Populations of predators and prey are not necessarily stable over time in society. Instead, they differ in intervals that tend to be related in certain situations. The example of predator-prey relationships most commonly cited is found in the cycling of a predator the lynx, and the snowshoe hare its prey. Notably, this cycling can be observed in almost 200-year-old evidence established on the number of animal furs in North American forests retrieved by hunters.
Approximately after every 10 years, lynx and hare repeat their population cycles with the lynx population lagging one to two years behind the population of the hare. The best explanation for this is that there is an increase in food availability for the lynx with the increase in hare numbers, allowing an increase in the lynx population. As the population of lynx rises to a threshold level, it kills a large number of hares such that the hare population continues to decrease. This is compounded by a reduction in the lynx population due to food shortages. The hare population continues to rise when the population of the lynx is low, because of low predation pressure, beginning the cycle anew.
Defence against predation:
Both predator and prey species develop adaptations that make them function well in their role, beneficial characteristics that result from natural selection. Prey species, for example, have developed defensive adaptations that assist them to avoid predation. These defenses can be of mechanical, chemical, physical, or behavioral types.
Mechanical defense Mechanical defenses, such as the plants with thorns or the presence of shells on turtles, deter the predation of animals and herbivory by forcing the predator to experience physical pain or by stopping the predator from consuming the prey with its physical features.
Chemical defense Many animals as well as plants develop chemical defenses, such as the foxglove, which is highly poisonous when ingested. Another example is the millipede that shows both chemical and mechanical defense mechanism; it coils into a protective ball when attacked and creates a noxious fluid that irritates eyes and ears.
Physical mechanism To prevent being spotted by predators, many animals use their body form and coloration. The crab spider, for example, has the color and shape of the body similar to a flower petal, which makes it very difficult to see as it stands still against a true flower’s backdrop. In comparison, certain animals use coloring as a way of warning predators that they are not effective at feeding. For example, to alert predators that it is poisonous, the strawberry poison dart frog has bright coloration, whereas the striped skunk, Mephitis mephitis, takes advantage of its bold stripe pattern to alert predators of the nasty odor it creates.
Few species have evolved to replicate or mimic the aposematic color of other species, although they may not be bad in taste or poisonous in nature. Batesian mimicry is one such example where an animal incapable of causing any harm imitates the alarm coloration of a dangerous animal. This mimicry protects the harmless species from the predators; no matter its members do not possess any physical or chemical defenses of the organism they mimic. For instance, few non-venomous, non-stinging insect species resemble wasps or bees in their coloration.
Another kind of mimicry is mÃ¼llerian mimicry in which multiple species show the same warning coloration and all of them have defenses. For example, butterflies pair with foul-tasting species with the same coloration. When a predator encounters any member of the pair and finds their bad taste, both species are likely to be avoided in the future. Evolutionarily, this contrasting appearance may have been preferred because as both the species appeared more contrasting, due to the defense offered by a predator knowing to escape one, resulting in lower consumption rates.
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