Patterns of Predation
This activity guides the analysis of a published scientific figure from a study that investigated how herbivore populations are regulated in the Serengeti.
In this study, scientists examined whether herbivore population sizes in the Serengeti ecosystem of East Africa are regulated by bottom-up factors (such as food) or top-down factors (such as predators). As part of this study, the scientists analyzed 40 years of data on the causes of death for members of multiple herbivore species. The figure compares the percentages of adults in each species that died due to predation with the adults’ body sizes (as measured by weight).
The “Educator Materials” document includes a captioned figure, background information, graph interpretation, and discussion questions. The “Student Handout” includes a captioned figure and background information.
Student Learning Targets
- Analyze and interpret data from a scientific figure.
- Explain the difference between bottom-up and top-down regulation.
- Describe how to determine whether a population’s size is regulated by bottom-up or top-down factors.
bottom-up regulation, carnivore, error bar, herbivore, logarithmic scale, predator, prey, scatter plot, Serengeti, top-down regulation
Sinclair, A. R. E., Simon Mduma, and Justin S. Brashares. “Patterns of predation in a diverse predator–prey system.” Nature 425, 6955 (2003): 288–290. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature01934.
Accessibility Level (WCAG compliance)
HS-LS2-2, HS-LS2-6; SEP2, SEP4, SEP5
AP Biology (2019)
ENE-4.B; SP1, SP4
IB Biology (2016)
4.1, C.1, C.2, C.5
AP Environmental Science (2020)
Topic(s): 1.1, 1.11
Learning Objectives & Practices: ERT-1.A, ENG-1.D, SP3, SP5
IB Environmental Systems and Societies (2017)
2.1, 2.2, 2.5
Common Core (2010)
Vision and Change (2009)
CC5; DP2, DP3