Apex Predator Lifespan: Know Interesting Top Predators Facts For Kids

Akinwalere Olaleye
Oct 24, 2023 By Akinwalere Olaleye
Originally Published on Nov 09, 2021
Portrait of a Royal Bengal Tiger.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 10.9 Min

A food chain is one of the most important ecological concepts.

Food chains show the interdependence of animals. Apex predators are the topmost members of the food web.

They are essential as they provide ecological stability by hunting other species. Apex predators are some of the few living things that enjoy life without fear of predation. They have existed since the Cambrian period, which was around 500 million years ago. Our relationship with these animals goes a long way. We have been interacting with animals like wolves and sharks for a long time now. Apex predators also attack humans. To avoid predation, humans have started hunting them extensively. Hunting them for fun has also become a habit. Many apex predators, like eagles and falcons, are widely used as gaming birds. Others, like tethered cormorants, are used to catch fish. This has affected the populations of several species. In order to maintain the ecological balance, such practices must be stopped. In this article, you will get to know more about apex predators and why their conservation is essential, along with some fun facts. Continue reading to find out more.

We also have other related articles like sperm whale facts and aquatic ecosystem which might interest you.

What does apex predator mean?

Every food web has a trophic level. There are five trophic levels in which apex predators are in the fifth and topmost levels of the food chain.

Apex predators are also known as top predators and alpha predators. They are carnivores that occupy the top spot, with no natural predators to hunt them. Some of the top apex predators are:

Killer Whales: These whales are as terrifying as their names. They are called killer whales, as they are the largest apex predators in the dolphin family and hunt almost all animals in the ocean. This whale is rarely hunted by humans and has no other natural predator. The killer whale is 29.5 ft (9m) in length and weighs around 12125 lb (5500 kg). A major part of its diet comprises seals, seabirds, fishes, and squids. This whale is a fierce hunter and can hunt other whales easily. Most apex predators often attack humans. However, this species is not one of them. There have been no human attacks so far. The killer whale population has been facing a decline in the past few years due to human activities such as ship noise and strikes, aquarium displays, oil leakages, and the release of contaminants. Other factors like prey reduction in the areas occupied by these whales and changes in water levels have also contributed to the reduction in population.

Bears: Next on the list we have bears. Bears are cute animals that often make you want to cuddle them, especially polar bears. It is hard to resist touching a polar bear, as it has super soft and fluffy fur. But the minute you touch this wild animal, it will bite off your arms. Bears are not always wild. In fact, they are surprisingly friendly for a wild animal. The polar bear has no predator except for human beings. This is the only bear that can easily win a head-to-head fight with a lion or tiger. Grizzly bears or brown bears are equally tough animals that are closely related to polar bears. One of the interesting facts about a grizzly bear (brown bear) is that it is a vegetarian, for the most part, however, still manages to occupy the top place in the food web. Experts say that brown bears have exceptional hunting skills which help secure their place as some of the most dangerous apex predators. Both these species hunt mammals, fishes, and birds.

Lions: Lions are carnivores that derive their nutrition from the flesh and tissues of other animals. A lion has to eat meat due to its inability to produce amino acids. Lions can hunt any animal. This is why a lion is called the king of the jungle. Lions live in groups called pride with 10-45 members. This allows lions to easily hunt large prey. A lion is powerful enough to kill a large hippopotamus.

Tigers: Tigers and lions are closely related. When compared to a lion, a tiger is much longer and heavier. The tiger is the biggest cat in the world. Just like a lion, a tiger is capable of hunting all animals. They mainly prey on ungulates, which makes them an essential part of the ecosystem. Tigers are known for their hide and attack hunting methods. They also have excellent night vision which allows them to hunt at night too.

Wolves: The wolf is also an apex predator. In the past few years, populations of several species of wolves across the world have been decreasing due to human interference. Conservation measures are implemented to increase the population. Taking care of young wolves in captivity and releasing them into the forests once they are able to fend for themselves is one of the methods used to increase their lifespan. They survive by hunting ungulates and other animals in the primary levels, which makes them an essential part of the ecosystem.

What happens when an apex predator dies?

All five levels of the food chain are interdependent, meaning their existence is co-related. For instance, animals in level two (herbivores) are eaten by animals in level three (carnivores) and so on. If one particular species in level two dies or becomes extinct, the animals in the third level that used to feed on these now-extinct animals have a major change in their diet.

This disrupts the entire food chain. The same applies to apex predators too. However, the death of a particular apex predator has an enormous impact on the ecosystem. The population of a species that was hunted by this apex predator keeps increasing with nothing to hunt them. This means their food requirement also increases. This will cause an imbalance, resulting in a decline in more species and increased populations of specific animals, and the entire food chain will collapse. Luckily, this does not happen often, as the diet of most apex predators overlaps with one another.

This concept gives rise to another question, if apex predators don't have any animals that can hunt them, won't their population increase constantly, affecting the food web? Nature takes care of its population on its own. The population of apex predators is controlled by food availability, habitat loss, and human interference. There is no impact on the food chain and ecosystem. Apex predators can also hunt and eliminate each other, or their own species. The conservation of apex predators is vital. Human beings don't pay much attention to the conservation of these animals. A lot of apex predator species are facing a steady decline in population due to destructive human practices. Most of them have even become extinct.

Apex predators, like all other living things, die of old age, which also helps control their population. When an apex predator is eliminated, it also results in the degradation of forests and other regions. In the absence of apex predators, the rate of reproduction in herbivorous animals increases by two to three times. This creates a demand for food and increases the pressure on plants that are the only source of food for these animals. This can result in the exploitation of plant species and defoliating their habitat. Such behavior over time will cause the destruction of the ecosystem. Herbivorous animals are usually on the move, trying to save themselves from predators. In the absence of apex predators, they settle in a place using all the resources in the place until there is no more. A similar incident took place in Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming) when the deer and elk population started increasing. Forests were destroyed to a great extent. Authorities were forced to take steps, like selective slaughter, to decrease the population as there were no natural methods. They congregated in one place and ate down to the roots in the absence of carnivores. Finally, authorities introduced wolves and other carnivorous animals, which helped in cutting down the excess population.

Did you know, the Megalodon is referred to as the apex predator of all time? This prehistoric shark lived on earth 23 to 3.6 million years ago. These sharks lived during the Early Miocene age. Scientists say that Megalodon might have been the largest marine predator planet earth has ever seen. Estimates suggest this shark was between 36-131 ft (11-40 m). It was two and a half times bigger than the white shark, which is the largest living fish in the world. They were the masters of the ocean. Fossil teeth of the Megalodon have been excavated in North America, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Europe, Africa, India, Japan, Malta, and the Grenadines.

Four Lions resting on ground.

Do humans have an apex predator?

Human beings themselves are said to be apex predators. A good number of people do not agree with this due to the variation in our diets.

We are often attacked by a lot of apex predators. But this does not make those animals superior to us. We still dominate the food chain. We are a lot different from other apex predators due to our ideologies, ability to think, and our influence over ecosystems. The population is also another reason why we do not have an apex predator. Since we are a large interconnected society with billions of people, animals cannot take us down or dominate us. Humans do not face natural predation. Our habitat range has also contributed to this. The tools and our ability to use weapons have made us the masters of ecosystems. A common misconception is the rarity of apex predators in ecosystems is also influenced by humans. Humans do have a role, however, the impact created by that is minuscule. Energy constraint directly affects the populations of apex predators. In several food webs, the lower levels are crowded with many species in the third and fourth levels. They consume almost all the energy and by the time it reaches the fifth or topmost level, there is not much energy left. This is based on the second law of thermodynamics, which states that energy is lost at each level in the food chain.

Saltwater crocodile is the deadliest predator on earth. It is one of the most aggressive species and can grow up to 20 ft (6.1 m) in length. Female crocodiles are slightly smaller than males. The number of attacks by saltwater crocodiles is even higher than the number of fatal attacks caused by sharks. They are the largest crocodile species, as well as the largest reptile in the world. These crocodiles can overpower any animal that enters their territory without breaking a sweat.

What was the apex predator before humans?

There might have been several apex predators before the evolution of human beings.

Anomalocaris: Anomalocaris is said to be the first apex predator that occurred in the world. This dinosaur lived 300 million years ago. It is known for its strange body structure. When the fossils of this dinosaur were discovered, the body parts were initially thought to have belonged to several animals. Later studies revealed that all the bones belonged to one dinosaur, Anomalocaris. This is why it is called the strangest apex predator.

Pliosaurus funkei: Pliosaurus funkei was most likely an apex predator. It is said to be one of the most terrifying carnivores that occupied the seas during the Cretaceous and Jurassic eras. It lived 200 million years to 65.5 million years ago. From the fossils, it is evident that these animals were 33-42 ft (10.05-12.80 m) in length and their weight was at least 100,000 lb (45 ton). They must have been feared for their nasty bites. The bite force of the pliosaurus was 33,000 psi, which is the largest bite force recorded in the history of animals. Pliosaurus mainly inhabited the sea and ocean regions. They occupied the European seas and other regions, like North America and Australia. They must have become extinct due to the changes in the water temperatures and the rise in sea levels.

Tyrannosaurus Rex: This is yet another popular apex predator. Humans have studied a lot about this dinosaur due to its large size and unique characteristics. It lived 66 million years to 68 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period. It was the largest dinosaur during its period. It was 20 ft(6.1 m) in length. Due to its well-built body and brute strength, scientists say this dinosaur must have been a beast hunting all other animals, including dinosaurs.

A fossil of a Tyrannosaurus Rex was sold for $30.8 million, making it the most expensive fossil in the world. Another T.-rex fossil was sold at $8.362 million. T-rex fossils are by far the most desired and famous fossils in the world.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for Apex predator lifespan: Know interesting top predators facts for kids then why not take a look at Longest book in the Bible: Book of Psalms facts for kids, or What is the smallest bone in the body? Fascinating body facts for kids.

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Written by Akinwalere Olaleye

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

Akinwalere Olaleye picture

Akinwalere OlaleyeBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

As a highly motivated, detail-oriented, and energetic individual, Olaleye's expertise lies in administrative and management operations. With extensive knowledge as an Editor and Communications Analyst, Olaleye excels in editing, writing, and media relations. Her commitment to upholding professional ethics and driving organizational growth sets her apart. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Benin, Edo State. 

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