Predator-Prey Relationships (PCEC)

Summary:

This lesson will introduce Arkansas mammals using study skins and skulls to illustrate a predator/prey relationship in food chains, which maintain a balance in the environment.

Grade Level:

4 and up

Recommended Setting:

Indoor or screened-in classroom

Outdoor Activity:

No

Location:

Potlatch Conservation Education Center at Cook’s Lake, Casscoe

Contact:

Education Program Coordinator, 870-241-3373

Duration:

One to two hours

Suggested Number of Participants:

20 - 25

Special Conditions:

One adult supervisor per 10 students; outdoor activities, weather permitting.

Objectives:

  • Compare the traits and relationships of Arkansas mammals using their pelts and skulls.
  • Construct a food chain and food web using Arkansas mammals.
  • Identify Arkansas mammals by studying their pelts.

Key Terms*:

Aquatic

Canines

Carnivore

Food chain

Food web

Herbivore

Incisor

Omnivore

Pelt

Terrestrial

*See glossary for definations

Materials:

Arkansas mammal pelts and skulls

Dry erase board and markers

Laminated pictures of mammals

Background:

Since many mammals are wary and nocturnal, observing them can be difficult. Carefully observing habitats and mammal signs and studying pelts and skulls can teach a great deal. Signs may also include tracks, scat, home sites, tooth markings and food caches. Arkansas mammals can be divided into two categories: terrestrial and aquatic. Studying food chains involving both of these will show the differences and similarities. A skull can reveal if the mammal is a predator or prey.

Procedure:

  1. Ask participants to draw a simple food chain on the dry erase board. Then show a general food cycle or web.
  2. Show the pelts of Arkansas mammals and briefly describe the animal (where it lives, what it eats). The pelts will be divided into two categories: terrestrial and aquatic.
  3. The teeth in mammal skulls will determine which animal is a predator or prey.

Modifications:

Pin a mammal picture on each participant’s back. Participants must figure out what mammal they are by asking the others yes/no questions such as, “Am I a carnivore? Do I live alone?”

Review:

  • What is the difference between a predator and prey?
  • What is the meaning of carnivore, herbivore and omnivore?
  • Create a food cycle that includes humans. Compare these with other charts in the class to see how many food cycles the class can come up with.

Resources:

Sealander, John A. and Gary A. Heidt, Arkansas Mammals: Their Natural History, Classification and Distribution.

Glossary:

Aquatic – consisting of or relating to water; living or growing in, on or near the water
 
Canine – one of the pointed conical teeth between the incisors and the first bicuspids

Carnivore – any animal that consumes other animals that are living (predation) or dead (scavenging)

Food chain – feeding order in an ecological community that passes food energy from one organism to another as each consumes a lower member and in turn is preyed upon by a higher member

Food web – a network of interrelated food chains in an ecosystem

Herbivore – a plant-eating animal

Incisor (deer) – front tooth of a deer used to grasp, cut and gnaw food; cannot be used to age deer by wear, but can be used to age by cross-sectioning and counting annual rings; adult deer have eight incisors

Omnivore – an animal that eats both animal and vegetable matter

Pelt – skin or fur of an animal

Terrestrial – living on or in the ground