News and Notes

Giant Bird-Eating Centipedes are a Biodiversity Marvel!

“Every kid has a bug period… I never grew out of mine.”—E.O. Wilson

The Important Role of Predatory Arthropods
“Giant bird-eating centipedes may sound like something out of a science-fiction film — but they’re not. On tiny Phillip Island, part of the South Pacific’s Norfolk Island group, the Phillip Island centipede (Cormocephalus coynei) population can kill and eat up to 3,700 seabird chicks each year.” Use this fascinating article from The Conversation about predatory arthropods as the grounding phenomenon for the data play educator resource. In this article we learn about the natural and necessary role of the centipede in the Phillip Island ecosystem.

Educator Resource – Bird-Eating Centipedes of Phillip Island: Data Play
In Phillip Island Centipede Data Play students will analyze data tables from The American Naturalist cited in The Conversation’s article about the bird-eating centipede. Using this data students will gain a better understanding of the centipede as a predator. These data play activities are a great way for students to explore the NGSS Science and Engineering Practice “analyzing and interpreting data.”

Predators Improving Biodiversity
The bird-eating centipede is vital to a healthy Phillip Island ecosystem. Predators make other populations healthier and support biodiversity overall. One of the greatest examples of this is the recovery of the gray wolf as a predator in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). As explained by the National Parks Service, “Preliminary data from studies indicate that wolf recovery will likely lead to greater biodiversity throughout the GYE. Wolves have preyed primarily on elk, and these carcasses have provided food to a wide variety of other animals, especially scavenging species. Wolves are increasingly preying on bison, especially in late winter. Grizzly bears have usurped wolf kills almost at will, contrary to predictions and observations from other areas where the two species occur. Wolf kills, then, provide an important resource for bears in low-food years. Aggression toward coyotes initially decreased the number of coyotes inside wolf territories, which may have benefited other smaller predators, rodents, and birds of prey.” Read more here.

Extension Resource: HHMI Biointeractive Activity “Some Animals are Created More Equal Than Others”
Continue students’ understanding of ecological niches and predator importance using an HHMI Biointeractive activity. This activity explores the content and research discussed in the film Some Animals are More Equal than Others, which tells the story of the ecologists who first documented the role of keystone species in ecosystem regulation. The short film explores the work of ecologists as they study the impact that removing starfish from tidal pools has on the population sizes of other species.

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