The Dark Side of the Food Chain

I’ve been musing lately about the mechanisms of the food chain.  In our household we’ve been viewing the televised seven-part series North America on the Discovery channel, and I often find myself rooting for the prey when predators are featured in hot pursuit.

This documentary is beautifully done, and, I must say, it’s refreshing to notice something on the Discovery channel listings other than the likes of Pot Cops and Amish Mafia.  But I digress.

I realize I’m a bit sappy for hoping the baby mountain goat escapes the wolf, for example.  We all have to eat.  And since I am an omnivore, I can’t really blame predators, can I?

In the past few days, I have only had to go a few steps from my own Texas hill country door to see evidence of the same natural laws at work.

The praying mantis shown above is less than half an inch long and was newly hatched when I spied her on my talavera pot.  She, of course, is both predator and prey, and will possibly even cannibalize her future mate.

On the opposite side of the house, next to the garage, I found this giant red-headed centipede killing a Texas spiny lizard.

centipede and lizard

Here’s a closer look:

centipede killing lizard

A spider gazed at me from inside the cone of its web in the Mexican fan plant just outside the front door, a tiny red caterpillar already snared and ready to provide a meal.

Then, a day later, I stepped outside in the early morning overcast to see a gorgeous large gray fox standing maybe fifteen feet outside the back yard fence.  I caught my breath at its dignified beauty, and we made eye contact with each other.  I didn’t have my camera, but I had time to motion to my husband to join me outside to watch as the animal warily sauntered away.

A little while later I checked outside a window to see if the fox was still around, and that’s when I saw the reason for its presence:

fox-killed white-tail fawn

The kill of this newly born whitetail fawn, according to my research online, was done in textbook gray fox fashion:  marks were evident on the back and throat, viscera were eaten from an opening behind the ribcage.

The complicated interdependence of species fascinates me, and I join in the sentiments of Aristotle who said,  “In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”

In all things of nature.  Even, I think, in those things on the dark side of the food chain.

But today as I photographed this wild turkey poult following mom not far from where I had seen the fox, I found myself whispering to them, “Be careful”–as they themselves searched for insects.

turkey hen with new baby

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Writing Practice:

What things in nature make you feel conflicted?

Complete the following:  “In ____________ there is something of the marvelous.”

6 thoughts on “The Dark Side of the Food Chain

  1. I remember that for me to live something has to die. Someday it will be my turn but not I hope today. I just hope those deaths are worth what I am doing with my life

    • Don’t many native Americans have rituals to honor the death of the animals hunted for food? It does seem worthy of attention to think of what provides us with nourishment. Thank you for reading, dear friend!

  2. Interesting to consider who we “root” for in the survival hunt. I have favorite critters, who/whom I identify with and root for whether they are predators or prey.

    • Yes, I was interested in my own reactions. First, joy in seeing the beautiful fox and then something akin to horror at seeing the fawn which helps give life to the fox, who probably has kits nearby to feed. Thank you for reading and commenting, Jeanie. I so appreciate you!

  3. Hello, my name’s Manyel and the reason of me writing this is asking you if I can use your pic of centipede/lizard predation in a scientific paper?? Its a common thing happening but not so common caught on camera in the wild, please write to me, my email is and I’m soon to be a biologist (graduating in May this year)

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