hunting techniques, making them some of the deadliest species on our blue planet.
Pursuit / Chase: These are predators who chase the prey to the point of exhaustion, so much so that the prey simply cannot escape further. A lot of energy is required for the chase, and hence such predators may choose their prey carefully, such that it justifies the time and effort required in a chase. Hawks and falcons are great examples, which make the use of air currents to swoop down on their prey in a breakneck fast pursuit.
Ambush: The master predators of the waters i.e. crocodiles and alligators often lie in wait, out of sight, yet just below the surface of the water. When an unfortunate animal stoops down to drink water too close- its one strike and a meal is secured. Because not much continuous action is required, this form of hunting does not use up much energy. But the predator must be careful to remain concealed till the “moment of the strike”, which is a feat in itself.
Stalk: The stalk differs from an ambush in that the predator actively seeks, or moves towards the intended prey while trying to remain undetected. Tigers are known to crouch, stalk and hunt, using natural obstacles like rocks, roads etc. to prevent detection. When the tiger is close enough to the prey, that’s when it sprints and brings down the prey in a hasty last-leg chase. Tigers typically need to be within 100 metres of unsuspecting prey for a successful hunt.
Team Work: Pack predators often play to their strength i.e. the strength of numbers. Such pack animals have active social and hierarchical norms, with everyone in the pack playing their respective roles without a whimper (quite literally!). They strategize their kills with the best ways of teamwork, to ensure that the hapless animal has no chance of escape. African wild dogs are known to split up the pack such that they surround the animals and close in from all sides- two dogs tail the animal while another sprint ahead to close in from opposite sides. Orca whales are another example- they are known to attack prey from all sides, leaving little space to escape. They even bombard sperm or grey whales with their bodies from all sides, causing significant injury. All this, thanks to excellent teamwork skills.
Baiting: If we thought we were the only species who used baits to secure a kill, how grossly wrong we were! For green herons are known to use baits for fish. They sometimes drop bits of bait into the water (such as insects or little fish), to lure big fish towards them, and then go for the deadly strike. One can only imagine the level of smartness and precision that goes into planning such a hunt.
Preventing escape: A brilliant technique to prevent the target prey from escaping is to create some surroundings which prevent the prey from escaping away. The humpback whale is an apt example. It is known that they gather shoals of fish in one place, and then swim spirally upwards to create a huge net of bubbles, ensconcing the fish.
Faking death: Wild animals are truly ingenious when it comes to securing a meal! Opossums are known to play dead as a defence mechanism, but did you know that certain species of fish use this trick to secure food? An African cichlid fish sinks to the sand bed and feigns death. Smaller fish come closer because a dead cichlid is a food for them. And lo! One snap and the fish become food itself! This can be thought of as using one’s own body as a bait for unsuspecting prey.
Vocal mimicry: Certain species are masters of mimicry. They use this unique skill to secure a meal. The Brazilian rainforests are home to the Pied Tamarin Monkey, and their natural predators- a jungle cat called a Margay. The Margay is an expert vocalist, letting out distress cries similar to those of baby pied tamarin monkeys. Who would not like to help a baby in distress? But often, it is this very flash of kindness for one’s own kind that land adult Tamarin Monkeys in the jaws of death.
These are just some of the commonly seen predatory tactics. The list of nature’s innovations to secure food is long, with enhanced features such as vision, sense of smell, and acute hearing. These adaptations and hunting antics only prove that man is not the only intelligent species around, contrary to our self-contrived belief! The brilliance of Mother Nature’s ways leaves us with no option but to respect and admire her to the tee! And admire every beast, even those on a killing spree!
Cover Pic: Tiger stalking at his target photographed by Ramakrishnan Aiyaswamy
Read also: The Giants of the Ocean Bed
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