By David Deslauriers
An alternative to the use of live predators in the context of predator–prey feeding relationships for educational purposes is presented here. A group of 18 students was asked to maneuver a fictional predator (pipette), which was used to capture age-0 Shovelnose Sturgeon under different densities (1–30 sh per 40-L tank) and temperature treatments (13°C, 18°C, and 24°C). The data were then used to estimate the functional feeding response coefficients typical of a type II curve.
The hope is that students will view predator–prey dynamics or any ecological pattern/process through a different light and will be able to share their experience in order to gain insightful information (e.g., predatory avoidance/susceptibility behavior) pertaining to the prey under study.
Results indicated that the temperature treatments did not have a significant influence on the magnitude of the coefficients. However, the use of a fictional predator provided useful insight into behaviors (fish captured head first and off the bottom of the tank) that were more likely to lead to a predation event. This exercise also limited the mortality of organisms typically associated with these types of trials. Conclusions should provide students with a mechanistic understanding of predator–prey interactions by means of an experiential learning experience.
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