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I am trying to create various fictional animals and monsters to inhabit my world. Many of the animals I am creating are huge, and some are even bigger than elephants. Some of these include the carnivores as well. For predators that are really huge, would it be necessary to make its prey smaller than it, or does it have to be bigger?

Note: I am fully aware of the square-cube law, and while there are exceptions for some species, the rule still has a major influence in the biology and evolution.

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    $\begingroup$ I appreciate your awareness. $\endgroup$ Nov 26, 2022 at 5:44
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    $\begingroup$ Have you seen any wildlife shows, you do know that a buffalo is larger than a lion right? that gazelle or antelope are often smaller and a lion will happily hunt much smaller prey than that? and wolves will hunt moose or mice, whichever they can get, if it tastes good, isn't too dangerous and doesn't run fast enough then that works for most predators 🤗 $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Nov 26, 2022 at 5:51
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    $\begingroup$ This seems like something that can be answered with a trivial amount of googling. Consider the Blue Whale. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Nov 26, 2022 at 8:22
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings I agree and downvoted as a result. There are LOTS of easily found examples. Just off the top of my head: ants, wolves, lions, pirahnas, golden eagles (hunting goats), humans hunting mammoth, etc. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Nov 26, 2022 at 15:34
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure this is enough for an answer, but within a few multiples of body mass, it's a lot more important that the predator can outrun the prey over some distance (whether short or long) than that it's bigger. Predatory packs make this even more true. $\endgroup$ Nov 26, 2022 at 17:21

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I just realized that I had misread your question, swapping its terms. Preys can be smaller than the predator, or also bigger. What size can't cover, number can do.

Look at blue whales and sperm whales, for example, they thrive on (lots of) creatures way smaller than them. Same goes for ant eaters, which literally thrive on eating ants, while being way bigger than them.

On the other extreme, killer whales are smaller than the whales they hunt and eat, and also humans, while being smaller, had no troubles hunting mammoths.

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  • $\begingroup$ YOu are making a big assumpiton about humans having no problems hunting mammoths. There are many fossiles showing that Humans and prehumans ated dead mammoths, and perhaps hunted, in varying eras of prehistory. But there is no proof that was a continous practice. Possibly sometimes mammoths struct back and extermined mammoth hunting tribes, and all the neighboring tribes abandoned mammoth hunting for many centuries until it was reinvented by people who had frogotten all about the mammoths striking back. $\endgroup$ Nov 26, 2022 at 18:00
  • $\begingroup$ @M.A.Golding you are very wrong, there were buildings made of no less than 60 mammoths and we have multiple dead mammoths in human made traps. you would need some pretty strong evidence to claim humans just stopped hunting them $\endgroup$
    – John
    Mar 26 at 20:34
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You will find plenty of examples of predators that are usually much bigger than their prey (such as polar bears), much smaller (such as wolves) or both (orcas, which will eat small fish, penguins, and whales). So it is not about the size ratio of prey and predator, it is more about hunting strategies and how prey and predators coevolve all the time.

What might be really useful for you is some paleoecology. There is evidence that Allosaurus hunted sauropods, which in my mind puts them in the hall of black air force energy critters together with badgers and chimps. Anyway, the Wikipedia article on Allosaurus suggests that they could either hunt the long-necked dinos in packs, or that possibly an allosaurus would tear off a chunk of flesh from a living, fighting sauropod and run away with it. There is quite some evidence that they hunted smaller dinosaurs too, they were not picky.

Allosaurus are believed to have been just slightly smaller than the T-Rex. I don't know how big your own creatures are but consider that even if they are dino-sized, they could have an array of hunting strategies that would allow some predators to specialize on some prey, and some others to hunt on a large set of different species. They don't have to all follow the same pattern.

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Predators can survive off of prey smaller than themselves as long as the net caloric intake is high enough to justify their larger size. Polar bears weigh on average 400-600 kg, while the ringed seals they prefer to eat weigh about 70 kg on the larger end. This works out fine as there’s a lot of meat and blubber on that 70 kg seal. Cope’s Rule suggests that larger body size tends to be more advantageous for survival, so if a predator has enough access to prey then natural selection will favor larger body sizes over time (unless another factor mitigates it or it stops being efficient).

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Arctic biologist Farley Mowatt found that wolves sustained themselves primarily on rodents (voles) and hares, though his book on his time studying wolves, Never Cry Wolf, has been heavily criticized for being a mix of fact and storytelling. (For more reading consult your favorite search engine or the Wikipedia article.). The book was later made into a live-action Disney movie of the same name.

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Big predator - smaller prey is advantageous in cold climates, especially when food is scarce. A predator needs to conserve calories and heat between hunts, so it grows big and fat, and eats whatever it can get. It prowls along its hunting grounds at all times, using the most lazy and energy conserving tactics it can.

Smaller predator - bigger prey is advantageous in hot climate. The predator benefits more from taking down a big animal every once in a while, and resting in the shade between hunts. Hot climate predators are often lean and fast, good at fast paced attacks or ambushes, because they need to kill their prey before they overheat.

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The important factor isn't the relative size of the individual predator and prey animals, but the relative population size of the two groups. The prey population needs to be much greater than the predator population in order to sustain the latter -- I think I read once that you need at least a 20-to-1 ratio of prey biomass to predator biomass. So it doesn't matter if the prey animals are smaller, as long as there are enough of them.

Of course, the larger the predator, the larger the prey population needs to be, and the larger the hunting territory the predator needs, so those could put limits on a predator's maximum size. Also, the larger the predator, the slower their maximum speed, probably, so that would affect hunting strategy. Larger carnivores might rely more on scavenging, or ambush hunting like a crocodile, lying in wait for something to draw near and then making a short burst of speed to grab it.

But predators can't be picky. They'll eat whatever they can find, large or small.

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