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.
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.
Directions and background information are embedded in the model exercise.
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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.