If you talked about the world’s deadliest hunters then you would probably think to mention Lions, Panthers and other big cats. Surely the tiger or the bear is the world’s apex predator? Well, that is where you would be wrong, as a little dragonfly happens to be the world’s deadliest hunter.
A cat owner would think their four-legged pawed friend is the most proficient hunter in the world, they have four paws and whiskers and pounce with accuracy. And as the cats get bigger up to the leopard size, surely they become even better hunters, no? Anyone could be forgiven for betting that cats are the most successful predator. Well, big cats are well-practiced and finely honed hunters, evolution has given them all the tools of the trade: powerful jaws and fearsome claws. Tigers are strong swimmers and leopards are amazing when it comes to climbing trees, they can cover all manners of terrain when they hunt.
But are big cats the best hunters on Earth?
No, that is where you may find out a surprising statistic, six out of seven leopard hunts end in disappointment. And when it comes to Bengal tigers it is thought they only catch their prey one out of 20 times. These estimates have been done solely from observations in places like Kruger National Park in South Africa, but still, it shows that nature is very different than what we think. And not to mention that hunting is extremely difficult.
Even with camouflage and stealth, it is difficult to move up and surprise prey. Out on the plains, the roaring speed of the cheetah does allow them to catch their prey half of the time and the hunting groups of lions find success around 25% of the time. African wild dogs fare better, with their monster teamwork skills, they catch their prey over 67% of the time if their pack is 20 dogs strong. When it comes to deadly hunters, you have to go down into the insect world to find deadly ones.
An army ant will capture over 30,000 prey items per day! Of course, a colony is over half a million ants, so they do have an advantage. However, the insect with the most success when it comes to an actual hunt, according to Harvard University, is the dragonfly. They catch their prey up to 95% of the time!
With their complex eyes that specialize in spotting bugs against the sky and wings that let them move with agility, but the real key is their brain. A dragonfly’s brain can optimize their hunting strategy to predict where the prey is going and this allows them to intercept perfectly.