The Ultimate Predator

The Ultimate Predator

D. Kim Wimpey

Target age or ability group: Grades 7-12.
Class time required: 4-6 days.
Materials and equipment: Poster board, markers, glue, construction paper and other art supplies

Video segments of sharks or shark behavior (i.e., "Great White Death")

Books detailing shark attacks (i.e., Sharks of the World by Rodney Steel)

Prior knowledge, concepts or vocabulary necessary to complete activity: Predator-prey relationships

How form affects function

Lamarck/Darwin ideas on evolution

Teacher Instructions:

Day 1: Tell students that you know the most effective predator on earth today. Explain that you will prove this to them. Tell them to pay close attention because after you have finished lecturing, their assignment will be to design a new "Ultimate Predator." Explain that they will have to present their creations to the class and convince their classmates that their predator is indeed "ultimate." Then, begin a lecture on the evolution, natural history and characteristics of class Chondrichtyes. Stress the characteristics that enhance the hunting ability of these fishes. Have students speculate why such traits were selected for and why they survived for so long.

Day 2: Review lecture material from the previous day. To underscore your point about the hunting ability of sharks (and gain the students undivided attention) show the video clips. As a conclusion, relate some of instances of sharks attacking humans.

Day 3-4: Divide the class into small groups and arrange for access to media materials relating to predators, evolution and body systems. Instruct groups to create a new predator. Do not allow students to give their predators supernatural powers or the ability to use tools. All aspects of the predator must be explained by known biological function. Also, tell students that they must be able to explain the evolution of their predator. What was the origin of the predatory traits? Why were they selected for? When in geologic time did this predator evolve? What are its closest ancestors? Have groups make drawings or models of their creations suitable for display.

Day 5: Allocate time for each group to present its ultimate predator to the class. Encourage students to follow your example and include the evolution, natural history and characteristics that make their predator ultimate. Also, challenge students to create accounts of attacks by their predator. Allow students in other groups to question the presenters. Tell the class to look for explanations that use Lamarckian rather than Darwinian evolution. Discuss all presentations and decide on the "Ultimate Predator."

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