- Ecology and Evolution
Ecological niche refers to a species' role in its habitat. No two species have the same niche. Each species has a specific combination of food choice, how they find their food, daily schedule, reproduction, and shelter. In this activity, students will investigate the unique ways in which different species in the same ecosystem feed themselves and the special features that make it possible.
All animals, including humans, must eat and digest certain foods. Some animals have very special ways of capturing and eating their food. Cows, for example, bring up their swallowed food (usually grass or hay), chew it, and then swallow it again. This helps the animal by allowing it to eat quickly and chew later while it is resting. White rhinos have a flat square mouth for grazing on grass while their cousin species, the black rhino, has hooked lips used for eating leaves off bushes and fruit off branches. Huge blue whales eat tiny krill which they sift through their baleen (giant filter). Snakes eat their dinner whole.
Would it be possible to run a restaurant for all of the wild animals that live in an area? What do different animals like to eat? How do they eat their food (do they swallow it whole, or do they chew it)?
- Exchange your menu with another team. Can they guess which menu item is eaten by which animal on the menu's cover?
- How would Canadians eat differently if we all had to hunt and gather our food? What types of food would we eat? How would we prepare it? How would we obtain it? Would it vary throughout the year? How would we deal with seasonal variation? Would each family be responsible for getting their own meals or would it be shared among several families? What would be considered a treat?
What To Do
Divide the students into pairs.
- With your partner, select an ecosystem that contains a variety of different species (mammals, reptiles, insects, crustaceans, birds, etc.). Ecosystems could include a desert, a tropical rainforest, the arctic, a temperate rainforest, the intertidal zone, the deep ocean, etc. Double-check with your teacher to make sure you haven't chosen the exact same ecosystem as another team.
- Research your ecosystem on the Internet and make a list of six species that live there. Answer the following questions: What do they eat? How do they eat? How do they find their food? How do they catch their food? What time of day do they forage?
- Use the paper, construction paper, markers, and decorations to design a menu that could feed all the animals on your list. Each menu item should include how the food was prepared, based on the animal's preference.
- Would you divide your menu based on the type of food or the type of eater? Think about how we divide our restaurant menus.
- On the cover, paste images of the animals you have chosen to cater to, along with their names.
- Hole punch your menu and string it together.