Animals with No Natural Predators
Some animals live without the worry of being prey. They have evolved to the top of the food chain in their habitats, with no natural predators to fear.
From the majestic bald eagle to the adorable giant pandas roaming China's bamboo forests, these animals have adapted and evolved over time to peacefully reign over all that they survey.
Habitat: All oceans
Orcas, the biggest and baddest the oceans have to offer, are apex predators. The only threats they have are from humans. Pollution, habitat degradation and hunting are the biggest issues for this largest member of the dolphin family.
While young orcas are sometimes vulnerable to being hunted by larger sharks, adult orcas are formidable predators with few natural threats.
Habitat: Islands in southeastern Indonesia
The world's largest lizard, the Komodo dragon, lives on the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores and Gili Motang. A carnivore, it lives on deer, wild boars, water buffaloes and other small mammals.
The Komodo has massive and powerful jaws, sharp teeth and a venomous bite that can easily rip apart its prey. Although they are skilled hunters and apex predators, they can sometimes be scavengers. As fearsome as they are, they are considered vulnerable due to human encroachment.
Habitat: Subarctic and Arctic region along the coasts and islands of the North Atlantic and North Pacific
This little bird is top dog in its icy habitat. It's particularly territorial and aggressive during breeding season and is known to sometimes force other birds to regurgitate their food, which it will then steal.
The Great Skua (also known as the Bonxie) feeds on everything from fish to other seabirds. And when it feels like adding something a little different to its diet, it won't hesitate to scavenge on carrion.
Habitat: Asia, Australia, Africa and the Americas
This apex predator is unchallenged by any other creature in its vicinity. With steely jaws, razor-sharp teeth and a stealthy demeanor, crocodiles are opportunistic hunters that prey on fish, birds and whatever mammals are in their vicinity.
To hunt, the croc lies in wait near the water's edge, patiently waiting before using a sudden burst of speed to launch lethal attacks on its unsuspecting prey. Once they've captured an animal, they spin in the water with the catch in a move known as the "death roll."
Habitat: Arctic regions of Canada, Alaska, Russia, Greenland and Norway
A good rule of thumb when it comes to bears is the old adage, "If it's brown lay down; if it's black fight back; if it's white goodnight." While grizzly bears are indeed formidable, polar bears are even more dangerous. They are larger than grizzlies and have a more robust bite.
They are also more prone to attacking humans spontaneously, and in some instances, they have been known to prey on people intentionally. Polar bears are not only great swimmers but use actual hunting techniques — for example, they'll break ice to access seal dens.
However, one thing the polar bear is powerless against is climate change — the less ice in its habitat, the more impacted it is in its ability to hunt.
Habitat: Louisiana, Florida and Georgia
The alligator is the croc's less aggressive cousin, but that doesn't mean it's something you should mess with. While they do shy away from people (we've all seen videos of them strolling around Florida like long forgotten dinosaurs), they are the top predators in their freshwater habitats.
They, like crocs, have strong jaws, a solid bite and are also ambush hunters, lurking near the water's edge to surprise unsuspecting prey.
Great Horned Owl
Habitat: North America
This skilled nocturnal hunter uses its massive talons and keen eyesight to capture a diverse range of prey, including small mammals and birds. Their exceptional hearing enables them to locate prey in the dark, and their silent flight allows for a stealthy approach — in other words, the unsuspecting victim doesn't know what hit them.
While great horned owls have no real natural predators, humans pose threat through habitat destruction and vehicle collisions.
Great White Shark
Habitat: Coastal and offshore waters around the United States (Northeast and California), South Africa, Japan, Oceania, Chile and the Mediterranean
As we've seen from "Jaws" and many depictions since, the great white is the king of all it surveys. But there's a lot about it that's more Hollywood lore than fact.
With its streamlined body, seven rows of razor-sharp teeth and great speed, the great white preys on a diverse range of animals, including seals and sea lions. While they do attack humans, it's also most always by mistake — they have poor eyesight and, according to Laura Ryan at Macquarie University in Australia, "Sharks have this historical bad public perception, as mindless, man-eating animals ... that that’s not the case. They’re following what their visual system is telling them is potential prey."
Despite its apex predator status, it is threatened by the poaching and fishing practices of humans.
Habitat: Amazon and Orinoco rivers in South America
There is a simple reason the electric eel has no natural predators — the shock it gives when it's touched. Armed with a specialized electric organ, this fish generates powerful shocks for both navigation and hunting, with the ability to produce up to 860 volts of juice.
While uncommon, fatalities resulting from electric eel shocks have been documented. A single shock has the potential to cause drowning, even in shallow waters. while multiple shocks can cause respiratory or heart failure.
Habitat: New Guinea, the Aru Islands and northeastern Australia
This large bird is known as "the world's most dangerous bird," and humans are wise not to get near it. After all, it has disemboweled more than one person (a man in Florida who owned one met this particular fate) with powerful legs that deliver swift and forceful kicks and with 5-inch long, razor-sharp claws. While they can't fly, they can jump 7 feet off the ground!
The cassowary's primary diet generally consists of fruits, small animals, insects and carrion. While they are not looking for a fight, the Australian government has suggested anyone who comes too close to one should back away slowly and put something between themselves and the bird.
Habitat: The Galápagos Islands
There are no animals on the Galápagos Islands that threaten the existence of the giant tortoise. However, species that have been introduced to the islands by humans — pigs, rats, dogs — will destroy eggs and attack hatchlings, as will the Galápagos hawk.
Once a tortoise grows a bit, however, it's smooth sailing for the next 100-plus years.
Habitat: Mountainous areas in south central China
The stunning giant panda lives predator-free in its native habitat of China's bamboo forests. As a result, this solitary and generally peaceful animal has evolved without the need for defenses of any kind. (But that doesn't mean they can't be dangerous when threatened.)
Despite the absence of natural enemies, the panda faces threats such as habitat loss. There are only about 1,800 left in the wild and 600 in zoos or in breeding programs.
Habitat: Canada, Alaska, the contiguous U.S. and northern Mexico
America's national bird has no natural predators. However, eggs and younger eagles are prone to attacks from other larger birds, even other eagles.
Bald eagles often meet their fate via cars, power lines, gunshot wounds and even poisoning. But their numbers are coming back, and they are under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which makes it illegal to interfere with them in any way.
They were removed from the endangered species list in 2007.
Fossas are carnivorous mammals that live in the forests of Madagascar. This larger relative of the mongoose is an apex predator within that ecosystem.
These solitary animals hunt during all hours of the day and capture prey from both the ground and trees. They mostly feast on lemurs but supplement their diet with other small mammals as well as fish, lizards, birds, frogs and insects.
Their main threats come from habitat loss and other conflicts with humans.
Habitat: Mountainous areas of Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan
The snow leopard is known for its elusive nature and is well-adapted to its harsh, high-altitude environment. With powerful limbs and a thick fur coat, it navigates rugged terrain, preying on blue sheep, Himalayan tahr, marmots and other small mammals.
Yet again, humans are the biggest threat to this majestic cat. Poaching, loss of habitat and retaliatory killings due to conflicts with humans are the main factors that put the snow leopard at risk. Another challenge affecting the survival of snow leopards is climate change.