Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Prey Survival Strategies

Having devoted yesterday's post to the nature of predators, I am inclined to give prey species their due. In their effort to survive and reproduce, the hunted (many of which are also hunters) have, through the relentless force of natural selection, adopted a wide range of traits and behaviors.  While speed, agility, strength and night vision are among the more common survival traits, they are not always sufficient.

Many prey species utilize some degree of camouflage to evade predators; their coats, feathers, skin or anatomic features blend with their natural environment, serving to hide them from hunters; some animals change color with the seasons while others, such as chameleons, can alter their color to match their surroundings.  Since some poisonous insects and amphibians have developed bright, colorful markings to warn potential predators of their toxicity, other nonpoisonous species have adopted similar markings to deflect the interest of predators.  Many prey animals congregate in large schools, flocks or herds to confuse predators and to increase the chance of survival for any given individual; others inhabit islands or nearly inaccessible terrain to avoid predation.

Finally, since the young are a common target of predators, parental (usually maternal) and community protection of eggs, larvae or newborn animals is a vital strategy in many species; some larger mammals, such as elephants and musk oxen, are especially effective in this regard.  If only all humans were as devoted to the welfare of their offspring!