I am sure we all see both of these phrases used commonly, but is there a reason as to why the terms 'natural predator' and 'natural prey' are used as opposed to just 'predator' and 'prey'?

Below are two examples of each amongst numerous others from Wikipedia.

The Wikipedia article on Wolverine says

Wolves are thought to be the wolverine's most important natural predator, with the arrival of wolves to a wolverine's territory presumably leading the latter to abandon the area.

The Wikipedia article on Leopard seal says

The only natural predator of leopard seals is the killer whale.

The Wikipedia article on Leopard says

The leopard is primarily threatened by habitat fragmentation and conversion of forest to agriculturally used land, which lead to a declining natural prey base, human–wildlife conflict with livestock herders and high leopard mortality rates.

The Wikipedia article on Reptile says

Snake farming has been troubling for conservation in the past as it can lead to overexploitation of wild snakes and their natural prey to supply the farms.

Are there preys that wouldn't be natural preys to their predatory animal? Are there predators that wouldn't be natural predators to their prey?

  • $\begingroup$ Can you cite an example? $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 3, 2022 at 11:50
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause, I have managed to attach a few to the body of the question itself. $\endgroup$ Apr 3, 2022 at 13:08
  • $\begingroup$ whenever you have a question about definition in biology the answer is "it depends." Which is why we need context for the question. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Apr 3, 2022 at 20:12

1 Answer 1


Natural world be used in situations like these for 1 of 2 possible reasons (and potentially both simultaneously):

  • to indicate ecologies that exist due to the organisms evolving together in that area (vs interactions with non-native species)

  • to indicate non-human interactions.

Humans have strongly altered the ecologies of many organisms, including through the impacts of introducing non-natives. As our species grew and spread across the globe in the last couple hundred years, we ourselves have acted as the non-native species -- entering ecological communities in which we did not evolve with the local species.

The above context has traditionally been viewed as "non-natural" because it was mediated by human decision-making and technology vs. "nature" undergoing evolution.


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