Apex Predators: 20 Animals That Are On Top Of The Food Chain

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Apex Predators

Also known as Alpha Predators or Top Predators, Apex Predators are the animals that are on top of the food chain. Being on top of the food chain means they have no predators or very few predators. To be an apex predator, the animal has to have incredible stalking and hunting techniques in the wild. From the land to the sky and in the water, we are going to take look at some ferocious apex predators today.

1African Lungfish

image: Discovering All Marine Species

Meet the prehistoric fish that travels through water, mud, and land, and is one of the apex predators in our list. This living fossil has remarkable adaptations that have helped them to survive for almost 400 million years now. Their adaptations include a primitive lung and the ability to survive in a state of estivation (similar to hibernation). This fish has two lungs, they can breathe air, and they can live out of water for up to a year. The African lungfish feed on everything from frogs, fish, and mollusks to tree roots and seeds. Larger fish and mammals may prey on the juvenile lungfish, but the adult lungfish has no major predators at all.

2Alligator Gar

image: Pinterest

Looking half fish half alligator, alligator gars are voracious ambush predators as well as the largest apex predators in the Mississippi River system. When hunting, they stalk and ambush their preys that mostly are blue crabs, turtles, waterfowls, small mammals, and other birds. Alligator gars are large fish with sharp teeth, and such combination is obvious enough to deliver a serious bite wound. The alligator gars have a savage collection of teeth which they use to grab and manipulate preys as they feed. The interesting part is that they are able to breathe both in air and water which allows them to live in turbid stagnant waters. These gator gars have been around for 100 million years now, and they are still kicking.

3Cheetah

With the reputation of being the world’s fastest animals on land, cheetah is also Africa’s apex predators. These fast cats have short canines, and their hunting technique is strangling their preys to death. More than that, their claws are not retractable which allows cheetahs to bring down a Thomson’s gazelle faster than a lion could. Cheetahs are visual hunters and they are diurnal, so they hunt early in the morning and late afternoon. Their preys consist are gazelles, impalas, antelopes, hares, birds, rodents, and calves of larger herd animals. Being one of the most successful hunters, it is obvious that cheetahs are the apex predators of the savannas.

4Eurasian Eagle Owl

You are looking at the largest owl species in the world as well as the apex predator of the sky. As an apex predator, Eurasian eagle owls have no natural predators at all. Also, they hunt at night so that makes them the king of the dark. Their range is in mountainous regions, coniferous forests, steppes, and other relatively remote places. These majestic nocturnal hunters prey on small mammals, lizards, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and large insects. Eurasian eagle owls are not only fierce but also striking as well with their pumpkin orange eyes and feathery ear tufts. Beauty and the beast all in one, these owls are absolutely magnificent.

5Golden Eagle

image: pikrepo

Not many birds are apex predators, but the golden eagles are the exceptional case when it comes to that. Golden eagles are one of the fastest birds in the world, and they have immense agility and speed for hunting. On top of that, these birds have powerful feet and large sharp talons to snatch up preys like rabbits, marmots, and ground squirrels. The incredible thing about them is their excellent eyesight that allows them to spot preys from great heights. The golden eagles prey on rabbits, smaller birds, snakes, and rodents, and they hunt by swiftly diving to catch them. These magnificent eagles are the North America’s largest birds of prey, and one of the birds that are on top of the food chain.

6Great White Shark

We all fear sharks when we are in the seas, and the great white shark is the most vicious of them all. This shark species can grow as long as 6 meters in length, and they weight no less than 2 tons in weight. Aside from being one of the apex predators, the great white sharks are also the largest predatory fish as well. You probably know that sharks have rows of teeth, and this one here has over 300 sharp triangular shaped teeth. And they have rows of them in their mouth. With just one bite, and the prey is done for good. The great white sharks hunt smaller fish, whales, turtles, and seals using their sense of smell, and of course, their terrifying teeth. These sharks tend to hunt alone, so only killer whales can pose them a threat as they hunt in groups. They are large and scary, and that is why they are also on top of the food chain.

7Harpy Eagle

This is the face of the birds of prey that many know so well as one of the apex predators. Native to the American tropics, harpy eagles are the largest eagles in the world with the size of a human’s. These eagles are so big their claws are the size of a grizzly bear’s paws or even bigger. With the combination of size, powerful claws, and incredible flying speed, harpy eagles prey on big animals like sloths, monkeys, large snakes, etc. These powerful raptors are so precious with their power and their appearance. Harpy eagles have short wings and long tails, making them highly maneuverable as they fly through the dense forest canopy. There are about 50,000 of them in the wild, and their threats are habitat loss as a result from development, logging, and agriculture.

8Jaguar

image: Stephanie

Jaguars are the apex predators of America, and they are so dangerous and aggressive towards their preys. These largest and only big cats in America have large distribution from southern Arizona to south of New Mexico toward northern Argentina. Jaguars prefer dense and moist tropical lowland forests where they hunt capybaras, giant anteaters, wild boars, common caiman, collared peccary, and deer. These cats are excellent climbers and swimmers, and they have the largest bite force quotients. Usually, they pounce on the prey and bite their throat while sometimes they attack with a precision biting to the back of prey’s skull. Jaguars rarely attack humans, in fact, they often run away once catching the scent or sight of a human. Their population has declined due to habitat loss, fragmentation, trapping, and hunting for their paws, teeth, and other products.

9Killer Whale

image: pixabay

Killer whales are the largest members of the dolphin family, and they are on top of the food chain in the oceans. Also known as orcas, these killers are among the deadliest apex predators on earth with their hunting skill. They have no predators in the ocean, and they hunt large ocean creatures like sharks and whales for daily food. Some called them “wolves of the sea” because they live and hunt together in pods like a pack of wolves. A pod of whales will join forces to surround a large animal like a blue whale, then chase, bite, and wear it down. Killer whales have 45 teeth, each of which is 7.6 centimeters long which is simply ideal for ripping and tearing prey. That is not a doubt why these killer whales are one of the apex predators of the ocean.

10King Cobra

King Cobras are the longest venomous snakes in the world, and they have very few predators. As a very deadly cobra, this serpent has powerful venom that can kill a full-grown Asian Elephant in just 3 hours. With us humans, it only takes a few minutes for the venom to do the job. The interesting thing about them is that these snakes growl when threatened which sounds like the growl of an angry German shepherd. Being on top of the food chain, king cobras feed on other snakes as well as lizards, birds, rodents, and fish. The good thing is that these snakes tend to be shy and prefer to escape humans so attacks from them is rare.

11Komodo Dragon

image: Time Travel Turtle

Does not look so scary, the Komodo dragons are actually one of the apex predators out there in the wild. They inhabit in tropical dry forests and savannas, and they feed on carrion, water buffalo, pigs deer, and even humans. These dragons are the largest living lizard on earth, and they are venomous too. Komodo dragons kill their prey by using their powerful legs and sharp teeth where toxic bacteria is contained. With one bite, the prey will still die due to blood poisoning 24 hours later even if they could escape from the dragon’s mouth. You can only find them in islands in Indonesia, and these lizards are the kings of their territory.

12Leopard

image: pixabay

Leopards are one of the 5 big cats, and they are able to hunt large preys due to their powerful jaws. More than that, leopards are so fast as they can run up to 58km/h, and they can leap 6 meters forward through the air. When it comes to hunting, leopards stalk their preys carefully and quietly before pouncing and biting the prey in the neck. Plus with their climbing skill, leopards mostly carry their food up the tree and eat their lunch up there. These beautiful cats are carnivores, but they are not picky since they will prey on any animals that cross their path. Their meal consists of gazelles, cheetah cubs, baboons, rodents, monkeys, snakes, large birds, amphibians, fish, antelopes, warthogs, and porcupines. With their great hunting skill and excellent adaptability, leopards are no doubt one of the powerful apex predators.

13Leopard Seal

Also go by the name of sea leopards, leopard seals are the second largest seal species in the Antarctic. Leopard seals look adorable, but they have powerful jaw and menacing teeth that make them the apex predators and hunters in their territory. Their long canine teeth enable them to feed on a wide variety of meals such as penguins, young elephant seals, and more. Their natural predators are killer whales and sharks, and their main threat is polar ice caps diminish with global warming.

14Lion

image: pixabay

We all know about the king of the jungle, and here is why they are the ruler and killer of the land. Lions are the second largest cats in the world, and they live in groups known as “prides”. The largest pride consists of almost 30 members, and most of them are females. These large cats have no other predators, and the lionesses are responsible for hunting. The most popular diet on their menu are antelopes, zebras, wildebeests, and sometimes they kill largest preys like giraffes, buffalos, and hippos. Their population is now decreasing due to human threats including hunting and habitat loss.

15Polar Bear

Found in extreme north part of the world especially in the Arctic region, polar bears are the apex predators of the cold lands. Polar bears are the largest terrestrial carnivores on Earth, and they have no enemies at all except for us humans. Their ability to live in extreme cold conditions alone already makes them powerful, let alone their hunting methods and skills. These fluffy yet scary predators hunt a number of smaller arctic animals like seals, sea lions, otter, and large fish. Polar bears are incredible swimmers in the cold water and fierce venturers on the snow. Just a friendly note though, polar bears can cut us in pieces with a swipe of their strong paws, so be careful.

16Red Wolf

image: pixabay

Not known much by many people, red wolf is the most endangered canid species in the world. As apex predators atop the food chain, red wolves have done so much for its ecosystem by keeping various species populations in check. These wolves inhabit swamps, coastal prairies, and forests, and they seldom get vulnerable to attacks from neighboring predators. As hunters, they either hunt alone or in packs depending upon the size and availability of their preys. Red wolf usually feeds on rabbits, white-tailed deer, rodents, and raccoons. Their population is at a very bad number at the moment due to over-hunting, habitat loss, and extensive hybridization with coyotes.

17Saltwater Crocodile

Here you are looking at the largest reptiles in the world, and of course, one of the apex predators. These bad boys can grow to the length of 7 meters with weigh over 1000 kilograms. The saltwater crocodiles inhabit mangrove swamps, estuaries, lagoons, and lower stretches of rivers in Northern Australia, Papua New Guinea, and some countries in Southeast Asia. Apart from being the animals that are on top of the food chain, saltwater crocodiles are also one of the most aggressive animals as well. With their long and powerful jaws, saltwater crocodiles are the dominant predators throughout their habitats. They hunt and eat any animals that their powerful jaws can get a hold of including deer, wild boar, monkey, fish, and other crocodiles. Also, they are ambush predators which means taking us humans down is not a problem for them at all.

More About Dangerous Crocodiles

18Snow Leopard

image: pixabay

These fluffy cats have no predators throughout their natural habitats due to the fact that they are incredibly fierce. On top of that, the snow leopards can even kill animals twice larger than them like Himalayan blue bulls, ibexes, argali, and more. These leopards use their strong legs to pounce on the prey and kill it by puncturing the windpipe. With those strong legs, they can actively pursue preys down the steep mountainsides without a single problem. Plus with no other predators to compete with in where they live, snow leopards are the apex predators of the snow caps.

19Tiger

image: pixabay

With the combination of their power and strength, tigers are deadly predators with zero match in the wild. Tigers are the largest cats that can weight up to almost 400 kilograms with the length of about 3.3 meters. That is why tigers are on top of their food chain, and they have no natural predators. These large cats are solitary hunters, and they hunt mostly at night with their excellent night vision. Their diet includes wild pigs, deer, water buffalos, monkeys, hares, and crocodiles. The sad thing about these beautiful yet fearsome predators is that they are one of the animals that would disappear soon. People keep on hunting their subspecies one by one to extinction, some other factors like poaching, habitat loss, and fragmentation also play a part. There are less than 4,000 tigers left in the wild today, and their number keeps on going down.

20Tiger Fish

image: AquaScapeOnline

Just like piranhas but larger, tiger fish are the apex predators of the lakes and rivers that they frequent. This scary-looking fish species is gifted with the razor sharp teeth that are can cut anything due to interlocking capability. Teamwork is definitely their motto as they always attack in groups to make their large victims vulnerable. Tiger fish are very aggressive and fast, making them very good hunters in the water. They range from northern Africa down into central Africa as well as parts of southern Africa in large lakes and rivers. With one bite, your finger will be gone so let’s hope you won’t come across one when you swim.

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