Prey species are those that are hunted by other animals. Some of these are also hunters themselves and are adapted to both lifestyles. Most prey animals, however, are herbivores and eat no meat. Deer, antelope and rodents are mostly what people think of when they hear the word prey. But birds, insects, and most plants can be prey species, too. Especially with plants, these species have developed unique ways of protecting themselves.
In order to survive without being eaten, prey animals must have keen eyesight, hearing and sense of smell to alert them to danger. Many of them use the “safety in numbers” theory and live in herds. This way, there are more pairs of eyes and ears to notice predators. Also, they don’t need to be the fastest member of the herd, just faster than the animal next to them! Below are some of the tools at the disposal of prey species. The ones with the most protection and the ones most skilled in using these methods will survive.
Poison and Toxins
Many animals that cannot protect themselves with armor resort to poisons. They advertise their toxicity with bright, warning colors and are free to go about their daily business with relatively little threat from predators. Over the years, predators in the area have learned which ones are safe to eat and which ones are not. Some prey species even mimic colors of poisonous animals in an effort to trick hunters. This is very effective unless your attacker is inexperienced or willing to take a risk!
There is much safety in numbers. A group can provide many sentries, more parents to watch the offspring, and decoys for nearby predators. A large flock or herd running in many directions can be disorientating to animals on the hunt, and make them less to try to attack.
Just as many predators use camouflage, prey animals rely upon remaining hidden for their survival. Cryptic camouflage helps animals in the forests blend in better. Disruptive coloration allows animals living in a group to confuse predators with their outlandish stripes and spots. This makes it very difficult to single out an individual for the chase. Also, it breaks up the prey’s body shape as they move through foliage. Many prey species also freeze when on the alert so they do not attract attention to themselves.
The most effective way for an prey species to protect itself is with body armor. The animal has no need to travel in groups, expend energy running at high speeds, or maintaining poison glands. Predators catch on really quickly to prey that are unattainable. Plants are the most famous of armor users with thorns and the like.
Find out about Predators