Pre-Program Activity 1: Identifying Predators & Prey

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1 Grade Level: 6-8 Duration: 1 hour Next Generation Sunshine State Standards SC.6.L.14.1, SC.6.L.15.1, SC.6.N.1.3 SC.7.L.17.1, SC.7.L.17.2, SC.7.L.17.3 Program Overview: Florida is home to many large predators. Learn about food webs, and how each species holds an important role in an ecosystem. Learn about the Conservancy s research on endangered species such as the Florida Panther. Have fun exploring where these animals live, what they need to survive, and what you can do to help them. Vocabulary Keystone species Decomposer Trophic level Apex predator Ecosystem Endangered Objective: Students will learn the flow of a food web, discover distinctive characteristics of both predator and prey, study the necessity of a balanced ecosystem, and determine the importance of an apex predator. Pre-Program Activity 1: Identifying s & Observe the example of a Florida food web below. See if students can identify the following: top carnivores, carnivores, herbivores, photosynthesizers, decomposers. Additionally, have students pick out which species is a predator (an animal that eats another animal), and which is a prey species (an organism that gets eaten). *Sometimes a species will be BOTH a predator and prey

2 of Florida (continued on next page)

3 with answers : anything that eats another animal : the species being eaten Apex predator (at the top of the food chain). What is/are the apex predator(s) in this food web? Can you think of any that are not pictured? (more lessons on next page)

4 Pre-Program Activity 2: Adaptations While predators are equipped with characteristics that make them successful hunters, prey animals also have unique adaptations which help them evade predators. Can students name any? Some examples are: 1) Speed 2) Play dead 3) Poisonous/venomous, sometimes with bright colors 4) Camouflage 5) Spines/tough skin 6) Look-alike (sometimes a non-poisonous animal will look like a poisonous one, and the predator can t tell the difference so he just stays away!) 7) Can you think of any others? Print and cut out the chart on the following page (2 per page to save paper). Have students come up with two examples of prey animals who exhibit particular adaptations for the following ecosystems in Florida: land and ocean. Keep the following questions in mind: 1) Why is the adaptation crucial to the animal s survival? 2) What are its predators? Example Land Ocean Lizard red snapper Adaptation tail pops off speed indigo snake larger fish/sharks

5 Land Ocean Adaptation Land Ocean Adaptation Land Ocean Adaptation Land Ocean Adaptation (more lessons on next page)

6 Post-Program Activity 1: Research an Apex We have learned about some of Florida s apex predators (reiterate that an apex predator is at the top of the food chain because it has few or no predators). Emphasize the importance of having apex predators in the ecosystem (help to regulate the population numbers of other species, keeping the ecosystem in balance). Have students come up with an apex predator (in Florida) to research. Some examples are: Florida panther Bald eagle River otter Florida black bear Golden eagle Burmese python (non-native) Bobcat Bull shark Hammerhead shark Alligator Goliath grouper 1) What threats does this animal face? Some common threats include habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, over hunting/fishing, bycatch, invasive species competition, etc. Are most of these threats natural, or human-caused? 2) What would happen if this animal went extinct? (effects to the ecosystem/food web) 3) Finally, have students brainstorm ways that people can help this particular animal survive. Engage their imaginations and allow their solutions to be as realistic or farfetched as they want. Allow time for students to present their findings and ideas. Solutions: wildlife corridors, protect/preserve crucial habitat areas, breed-andrelease programs, keep waterways and other ecosystems clean, etc. (more lessons on next page)

7 Post-Program Activity 2: & Interactions Play a game and create a graph to better understand and Interactions. Intro: Prior to the activity, choose a grassy area outside to perform it. Scatter 100 uncooked black beans around the area (you choose the boundaries 10 x10?). Explain to students that you will be studying a population of invertebrates called phaseolus vulgaris (scientific name for black bean) that has recently moved into the area. Lead students to the site, and demonstrate capturing the phaseolus. Have them observe the animals in their habitat, and adaptations such as camouflage, that help protect them from predation. Once it is revealed to be a black bean, explain to students that they will now play a game where they will be the predators. Activity: Reiterate the concepts of predator and prey and explain the rules of the game: s (students) will be given one minute to hunt. They are to collect as many beans as they can. This one minute time span represents a long time period in nature, such as one or two weeks. If a predator fails to find any food, he/she will starve to death. Have students record class data on the number of predators and prey surviving after each hunt (not how many prey were killed). This game will be repeated four times (redistribute beans every time. Have students turn their backs while you toss the beans around) with only successful predators participating. Explain to students that you will analyze the data once inside. Back in the classroom: Reinforce the concepts illustrated through the activity. Have each student create a graph.

8 Plot the data for both predator and prey populations against time (x-axis) on the same graph. This way the students will be able to see the relationship that exists between predator and prey populations Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Discuss why scientists use graphs in their studies (showing relationships between two variables, observing trends, making predictions). Use the graph to discuss the relationship between predator and prey in this simulation. Contrast it to real relationships between predator and prey populations (between panther and deer, for example). Some questions for discussion: 1) As the game proceeded, what happened to the predator and prey population? 2) What are some factors that account for more prey being caught in the beginning than toward the end? 3) What is the impact that humans can have on these relationships? 4) If the game continued, do you think that phaseolus would become extinct? How would that affect its predator(s)? Source:

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