Tag Archives: predator

Strawberry fields forever (as long as the slugs stay away)

Wimbledon approaches, and with it the season of strawberries! We’ve planted ours out and have begun to enjoy the first of the crop. We’re hoping the real flush will coincide with another Andy Murray victory in a few weeks!

ImageBecause we’re so used to buying fruit and veg from the supermarket, it’s easy to forget they’re as much part of the food chain as any other plant or animal in nature. Just as foxes and snakes compete with each other for rabbits to prey on, different animals fight for strawberries. For us strawberry growers, that competition comes in the form of slugs! People have found new ways to fight these rivals – using salt, raised beds, and pesticides (pest killers).

Strawberries pollinate in a similar way to other plants and trees, with the help of the wind or an insect. Once the petals drop away, the fertilised flower swells into fruit. Around early June they begin to ripen into red strawberries. Each fruit is studded with seeds. After fruit has passed through an animal’s body the seeds return to the earth and start to grow.

An excellent, fruit-packed dessert – perfect for eating during tennis – is Eton Mess. Follow this very simple recipe of crushed-up meringues, strawberries and cream – though at Storm, we also like to throw in ice cream, mint and raspberries to make it extra refreshing!

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Predator, prey, frogs and food chains

Most animals in a habitat can be classified as predators, prey or both. A predator is an animal which kills another animal (the prey) for food. For example, a snake is a predator because it eats frogs (prey). However, the frog is also a predator (however unintimidating it seems!) because it eats grasshoppers. With so many animals having differing diets, even a small environment can produce a food web such as this one.

ImageBecause the grass eats no other species, only consuming nutrients from the soil, we call it a producer. The fox and snake are called top consumers because no other species eats them within this habitat. But in certain habitats, large birds of prey eat snakes.

Food webs can be affected by even the most subtle increase or decrease in the number of any species. If, for example, the population of frogs increased in the above food chain, then several changes might take place:

1)       The number of grasshoppers would decrease because there are more frogs to eat them.

2)       More snakes would come to the habitat and prosper because there are more frogs to eat.

3)       Because there are more snakes, the number of rabbits will deplete as they will be eaten by the higher population of snakes.

Consider what might happen if:

a)       The population of mice increased

b)       The population of rabbits decreased

c)       A drought led to a poor crop of grass

Whether their population increases or decreases, each species within a habitat will be affected by changes in population to some degree.

If your class is interested in getting to grips with food chains, our app Pairing for Early Science introduces them with the foundation science vocabulary to get them started!

Below: predator extraordinaire, office cat, aka Mr Worthington


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The benefits of being a wall-moth – camouflage and natural selection

While topping up our pumpkins and peppers with water, I came across this camouflaged fellow perched outside our kitchen wall.

ImageAnimals of many shapes and sizes seek to camouflage themselves. This means they are able to disguise themselves in their environments.

One of the most common reasons an animal camouflages itself is to hide from predators. One bird, the Egyptian Nightjar, common to north Africa and the Middle East, uses its sand-coloured plumage and brown specks to hide itself in the desert, as in this image.


In doing so, potential predators can’t spot it and so our nightjar remains safe. Of course, if this same bird tried the same tactic in, for example, the Arctic or grassy Dorset, it would be in a lot of danger (aside from the chill!), because it would be spotted by predators fairly soon.

But while the likes of the nightjars are using camouflage, so are the wily predators. They’re hiding themselves in order to creep up on prey – what better way than making yourself invisible? Like the Egyptian nightjar, the stonefish also disguises itself in sandy colours but it does so as a predator. Watch this video to see this seamlessly disguised fish surprise its unsuspecting prey.

Good animal camouflage is a result of natural selection, a key part of evolution. All animals produce offspring with genes slightly different to their parents. This variation means that some well-adapted animals (e.g. those that can hide well) are born, as well as poorly-adapted animals (e.g. an unconvincingly coloured nightjar). Hiding themselves well allows an animal to survive or continue being nourished, and so they are able to pass on their genes. Badly adapted animals often die before they are able to reproduce and pass on their genes. And so as a species continues to exist, they should become better and better adapted – both predator and prey.

Here are even more fantastic animal camoflages. The tawny frogmouths’ disguise is truly incredible but we also think the leaf-litter mantid is quite a character! http://kids.nationalgeographic.co.uk/kids/photos/gallery/animal-camouflage/#/tawn-frogmouths-myall-tree-3_24669_600x450.jpg

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