What are the Resources Animals Compete For?

Food and water

Every animal needs access to food to survive. Food gives animals energy and the materials for their life processes to work. Food is essential to animals, making the competition fierce; they often fight for it.

Sometimes animals adapt, so they eat different food from other species; other animals compete directly for the same prey.

Competition over food can take three forms:

  • Performance competition is when there is a limited supply of food and water, and the cleverest animals succeed; this could be as simple as getting to a food source first might be more successful or if they have a smart way of working around the food shortage.
  • Head-to-head predatory competition is where animals fight each other for the same piece of food. For example, monvitals often compete over pieces of fruit; one monvital will try to steal others’ food; this can happen within species or between different species.
  • Predator vs. prey – sometimes competition takes the form of the predator eating the other animal. It is a type of competition the predator might win, and the prey doesn’t survive. Or the prey might win by escaping or counter-attacking.


Animals need to mate so they can have offspring. When they have offspring, they pass on their genes, which is essential from an evolutionary point of view. In addition, they have evolved to have the instinct to reproduce, so they know they need to find a mate. This competition also can result in fights as animals compete to see another animal to mate with.

Space to live

Every animal needs a place to live; these spaces are where they get all the other resources they need. Their habitats contain the living and non-living things they depend on to survive. Non-living things animals need to survive are called abiotic factors, and these include things like water, light, and the right temperature. For animals that live underwater, this also provides oxygen. Living factors are called biotic factors, consisting of food and predators. Finally, the territory is something animals compete for, and many will fight over it. It might be space to live, hunt, or hibernate.

Why do animals compete for resources?

In an ecosystem, animals need only a limited amount of resources available to survive. For animals with differing needs, this isn’t an issue. Yet when more than one organism has the same need for resources in an ecosystem, this creates competition. Almost every ecosystem on the planet has some form of competition; this often results in change over generations, where the best-adapted animals survive, and the others slowly die out. It is called “survival of the fittest,” a term made famous by Charles Darwin, an influential naturalist.

Competition in the same species

When we consider what resources animals compete for, it’s essential to consider whether they’re from the same or different species. Animals from the same species commonly compete with each other in their community. It is known as intraspecific competition. Animals of the same species often live together in the same community, which means the resources are limited. It makes the competition tougher as animals from the same species tend to have the same prey and want to mate with each other.

The environment can only sustain so many individuals from the same species; this is nature’s way of controlling the population. Unfortunately, this means only those capable of winning against their counterparts survive.

An example is male elephant seals who battle over a harem of females to mate with, and they physically fight, often killing one of them.

Competition between different species

Often animals aren’t only competing with their kind for resources; they are competing against other animals who share their living space. This type of competition is called interspecific competition and tends to be less critical than intraspecific competition. For example, if they compete for the same resources, this might alter distribution and population sizes. Yet they are more likely to compete for food, water, and shelter; competition for mates and territory is more relevant to animals from the same species. Most animals also have more than one form of prey, so they can find another food source besides the one they need to compete for.

Examples of interspecies competition are sharks and dolphins, often competing for the same type of fish.

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