Apex predator: Definition, Importance, and List

What is an apex predator?

Apex predators are animals that occupy the top trophic level in a food web.  They are relatively large animals that regularly feed on other animals. In other words, apex predators have no known predators that can kill them. 

An apex predator is also known as a top predator or Alpha predator

Importance of apex predator in an ecosystem

Apex predators have a crucial role in maintaining the health and stability of the ecosystem. Apex predators keep the balance in an ecosystem by limiting the population of those they hunt, especially mesopredators. Medium-sized predators are called mesopredators.

But the sharp decline in the population of apex predators leads to global outbreaking of mesopredators. The population of Mesopredators increase after the removal of top predators is called mesopredator release. Also, apex predators play an important role in maintaining the biodiversity of an ecosystem and are therefore considered keystone species.

List of apex predators

Apex predators are those animals that have no natural predators in their habitat. Let’s look at examples of the deadliest top predators.

1. Killer whale

The killer whale, also known as orca, belongs to the oceanic dolphins family, and has no natural predators in their ecosystem. Orcas are the apex predators of the oceans even great white sharks are afraid of them.

2. Lion

A lion is a second-largest cat after a tiger belonging to the cat family. They are the top predator in their ecosystem, exclusively found in Africa and small numbers in India. But the population of lions has declined sharply in the last few decades. Human influence in their habitat is the biggest threat to lions.


A tiger is the largest cat and is commonly found throughout Asia. Tiger is a top predator in their habitat, and their presence indicates a healthy ecosystem. But tigers are in danger due to poaching, forest destruction, and human impacts.

4. Polar bear

A polar bear is one of the top predators in the Arctic region. They feed on seals, narwhals, belugas, whales, and fish. They have a remarkable ability to swim for extended distances. However, their population has declined due to the changing sea ice conditions.

5. Saltwater crocodile

Saltwater crocodiles are the most dangerous animals in their ecosystem. They eat almost any animal in their habitat, including mammals, fishes, sharks, and humans, making them top predators in that habitat. Saltwater crocodiles usually reside in the coastal brackish of South-East Asia.

6. Komodo dragon

Komodo dragon is the biggest animal in its habitat. This apex predator lives on the island of Indonesia. It belongs to the lizard family and eats anything including deer, buffalo, monkey, and human.

7. Eagle

The eagle is one of the top predators in the sky. Eagles can thrive in any habitat, and they feed on deer, sea mammals, turtles, beetles, and fishes. The harpy eagles of America are among the world’s largest and powerful eagles.

8. Hawk

Hawk is another raptor that has no its own predators. Hawk prey ranging from beetles, small mammals, other birds, and fishes.

9. Snow leopard

The snow leopard is a top predator in their habitat, which has very powerful legs. They usually reside in the mountain ranges of Central and South Asia. The snow leopard preys upon the blue sheep, mountain ibex, deer, and Himalayan Tahr.

10. Great white shark

Great white sharks reside at the top of the marine food chain and are common around the United States, South America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. The great white shark preys on a variety of marine animals such as dolphins, sea lions, and a small shark.

11. Sperm whale

The diet of sperm whales includes giant squid, cephalopods, and colossal squid, which make them a top predator in the sea. They have a worldwide distribution, usually found in the deep ocean.