Ever want to see a list animals that are the absolute kings of the jungle, so to speak? Below I’ve compiled a list of apex predators from around the world. Some of them probably won’t surprise you, but I bet at least one does!
But first, let’s learn just a little bit more about what exactly constitutes an “apex predator”.
What is an apex predator?
An apex predator is a carnivore that’s at the topmost position of the food chain in its environment. This means that an apex predator will have no natural predators of its own, and is prey to no other animal.
Many of the species of big cats are apex predators. The African lion is likely one of the first animals people think of when they hear the term apex predator, and in sub-Saharan Africa they are. However there are isolated regions all over the world that have their own apex predators, and that’s what we’re looking at in this article. So let’s get to it!
List of apex predators – 15 examples
This is a list of apex predators from all over the world that can rest easy knowing they’re at the tops of their food chains.
1. African lions
It’s no secret that the African lion is the “king of the jungle”. In sub-Saharan Africa they are at the absolute pinnacle of the food chain and have no predators. None of the other species of big cats in its ecosystem will risk a conflict with a lion. That being said, they do still face dangers and because of this they live in family groups called prides.
So while there are no animals that would be able to prey upon a healthy adult lion, there are those may attempt to steal a cub. Or even attack wounded or sick lion. The healthy young lions of the pride will protect all other lions within it, and make sure they are safe and get enough to eat.
2. Killer whales
It was once thought that the great white shark was the apex predator of the ocean. However, now it’s believed that animal is actually the killer whale, aka orca. Killer whales are extremely intelligent marine mammals that have been known to strategically hunt great whites. It was also discovered at some point that the orcas may have been going specifically after the shark’s livers that are high in protein.
Killer whales can grow up to 12,000 pounds and 26 feet in length making them the largest apex predators of the ocean and on earth. You might think they are the largest predators on the planet, but they aren’t. The largest predator on earth is actually the sperm whale, another type of toothed whale.
Quite often, within its territory, a wolf is the apex predator. If a wolf were to cross paths with a grizzly or even a polar bear, in that case the wolf would no longer be the apex predator. Save for that, the wolf is at the top of the food chain.
Wolves are pack animals that live and hunt in large groups of as many as 20 or more members. A wolf pack has a very strict and complex social structure, almost unlike any other animal on earth. The alpha male and the alpha female lead the group, and make all the important decisions including who eats and in what order.
4. Saltwater crocodiles
The saltwater crocodile is found in parts of India, Southeast Asia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Northern Australia, and some other areas in this region of the world. Males can reach 22 feet in length and weigh up to 2200 pounds. Because of its massive size and expert ability to kill, the saltwater crocodile has no natural predators within its environment, making it an apex predator.
Saltwater crocodiles will feed on just about anything that can get in their mouths including various fish, birds, and mammals. They’re normally found within a couple hundred miles of a coast so they can swim back and forth between fresh water and brackish water. They can also live up to 70 years
5. Bald eagles
Adult bald eagles can have wingspans of up to 8 feet and weight up to 14 pounds. They are the kings of the sky and have no predators. While the golden eagle may occasionally cross paths with a bald eagle, they do not hunt each other.
While bald eagles are opportunistic eaters and will take any kind of prey that is available, they mainly go for fish. They are excellent water foragers and can spot fish from above then dive bomb into the water and catch them. They are also known for stealing food from smaller birds of prey, like the osprey. Have a look at this article to see the bald eagle population in your area.
I think the dingo surprised me the most on this list of apex predators. When you think about it though, you don’t have to be the size of a polar bear or have the jaws of a crocodile to be the apex predator. You just have to be at the top of the food chain where you live. In Australia, the dingo is the largest carnivorous mammal on the continent.
That makes the dingo the largest predator and the smartest animal on the continent of Australia, next to man of course. Dingoes may hunt alone or in packs of around 10 members. They play an important role in the ecosystem and environment around them as the only apex predator. Dingoes have a declining population and are listed as “vulnerable to extinction” in Australia, with an estimated 10k-50k individuals left.
Tigers can be found from the tropical forests of South Asia to the temperate forests of Far East Russia. In its ecosystem, a tiger plays the role of apex predator. As the species at the top of the food chain they must keep the population of ungulates in check. The wild ungulates being the deer, wild pigs, water buffalo and antelope which keep the vegetation and plant life population in check.
Tigers are solitary predators that live lives by themselves for the most part. Ever wonder who would win in a fight between a tiger and a lion? From what I’ve researched, that fight would likely go to a tiger because they are significantly larger and stronger than tigers. However, if the pride gets involved the tiger may be scrambling for its life.
8. Polar bears
Polar bears have been the apex predators of the Arctic for thousands of years, and remain so today. They are the largest terrestrial carnivores in the world and can weigh 1700 pounds or more as adults. Polar bears feed primarily on seals, but may also prey on young walrus or scavenge on dead whales if the opportunity arises.
Polar bears can be found in parts of Alaska, Canada, Russia, Greenland, and other northern islands in this part of the world. It’s interesting to know that even though these massive animals are in fact apex predators, only 2% of their hunts yield results.
9. Grizzly bears
Not quite as large as the polar bear, the grizzly is still quite formidable and the second largest terrestrial carnivore around. The range of the grizzly bear and polar bear does intersect in some places to the north, but the grizzly is top bear anywhere in the lower 48 states or Canada.
The polar bear is almost totally carnivorous, while the grizzly bear here is actually an omnivore and eats meat as well as plants. The majority of the 1500 or so grizzly bears found in the lower 48 states are in Montana and Wyoming, with a few pockets in Idaho and Washington.
Jaguars act as the absolute apex predator where it lives in the dense jungles and rainforests of South America. These big cats are known for stalking and ambushing their prey at night, they are masters of the stealth attack.
While much smaller than tigers and lions, jaguars may be much stronger pound for pound. They are incredibly strong in both their bodies and bite for their size. This makes them highly efficient killing machines that have no natural predators.
11. Komodo dragons
The komodo dragon is only found on five islands in southeastern Indonesia, and no where else in the world. So they really only need to compete with the other predators on their islands to win the title of apex predator. Since the dragon doesn’t have any contenders, they are in fact the top of the food chain in the Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia.
Komodo dragons feed on deer, water buffalo, snakes, birds, and just about anything they can catch. There are many types of monitor lizards that look similar to komodos, and are often sold as pets. Check out this article we did on whether or not a komodo dragon would make a good pet.
12. Green anacondas
In the same jungles of South America as the jaguar is the longest snake in the world, the green anaconda. Green anacondas can reach lengths of 29 feet and weigh 550 pounds making them without question the biggest snake in the jungle. They are also carnivores that prey on the same ungulates as the jaguar.
There have been cases where a jaguar preys on a young anaconda or the other way around, but in general these 2 species remain apex predators within the same ecosystem. Although these snakes are certainly not native to North America or the United States, they have made their way into southern Florida’s warm tropical climate.
13. Snow leopards
The snow leopard is found at very high elevations in the Himalayas in countries like China, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Russia, and Mongolia. Within their ecosystem they are the apex predator and serve an important purpose. The presence alone of this big cat is a clear indication of a healthy ecosystem.
This amazing animal couldn’t be built more perfectly for its environment. Their thick coats make them almost impervious to the cold temperatures and their strong hind legs and claws make them amazing climbers.
14. Golden eagles
Golden eagles often inhabit the same range as the bald eagle, but these 2 birds of prey do not prey on each other. Since the golden eagle as just about the same size as the bald eagle, they both remain apex predators where ever they fly.
A golden eagle’s wingspan can reach up to 7.7 feet and they can weigh anywhere from 10-15 pounds, making them quite large. They feed mainly on other birds, but also on small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. If you remember, the bald eagle eats mostly fish which makes life easier for these guys.
15. Leopard seals
This one was a maybe, but I decided to add them as the final entry to the list of apex predators. That would be the leopard seal. Now technically they can be prey to killer whales, but they also act as the apex predator in their ecosystems feeding on krill, penguins, birds, fish, other seals and cephalopods. That’s right, leopard seals are the only species of seals to eat other seals.
Leopard seals are the most skilled hunters of all species of seals. They swim at speeds of up to 25 mph through the icy waters and use their powerful jaws to snatch prey making them excellent hunters.