This is actually for a worldbuilding project, but I thought I'd just ask it here as it is solely about biology.

Anyway, would it be possible for a herbivore, let's call him X, that is predated by a predator, or Y, to evolve to become a specialized hunter of Y? For example, wolves hunt deer. Imagine that in millions of years, the deer has evolved into the main predator of wolves.

If that's not possible, is it at least possible for X to evolve adaptations for fighting/killing Y (Not for food)?

If you require any further context or clarification, please let me know.

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    $\begingroup$ Humans, compared to everything ("Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!") that used to eat them. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jun 8 '18 at 18:41
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Mine is a question more about evolutionary traits. Humans can hunt and wipe out those large predators because of their advanced tools. $\endgroup$ – SealBoi Jun 8 '18 at 18:52

Also it should be noted as you move from prey to predator, there is less energy to be had. This is why we often do not have a predator of a predator species. There simply isn't enough food at that level of a predator to support another predator above it.

That said, I am assuming you are thinking of an alien ecosystem. In which case you might be able to sustain such a system if there is a massive flux of bio-matter through the ecosystem. Ie plant food is extremely abundant and animals within it reproduce at an extremely fast pace. We can see such an environment at the bottom of a marine ecosystem in the polar regions during summer (near constant sunshine, and an up welling of minerals from the deep sea.

If that's not possible, is it at least possible for X to evolve adaptations for fighting/killing Y (Not for food)?

Happens all the time. While lions do hunt cape buffalo, cape buffalo can and do kill unwary lions.

  • $\begingroup$ I guess that the Cape buffalo can kill lions because it's just a dangerous animal in general. But if there was, for example, a rodent that was preyed on only by snakes, is it possible for that rodent to, say, become bipedal to have hands to grasp their serpentine predators? I don't mean "is it physically possible", that was just an example, but can anti-predator adaptations be that specialized? $\endgroup$ – SealBoi Jun 8 '18 at 14:41
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    $\begingroup$ Well the mongoose is immune to cobra neurotoxin because the molecular structures of acetylcholine receptors of the mongoose has an altered shape that prevent the neurotoxin. So yes, the anti-predator adaptation could become fairly specialized, especially if the prey has only a single predator. $\endgroup$ – JayCkat Jun 8 '18 at 16:06

As most prey are herbivores, becoming a predator requires large adaptions to the digestive system. I therefore think becoming a predator is unlikely.
However, some animals are able to defend themselves very well against their predators. The best example I know, is the African buffalo. This animal is capable of defending itself against all predators, including lions. I've once seen a documentatory where buffalo attack and kill young lion cubs.


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