Community Ecology Banner for Ecology Models - Virtual Biology Lab

Exploring Interactions

Populations of species do not exist in a vacuum. They interact with other populations. The myriad of species interacting in a given area is a biological community. Communities are often identified by their most conspicuous plants or animals, but they also include all of the fungi, protists, and bacteria. A major focus of community ecology explores interactions between species such as predator-prey relationships, competition, and mutualism. Another area of community ecology looks at how the composition of species in an area changes over time (succession). In this section there are models simulating classic studies of interactions between species.

Models are best viewed on large screens and landscape modes.

Screenshot of Barnacls Competition Model - Virtual Biology Lab

Model 1 – Barnacle Competition 

Connell’s 1961 classic competition experiment is modeled. You can explore the fundamental and realized niches of two species of barnacles, Chthamalus and Balanus. One species can grow at a wider range in depth but can be out competed, while the other species is limited to deeper rock. You can also cause sea level to change simulating global warming.

Launch Model

Directions and background information are embedded in the model exercise.

⇒Links to older versions of each model are found here.

Screenshot of Microcosm Model - Virtual Biology Lab

Model 2 – Microcosm 

This model is a simulation which draws upon Gauss’ (1934) classic experiments with protists. In this virtual petri dish, you can add bacteria, two species of Paramecium, and a predator. The two Paramecium (P. aurelia & P. bursaria) species compete for resources. One of the species is a better competitor for bacteria, while the other has photosynthetic endosymbionts and can utilize light. Both species are preyed upon by Didinium.

Launch Model
Directions – PDF

⇒Links to older versions of each model are found here.