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Predator Prey Relationship

February 22, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 180

There is a complex relationship among predator and prey that has been discovered by population ecologists. First, each of their successes and failures directly affects the welfare of the other. Let us assume that there is a a non-dynamic relationship, meaning only one predator and one prey. When the population of the prey increases, the population of the predator will soon follow because with more prey available to eat, the predators are able to flourish. Now of course this doesn't last long because as the predators eat more and more prey, they prey become more scarce. Now the predators start dying off because there isn't enough to eat. With fewer predators, the prey population can now bounce back again.

Let's look at lions and zebras. If we have a large zebra population in comparison to lion, the lions will have plenty to eat and their population will likewise flourish. With more lions around to eat zebras, there just aren't as many, and some of the lions die from starvation. With fewer lions to eat zebras, the zebra population increases and the cycle continues.

This is not meant to suggest that there are wild fluctuations in predator prey population relationships. Short of other circumstances, populations of the two are usually pretty stable. Nonetheless, other circumstances are often the rule rather the exception in actual, dynamic relationships. Infection could cripple one population, the predator could turn to another prey, there might be several predators for one prey and or several prey for one predator.

For example, more than just lions eat zebras, hyenas do too. So even if the lion population is rather small, the zebra population may be too because the hyena population is big. Or perhaps an infection kills off a bunch of zebras and the lions start to starve, but the hyenas turn to rabbits instead. Since lions can't chase down a rabbit, but hyenas can, the hyena population begins to dominate again. At this point, the predator prey relationship can get much more complex.

If we take this idea further, there is ever competition among the lions and hyenas, although both are predators. The more zebras the hyenas kill, the fewer there are for lions, and vice versa. Of course with fewer zebras, both predators could turn to other sources of food which may or may not be abundant, and may or may not be the same. For example, if the zebra population dwindles, then lions might start eating antelope more, and hyenas rabbits. Now they aren't competing much against one another until the zebra population comes back.

At any rate, the dynamic predator prey relationship is very complex, not so much because their relationship is complex, but because there are so many other variables in real life.


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