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Attack and defence in animals

A tiger ambushes a deerA tiger ambushes a deer Meat-eating predators, or carnivores, obtain their food by hunting and attacking other creatures: their prey. Most prey have some form of self-defence—for example, an ability to fight back, or to run away at speed—and so the predator must overcome this. Many predators have strong and agile bodies, quick reactions, keen senses and hunting weapons such as sharp teeth and long claws. Some use speed to race after their prey. Others lurk hidden among leaves or long grass—perhaps also disguised by camouflage—then ambush their victims.

Leopard camouflaged in the long grassLeopard camouflaged in the long grass
A cobra, a venomous snake, about to strike.A cobra, a venomous snake, about to strike.


Many animals use chemical weapons rather than physical ones. Some snakes and spiders have venomous bites, while wasps and scorpions have venomous stings. The prey is paralysed, allowing the predator to kill and eat its victim. The venom can also be used for self-defence. These predators usually give warning that they are about to bite or sting an attacker. For example, a rattlesnake shakes its tail, while a spider rears up to show its fangs. This is because the supply of venom is limited and predators need it to hunt, so they try to avoid using it in defence unnecessarily.

Some species of bolas spider resemble bird droppings to avoid birds eating them.

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