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Predator or Prey

A close of two hands holding a spoon and paper clip each, and trying to pick up small square pieces of paper, marbles, segments of drinking straws and 5 cent coins off a blue surface.

Catch me if you can! It’s a race between predator and prey but also between different predators to see who can catch the most food.

What you need

  • 4 friends
  • toothpick
  • tweezers
  • spoon and fork
  • spatula
  • 10 x 2 cm lengths of straw
  • 10 x ball bearings or marbles
  • 10 x counters or coins
  • 10 x paperclips
  • 10 x small squares of paper
  • large tray
  • stopwatch
  • graph paper

What to do

  1. Place the ‘prey’ items in the tray: straw, ball bearings/marbles, counters/coins, paperclips, paper squares.
  2. Each person takes one ‘predator’ tool: a toothpick, tweezers, a spoon, a fork or a spatula.
  3. Everyone uses his/her ‘predator’ tools to collect as many ‘prey’ items as possible for 1 minute. (Note: Each ‘predator’ may attack any type of prey but can only use their ‘predator’ tool to attack the ‘prey’.)
  4. Construct column graphs on the graph paper to show the number of ‘prey’ items caught using the ‘predator’ tool.
  5. Rank the ‘predators’ from most successful to least successful.
  6. Make a list of the ‘predator’ characteristics that were helpful in the ‘tray environment’.
  7. Rank the ‘prey’ from most preyed upon to least preyed upon.
  8. Make a list of unfavourable characteristics for prey.

What's happening?

Animals (and plants) are made of parts, called structures. Structures usually have a function - a job that they perform. Humans have many structures, such as hands, teeth, a heart, eyes, bones and cells. Our heart has a very important function; it helps to pump blood around our bodies which helps us to exchange gases with the environment.

A predator is an animal that kills and eats other animals. An animal is called prey if it is hunted and killed by other animals for food. Predators have structures that allow them to see, hear, feel or smell their prey. Predators also have structures that allow them to catch and eat their prey.

In this activity, ‘predators’ were different structures made of different materials. Some ‘predators’ were better at catching certain ‘prey’ because their structure allowed them to do so. Those ‘predators’ that didn’t have the appropriate structure couldn’t catch certain ‘prey’. For example, the thin, long structure of the toothpick (‘predator’) fit inside the straws (‘prey’). However, the toothpick wasn’t an appropriate structure for catching the marbles/ball bearings.

Did you know?

Wedge-tailed eagles (Aquila audax fleayi) are the largest Australian raptors and are the second largest raptors in the world. They are predators and they prey upon rabbits, wallabies, snakes and small kangaroos, as well as other animals.

Wedge-tailed eagles have enormous wings with a wingspan of over 2 m and long, wedge-shaped tails. Wedge-tailed eagles use their wings and their tail to soar high in the air and to swoop down to the ground to catch their prey.

A wedge-tailed eagle’s eyes can see with eight times more detailed resolution than humans. This means that a wedge-tailed eagle could see a newspaper from over one and a half kilometres away. They can also see more colours than humans can. They use their well-developed eyes to search for prey and to see rising thermal air currents so that they can use these to gain altitude while using very little energy.

Wedge-tailed eagles have strong feet, with long talons. Their longest talon is 5 cm long. They use their feet and talons to grasp onto their prey to keep it from fleeing. Wedge-tailed eagles also have large, hooked beaks to rip into the hides of their prey and to break the bones of prey.

Usually the wedge-tailed eagle hunts alone, but sometimes it will hunt in a group with other wedge-tailed eagles. A group of wedge-tailed eagles working together can take down an adult red kangaroo!