What is the highest-level animal that regularly kills and eats other animals?

What is the highest-;level animal that regularly kills and eats other animals?

 I DON't mean human beings who eat snails or other human beings when there is no choice.

And I DON’T mean primates that may do so in times of aggression or to affect the genetic line.
I mean animals whose sustenance is based on killing and eating other animals (like lions and tigers).

I’m not sure how you rank levels. Are you saying what’s the most intelligent carnivore, but you want to exclude people? Dolphin wins hands down. If you mean land mammal, then it would be chimpanzees who routinely hunt other monkeys for food (In fact, in one measure of how closely related we are, chimpanzees have hunted red colobus monkeys to near extirpation in Kibale National Park.) Predators tend to be higher on the intelligence scale than their prey - though not always, so predator intelligence skews high.

What does highest level mean?

Are you referring to apex predators or something else?

Baleen whales, presumably, are mass murdering krill at a rate only exceeded by the ability of krill to reproduce.

Granted, it’s nothing compared to eating yogurt, but that falls outside of your definition (however vague your definition might be).

What about human beings who eat pigs and cows, because they do have a choice, and pigs and cows are delicious? Describing the range of human carnivory as “snails and other humans” just sounds bizarre to me.

Orcas often kill dolphins and whales. Of course they regularly eat eat seals.

I can’t tell if omnivores - who regularly kill & eat meat - still count, or if O.P. is limited to carnivores.

Or limited to OBLIGATE carnivores.

Also need “levels” definition.

I’m not sure exactly what is meant by “highest level” but I’m going to assume it means “most intelligent.”

I don’t know why you would exclude humans since increased carnivory compared to our ancestors is one of the hallmarks of human evolution. It is speculated that eating more meat helped spur an increase in brain size. In any case, humans have a choice, and in most cultures they prefer to eat more meat when they have the chance. And a few cultures, like the Inuit, have been almost exclusively carnivorous. And most primates will eat meat (at least insects) when they get the chance. Chimps hunt and kill monkeys, as do baboons.

It appears here you are looking for animals whose diet is primarily meat. As has been mentioned, dolphins and other cetaceans are probably the most intelligent animals whose diet consists almost entirely of other animals. Wolves and other canids are also highly intelligent and eat mostly meat although they will eat other foods on occasion. Cats are intelligent (I am not going to get into a debate about how intelligent they are relative to canids) and are more exclusively carnivorous than canids.

I should have made this much more clear by saying that I meant “killing and eating at the same time by the same individual”–which is what I meant to say.

In other words, like lions and tigers and dolphins, not human beings.

Then what do you mean by “highest-level”? Lions, tigers, and dolphins all kill animals and then eat them immediately. I’m pretty sure there are primates who do this too (chimps and gorillas regularly kill and eat insects, I believe), but they’re not obligate carnivores like felids and cetaceans.

How long a break is allowed between the killing and eating? I’ve caught fish while camping that I ate within an hour of catching it. Back before I decided it was cruel, I ate lobster that was boiled alive, so only a matter of minutes between the killing and eating. Some cultures eat seafood or insects while still alive.

If you want to exclude humans for some reason, just say that. But these criteria are difficult to parse.

That’s not how lions feed. The pack hunts together (with some exceptions) and the whole pack feeds.

Other big cats like mountain lions will cache food to be eaten later since there’s too much food to be eaten at one sitting.

Humans do do that. I’ve snacked on oysters straight out of the ocean as an example while I suppose they were still alive. Fish is best when it was alive just prior to cooking. Some kind of sushi are taken from still living fish. I’ve eaten chicken that I killed and plucked and immediately threw in the pot. Same with squirrels. I guess ‘time’ is probably definitional. Typically there is a preparation step except with oysters, but they can be fairly short periods of time.

Well, there are oysters…

I think that you are confusing modern behavior with evolution. While cooking of food actually predates modern humans, or modern humans use of fire, you are viewing the lens of a post agrarian world as the “norm” for humans without considering the far longer amount of time we spent as Hunter Gatherers. Modern human-controlled fire is fairly recent in our hominid lines development.

That said I would add that cephalopods and corvids seem to have been missed above if you want to use “intelligence” as a rough measure. Although the social qualifications of the question needs to be clarified as stated in above posts.

You still haven’t defined “levels” for us.

Do you mean trophic levels? As in animal eats animal that eats plants, vs animal eats animal that eats animal that eats plants? The ocean has many more such examples than land.

Do you mean some sort of altruistic level? As in, humans chose not to eat animals because they do have to, so some other omnivorous animal might “choose” out of animal altruism, to skip eating another animal and gorging up on plants instead as a choice? That’s an easy one to answer, none. But really only kinda because I wrote the question so sarcastically, really.

Are you equation some sort of “performs tricks”-based animal intelligence with human altruism, or the development of such? See above answer.

You will have to define levels better. You may have a very bad definition of “levels”. That makes any answer we can give unsatisfactory to you.

Despite the general lack of definitions I’m going with Polar Bear.
ETA: North Pole = highest!
:smiley:
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I have nothing useful to contribute because other posters have already said it, and because I’m still unsure what “highest level” means.
ETA

But I’m posting in the vain hope the subscription function will alert me to new posts in this thread.

I’m sure you know this, but there’s a “subscribe to thread” option in Thread Tools at the top of the page.

I’ll go with the common crane, which achieves altitudes of 10,000 meters and is omnivorous. Rüppell’s vulture is a higher-level bird (11,300 meters), but it feeds on carrion so it doesn’t satisfy the “killing” part.