Serengeti Wildebeest Population Regulation
This activity analyzes a published scientific figure from a study in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. In this study, scientists investigated how the eradication of rinderpest disease led to a boom in the wildebeest population.
Rinderpest disease is caused by a virus that affects hoofed animals, including cattle and wildebeest. In the 1950s, a cattle vaccination program was implemented to eradicate the disease in the Serengeti, and this led to dramatic changes in the populations of wildebeest and other species. The figure shows the number of wildebeest in the Serengeti ecosystem (shaded circles, left y-axis) and the prevalence (i.e., percentage) of individuals infected by rinderpest disease (unshaded squares and triangles, right y-axis) from 1958 to 2003. 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 how the eradication of rinderpest affected the Serengeti wildebeest population and ultimately triggered a trophic cascade.
bottom-up control, density dependence, line graph, rinderpest, top-down control, trophic cascade, virus
Holdo, Ricardo M., Anthony R. E. Sinclair, Andrew P. Dobson, Kristine L. Metzger, Benjamin M. Bolker, Mark E. Ritchie, and Robert D. Holt. “A Disease-Mediated Trophic Cascade in the Serengeti and Its Implications for Ecosystem C.” PLoS Biology 7, 9 (2009): e1000210. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1000210.
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HS-LS2-2, HS-LS2-6; SEP2, SEP4, SEP5
SYI-1.H, ENE-4.B; SP1, SP4
4.1, C.1, C.5
Math.S-ID.6, Math.S-IC.4; MP2, MP5
CC5; DP2, DP3