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Predator and Prey: Adaptations

In this worksheet, students will look at the characteristics of organisms in food chains that fit them for their role and the energy transfers that take place.

'Predator and Prey: Adaptations' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 3

Curriculum topic:  Biology: Interactions and Interdependencies

Curriculum subtopic:  Relationships in an Ecosystem

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

A food web or food chain gives us information about what organisms eat. Animals that hunt and eat other animals are predators, whereas prey is the animal that gets eaten. Predators have adaptations that allow them to catch their prey, whereas the prey has adaptations to avoid being eaten.

 

Have a look at the following pictures of animals. Can you tell whether they are a predator or a prey?

 

OwlMouseFoxRabbitPelican

 

Both predators and prey have good eyesight and are coloured so they blend in with the background environment;: we say, they camouflage. Predators have forward facing eyes, while prey animals often have eyes at the sides of their head that allow them to look around them. Predators have hooked beaks or sharp teeth and claws and extreme speed. Prey animals have speed as well, so they can run away, and large ears to listen for danger.

 

Birds have different types of beaks depending on what they eat. Long beaks allow some to search for shellfish in the sand. Flat beaks help sift out weed and small snails from water. Short, pointed beaks help to probe for insects in the bark of trees while thick, strong beaks help to crush seeds.

 

Some organisms are decomposers, because they feed on dead plants and animals.

 

Have a look at this food chain:

grass → oryx → lion

 

The three organisms make up three different energy levels; they are called trophic levels. We think of them as Plant, Herbivore, Carnivore.  Surprisingly, very little energy passes from one level to another. Only 10% of the energy the grass provides actually passes to the oryx (a type of antelope) when it eats the grass, and much less passes to the lion.  That's why food chains tend to be short: so much energy is used in chasing, digesting, staying warm, etc. that only 10% ends up getting built into the consumer itself.

 

So, let's have a little look at how organisms are adapted for maximising their chances of getting some food.

What is a predator?

animals that hunt other animals to eat

animals that are eaten

What are prey animals?

animals that hunt other animals to eat

animals that are eaten

Describe the eye position of prey animals.

at the front of the head

on the side of the head

Where do predators have eyes?

at the front of the head

on the side of their head

Why do animals have the specific colours they have?

to stand out from the crowd

to camouflage

What do predators need to grab their prey and rip its flesh?

sharp eyesight

sharp claws and teeth or hooked beak

long legs

What type of beak would you need to catch insects living in cracks and crevices?

long

strong and thick

short and pointed

What do we call organisms that feed on dead plants or animals?

How do we call the different energy levels in a food chain?

feeding levels

trophic levels

triffle levels

How much of the energy passes from the plant to the herbivore that eats it in a food chain?

0.1%

1%

10%

  • Question 1

What is a predator?

CORRECT ANSWER
animals that hunt other animals to eat
EDDIE SAYS
Nice basic stuff to start off with: predators are consumers that hunt their prey and so are carnivores.
  • Question 2

What are prey animals?

CORRECT ANSWER
animals that are eaten
EDDIE SAYS
So, if predators are the hunters then the hunted are the prey animals: consumers too, but often (not always) consumers of plants, i.e. herbivores.
  • Question 3

Describe the eye position of prey animals.

CORRECT ANSWER
on the side of the head
EDDIE SAYS
Prey animals need to be able to see around them so they have eyes on the side of the head. That gives an animal like a rabbit almost a 360° field of vision, which is why they're so hard to catch!
  • Question 4

Where do predators have eyes?

CORRECT ANSWER
at the front of the head
EDDIE SAYS
Predators have forward-facing eyes, which gives them stereoscopic vision which, for a mammal like a leopard, is vital in judging the distance to make its leap to catch its prey.
  • Question 5

Why do animals have the specific colours they have?

CORRECT ANSWER
to camouflage
EDDIE SAYS
Animals need to be able to blend into their environment for camouflage. That's just as important for predators as for prey. A tiger's stripes render it virtually invisible in its forest home, if its crouching down. Meanwhile, something like a plaice (a flatfish that lives in the sand at the bottom of the sea) is coloured like sand so you actually cannot see it unless you step on it!
  • Question 6

What do predators need to grab their prey and rip its flesh?

CORRECT ANSWER
sharp claws and teeth or hooked beak
EDDIE SAYS
Predators have sharp claws and teeth (canines) or hooked beaks to grab and rip their prey. These sharp adaptations allow the predator to catch and hang on to struggling prey, like an osprey trying to fly with a fish in its talons.
  • Question 7

What type of beak would you need to catch insects living in cracks and crevices?

CORRECT ANSWER
short and pointed
EDDIE SAYS
Short and pointed beaks are ideal for probing into small spaces, like the cracks in tree bark or between stones, to capture insects that live there.
  • Question 8

What do we call organisms that feed on dead plants or animals?

CORRECT ANSWER
decomposers
EDDIE SAYS
Organisms like bacteria and fungi are the recyclers of the natural world, taking what's died and decomposing it to return its building blocks to the soil and air to be used again. They are absolutely vital - so love toadstools!
  • Question 9

How do we call the different energy levels in a food chain?

CORRECT ANSWER
trophic levels
EDDIE SAYS
Although you'll have a lot more to do with this later in your course, get used to the fact that the energy levels that correspond to Producer/Herbivore/ Carnivore, etc. are known as TROPHIC LEVELS and show how much energy is being transferred.
  • Question 10

How much of the energy passes from the plant to the herbivore that eats it in a food chain?

CORRECT ANSWER
10%
EDDIE SAYS
Obviously, this is going to vary from food chain to food chain in different habitats and at different times, but on average it's just 10% of the energy that passes. What that means is, if a spider catches and eats a fly, only 10% of that fly actually becomes spider organs (like leg muscle) - the rest is lost as heat, mainly.
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