Most animals I have heard of, such as killer whales, great white sharks, and other apex predators are, well, predators. But what would you call an apex non-predator?

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    Isn't "apex predator" a kind of predator? It's like you're asked if there are any squares that are not rectangles - no, there aren't.
    – Doarn
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 15:53
  • The phrase with no natural enemies comes to mind. But it's often applied to “invasive species” that aren't necessarily particularly big, and I assume that OP wouldn't class cane toads, coffee berry borers, etc. as apex [species]” because they're too small. Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 16:18
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    A herbivore which is not eaten by any predator is not a part of the 'food chain'. It just snacks on vegetation and minds its own business. I would call it an 'alpha herbivore' for want of a better term.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 16:43
  • Excellent suggestion @Nigel J: the term "alpha herbivore" is in use, and probably means what OP intended, please see google.co.in/… If you are convinced please consider posting it as an answer. Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 16:47
  • I'd call it too big to be eaten.
    – Gnawme
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 17:00

2 Answers 2


As suggested by @English Student, the term 'alpha herbivore' (which I thought I had made up myself) is actually documented :

The object was to re-introduce the alpha herbivore in the North American West.

Ecology and Wonder in the Canadian Rocky Mountains by Robert W Sandford

  • This obviously just means 'principal / main' herbivore, not one that has no predators. The term is already taken. Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 17:40

Apex predator sits on top of the food chain and can eat any animal below it including other predators. Adult lions hunting as a pride are Africa's apex predators on land. Killer whales are apex predators of the seas and there are cases of killer whales attacking and killing the other great predator of the sea, the great white shark.

Herbivores are not called apex predators even if they are prey to no natural predators themself. I suppose you mean absolutely top herbivore animals like healthy adult male African Elephants whom even lions will not attack? Adult male lions are typically called "King of the Jungle" for being the apex land predator but there are many articles that suggest the healthy adult male elephant should be called "King of the Jungle." Its only predators [not natural but by hunting] are human beings.

Similarly the healthy adult male hippopotamus, a herbivore which has no predator in the river, is called "King of the river."

  • Terms like predator/prey/herbivore/carnivore/etc. refer to the species as a whole, not any particular individual. So, while there might be a individual adult male African Elephant that lions prefer not to attack, as a species elephants are indeed preyed upon by predators including lions, crocodiles, and us. Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 16:17
  • Also: "which is unprepared in the river"? Perhaps you mean something like 'unrivaled' or 'unparalleled'? Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 16:22
  • Your point is well made @Mark Beadles but it is not an individual male elephant. Yes, the term "King of the jungle" can apply only to the specific subset of "healthy adult male elephants" which are uniformly not attacked by any animals including lions. Thanks for pointing out "unprepared" which is an autocorrect error. Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 16:25
  • @MarkBeadles Only baby/juvenile/sick elephants are really subject to non-human predation; but by that standard, there really aren't any apex predators, either.
    – 1006a
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 16:25
  • Very true @1006a: a pride of adult lions is the real apex predator. Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 16:27

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