Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh No!

ENVIRONMENT

Big, fierce animals—lions and tigers and bears, for example—are relatively scarce in nature. That’s normal. But top predators are now so rare that many are in danger of disappearing. That’s creating ripple effects throughout the natural world that scientists are still trying to figure out. (NPR)

Use our resources to better understand predators and their role in a region’s ecology.

Lions, tigers, and bears are apex predators . . . and disappearing quickly. Apex predators are important to ecosystems including the African savanna (the lion on the right is native to Serengeti National Park, Tanzania), Indian jungle (the baby tiger lives in Bandhavharh National Park, India), and Arctic tundra (the brown bear lives in Katmai National Park, Alaska). Photographs by Michael Nichols (lion and tiger) and Michael Melford (bear), National Geographic

Lions, tigers, and bears are apex predators . . . and disappearing quickly. 
Photographs by Michael Nichols (lion and tiger) and Michael Melford (bear), National Geographic

Apex predators are important to ecosystems including the African savanna—this lion is native to Serengeti National Park, Tanzania . . .  Photograph by Michael Nichols, National Geographic

Apex predators are important to ecosystems including the African savanna—this lion is native to Serengeti National Park, Tanzania . . .
Photograph by Michael Nichols, National Geographic

. . . the Indian jungle—this baby tiger lives in Bandhavharh National Park, India . . .  Photograph by Michael Nichols

. . . the Indian jungle—this baby tiger lives in Bandhavharh National Park, India . . .
Photograph by Michael Nichols

. . . and Arctic tundra—this brown bear lives in Katmai National Park, Alaska. Photograph by Michael Melford, National Geographic

. . . and Arctic tundra—this brown bear lives in Katmai National Park, Alaska.
Photograph by Michael Melford, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas

  • Scientists in the NPR article are studying the predators and their impact on food webs and ecosystems. What is the difference between a food web and an ecosystem? Read the introduction to our encyclopedic entry for “ecosystem” for a clue.
    • An ecosystem includes inorganic, or never-living, parts of a geographic area. For instance, an ecosystem will include climate, rocks, and other features of the landscape. A food web is limited to living and once-living organisms—what eats and gets eaten!
  • Connect the dots to hypothesize a trophic cascade in your food web, involving different parts of an ecosystem—predator and prey, living and non-living.
    • The NPR article gives a great example. “Armies of deer, grown out of control because of a lack of predators that eat them [such as mountain lions], can devour all the vegetation along streambanks, and that causes erosion along those banks.”

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