Fox and Rabbit — Predator and Prey
These two animals represent a perfect example of how a balanced ecosystem works. Rabbits provide food for the fox, and the fox keeps rabbit populations at optimum levels to preserve their shared habitat. It’s not often that this relationship is in balance; ask any gardener.
There are many different species in an ecosystem and each play an important role in keeping the system in balance. One way to divide up the different species is by how they obtain their food: if they are producers (make their food), consumers (need to find their food), or decomposers (breakdown dead material for food).
The relationship between these species is called a food chain, or web. Individual interactions that come out of the food chain are that of predator and prey. Predators and prey each have special adaptations to either help catch their food or not become the food of another predator. The competition between the predator and prey acts as a check and balance setting for the ecosystem's population.
The web of life is to demonstrate how species are depended on one another. If one species is removed from the ecosystem, it is going to have an affect on all the other species further down the food chain.
· Producers make their own food, such as plants.
· Consumers need to find food; primary consumers are herbivores and secondary consumers and above are carnivores.
· Adaptations are specific modification that a species to better suits its environment.
· Carrying capacity is the maximum population of a species that a habitat can support over time.
· Limiting factor is an outside force that limits the growth, abundance, or distribution of a population.
1. Eyes in the front of their head "Eyes in the front they like to hunt" (making it easier for judging distance and better depth perception
2. Sharp claws, beak or teeth (used like a knife and fork for catching prey and tearing the meat)
3. Stingers or venom (assist in killing prey)
4. Keen hearing (detection of prey at long distances)
5. The ability to detect vibration or inferred (feel the prey move or the heat they give off)
6. Speed (the ability to out run prey for short distances)
1. Eyes to the side of their head "Eyes on the side they like to hide" (easier to see the whole area around them)
2. Camouflage or disguise (blending with habitat or looking like another object)
3. Bright and distinctive colors (a sign of being poisonous or dangerous)
4. Mimicry (looking like a poisonous species but is not one)
5. Inaccessibility (living in places where predator do not fit, for example in borrows)
6. Defense mechanisms (ways of warding off predators, for example spines, bad taste, antlers, shells, unpleasant smells)
7. Herds (protection through numbers)
Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floriclanus)
o Eastern cottontail is the most common rabbit in North America.
o They are herbivores mainly eating herbaceous plants like grass and clover but in the winter eat wood plants, bark and buds
o There habitat is forest, meadows and farmland
o Cottontails can leap up to 15ft
o Rabbits eat their own scat one time to get more nutrients out of it.
o A female rabbit can be ready to mate a few hours after giving birth.
o Few rabbits live more than a year.
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
o Foxes are omnivores eating rodents, birds and fruit.
o Their habitat is forests, prairies, farmland and near marshes.
o A red fox can be as tall as 16 inches, 3.5 feet long and weigh up to 15 pounds.
o The red foxes are the most widespread animal in the wild dog family.
o Fox dens have many exits for quick and easy escape from danger.
o Foxes have such sensitive ears that they can her an earthworm moving in the grass or a mouse squeal up to 150 yards away.
o The red foxes territory range is 2 miles2.
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
o Red clover was introduced from Europe.
o It is found in meadow, lawns, prairies, roadsides and forest edges.
o Clover grows between 6-16 inches tall.
o It flowers from May to September.
Kochacnoff, Peggy. A Field Guide to Nearby Nature Fields and Woods of Midwest and East Coast. Mountain Press Publishing Company: Missoula Montana. 1994.