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With predators practically always on the lookout for a meal, prey must constantly avoid being eaten. Any defensive adaptation that prey can utilize adds to the chances of survival for its species. Some adaptations are defense mechanisms that can give the prey an advantage against their enemies. The first is very direct and comes naturally. Animals can use speed as a very effective means of escaping predators. In the evolutionary history of big herbivores and the carnivores that prey upon them, the phrase “arms race” is only technically a metaphor. Antelope are literally born to run, and many of the things that chase them, such as the cheetah, are either masters of endurance or champion sprinters. The evolutionary story almost writes itself: over millions of years of chasing, and being chased, wherever predators evolved to move quickly, their prey evolved to run even faster. Except, of course, there’s more to life than running for your life. An antelope’s frame is under more demands than evading cheetahs—it also needs to travel long distances to follow food availability with the shifting rainy season. Meanwhile, the ostrich stands at one extreme of bird evolution. Although it is unable to fly, of all the birds, the ostrich runs the fastest. More peculiar still is the Golden Wheel spider, the only creature known to turn itself into a wheel in order to get away from trouble. There are many ways to win the race, and the goal is always survival.
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