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Fish Schooling Simulation to Teach Tradeoffs in Animal Behavior

    Tradeoffs between fitness costs and benefits are an overarching theme in behavioral ecology. This theme of tradeoffs is particularly evident in the study of antipredator behavior. Although class discussions of these tradeoffs are key, it can be difficult to guide students to think creatively about behavioral strategies. This activity promotes deeper understanding of antipredator behavior tradeoffs and creative thinking by having students play the role of fish, predators, and refuges in a simulation of schooling behavior. For the ‘fish’ in the school, the ultimate goal is to reach refuges; however, only a handful of fish are able to identify refuges or predators. The remaining ‘fish’ must learn to identify cues from predators and other members of the school. Through repeated simulations, the students actively learn how to identify predators and which strategies helped them to survive. This activity is best followed by small group and class discussions to explore predator identification, strategies of fish to avoid predators, predator strategies to catch more fish, and the potential fitness costs of these strategies. The activity presented here can be scaled to fit a variety of class times and educational levels.
    Primary or BEN resource type
    Secondary resource type
    General Biology Core Concepts
    Discipline Specific Core Concepts
    General Biology Competencies
    Life science discipline (subject)
    Keywords animal behavior, antipredator behavior, communication, tradeoffs
    Key taxa fish
    Intended End User Role
    Educational Language
    Pedagogical Use Description This activity is a simulation of animal behavior and can be used in lecture or laboratory settings to promote discussion. The complexity of the simulation can be modified to suit the educational level of the students.
    Primary Author Controlled Name
    Primary Author Affiliation Penn State Wilkes-Barre
    Primary Author email
    Submitter Name Renee L. Rosier
    Submitter Email
    Rights Renee L. Rosier
    Date Of Record Submission 2015-01-28

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