Predator-Prey Relationship Dynamics
This activity guides the analysis of a published scientific figure from a study about Arctic fox populations and their main prey, lemmings.
Population sizes of predators and their prey often rise and fall together, following predictable patterns over time. In this study, scientists compared the population densities of one predator, the Arctic fox, and its prey, the collared lemming, in the High Arctic tundra of northern Greenland. The figure shows the population densities of the lemmings plotted against the corresponding densities of Arctic fox offspring.
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.
- Describe the cause-and-effect relationship between predator and prey population dynamics.
density dependence, logarithmic scale, nonlinear regression, population density, scatter plot, time lag
Gilg, Olivier, Ilkka Hanski, and Benoît Sittler. “Cyclic dynamics in a simple vertebrate predator-prey community.” Science 302, 5646 (2003): 866–868. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1087509.
To access this article, set up a free AAAS account. An annotated version of the article is also available from Science in the Classroom.
Accessibility Level (WCAG compliance)
HS-LS2-2; SEP2, SEP4, SEP5
AP Biology (2019)
SYI-1.H, ENE-4.B; SP1, SP4
IB Biology (2016)
4.1, C.1, C.5
AP Environmental Science (2020)
Topic(s): 1.1, 3.5
Learning Objectives & Practices: ERT-1.A, ERT-3.F, SP1, SP5
IB Environmental Systems and Societies (2017)
Common Core (2010)
Math.S-ID.3, Math.S-IC.1; MP2, MP5
Vision and Change (2009)
CC5; DP2, DP3