Eat or be eaten: the role of apex predators

The rainforest produces at least three quarters of the precipitation it depends on. Every day, water is released through the leaves, rises in the air and forms clouds. When rain clouds hit cooler air they release their water in the form of rain. Even when it’s not raining, the cloud cover keeps the rainforest humid and warm. Because of plentiful rain, food and shelter the rainforest has the most density of living plant, insect and animal species of any ecosystem in the world.

When you have so many species competing for food in such a small compact area, every species is part of the food chain. Eventually every animal, plant and insect will become food for another species. One of my major goals on this adventure with WildFF was to not become a part of the food chain. Welcome to the largest terrestrial battlefield on Earth!

Jaguar in the Amazon by Tom Ambrose
Jaguar, Tom Ambrose ©

Species of the Peruvian rainforest

Apex predators play a key role in maintaining the health and vitality of all ecosystems. In the Peruvian rainforest the top predators are harpy eagles, jaguars, anacondas, black caiman (a relative of the crocodile, and the largest predator in the forest), and the giant river otters who can grow up to six feet and weigh up to 70 pounds. These predators split up the diverse terrain. The harpy eagle dominates the canopy. The jaguars cover the ground. The anaconda, caiman and giant river otter, battle in the rivers and lakes. The list of smaller hunters is virtually limitless!

Harpy eagle, Gordon W. Dimmig ©
Harpy eagle, Gordon W. Dimmig ©

Keeping the balance

Apex predators are keystone species. Their job is to guarantee that no one species becomes dominant over others. They provide constant checks and balances within the environment so that some percentage of each species can continue to procreate and generate the next generation. Keystone species are absolutely indispensable and without them, the environment would not function to its fullest capacity or it could collapse completely.

Jaguar Print at Las Piedras Amazon Center
Jaguar Print at Las Piedras Amazon Center

About the Author

Catherine Carney-Feldman

Catherine Carney-Feldman

Catherine Carney-Feldman is a member of the Ipswich Conservation Commission and owner of Shamrock Acres Environmental Landscaping (978 356-7093). She lectures and teaches all components of environmental gardening including the “Web Of Life”. She volunteers every Tuesday morning in the growing season in the gardens at the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary.

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