Predation is an interaction between organisms (animals) in which one organism captures and feeds upon another called the prey. Although predation most often refers to carnivory, in ecology it can also include many other types of feeding behaviors including parasitism, parasitoidism, and herbivory.
This centipede crawled up under the eave of a shed to capture
and feed upon a predatory cane spider hunting there (CentipedevsSpider.jpg)
Humans naturally think of large cats (lions, tigers) and large reptiles (crocodiles) as typical predators, or perhaps even snakes, many of which are predatory on small mammals. However, spiders, centipedes, most lizards and turtles, and frogs are also voracious predators.
Contrary to popular belief by some, predation is not typically an indiscriminate urge to kill other living beings. When hunger is not an issue for the animal, most predators will typically not seek to attack prey since the basic need is absent and it is a waste of energy to do so in that situation. For instance, a large predator fish like a shark that is well fed in an aquarium will typically ignore the smaller fish swimming around it while the prey fish take advantage of the fact that the big fish is apparently harmless and treat it as simply a big but equal inhabitant of their living space.
In addition, it has been observed that well fed predator animals in a lax captivity like as a pet or on a farm will usually differentiate individual prey animals who are familiar coinhabitants in the same human area as opposed to wild ones outside the area. This interaction can range from simply peaceful coexistent to close companionship. In contrast, the predator animal typically treats prey animals from outside the human's influence as fair game. This can be because of either cultivated affection for those individual animals, or because the humans have made clear to the predator that harming these particular animals will not be tolerated. A good example of this is that there are numerous instances of pet cats and pet mice living together in the same human residence without incident as companions.
The Volterra-Lotka equations describe a simple mathematical model of the interaction between predators and prey.