Michelle Jewell is a Zoologist specialized in predator/prey behaivour and the Scientific Communicator for EDNA Interactive. She has spent the past 4 years studying the behaviour of white sharks and Cape fur seals at Geyser Rock, ‘Shark Alley’, South Africa.
Predators are highly influential in ecosystems because of the many top-down effects they can have. The most obvious and direct way predators influence an ecosystem is by eating and reducing the number of prey animals in the system, but another equally important way is the indirect influence they have on the behaviour of prey animals.
If you have avoided parking on a risky-looking street, taken a different route between classes to avoid a bully, or abandoned a forest hike because of snapping twigs in the distance, you have been indirectly affected by perceived ‘predators’. In the wild, prey animals will also change their behaviour when they perceive that predators are around, and these altered behaviours often influence other species, ultimately shaping the ecosystem.