Predator vs. Prey Simulation Lab

13 Feb

Predator vs. Prey Simulation Lab


In this lab project the objective is to simulate the relationship over generations of prey vs. predator.  We are trying to understand as the population grows in one of the species what the effect is on the other species which co inhabit that environment.  In this experiment it takes a lynx capturing three rabbits in order to survive and reproduce.  The goal is to chart how many lynx and rabbits survive each generation.


It is my hypothesis that the predator vs. prey environment works in a cycle.  As the prey gains population the predator does as well.   Since it takes more prey to sustain a predator, eventually the predator becomes over populated and there is not enough prey to sustain all predators.  This then forces the predators’ population to go down and the process starts over again.


  1. I started with collecting materials.
  • Ruler
  • Tape
  • Instructions
  • Scissors
  • Rabbit/Lynx worksheet
  • 3” piece of cardboard
  1. I then marked off an area 12”x12” this will represent the ecosystem size that we will inhabit the rabbits and the lynx.
  2. I cut out 300 rabbits from the worksheet to ensure I had enough to complete the project.  I also cut 1 lynx and put it onto the 3” cardboard.  This represents the size difference and predator qualities the lynx has over the rabbits.
  3. At this point I am now ready to start the simulation.  I place three rabbits sporadically into the area and toss the lynx.  After the lynx is thrown I calculate how many rabbits and lynx survive.  If the lynx captures three rabbits it survived and reproduces one lynx per three rabbits captured.  If a rabbit is not captured it survives and reproduces doubling in population to the next generation.
  4. Using these guidelines I repeated step 4-20 generations.


As I started out the first few generations it was hard for the lynx to survive and capture three rabbits but as the population of rabbits grew than the lynx had an easier time catching the rabbits and surviving.

This is the start of Generation 5,  it has 16 rabbits and two lynx trying to capture the rabbits.  The lynx this generation were successful and survived to reproduce.

In the seventh generation when there were six lynx going after only twelve rabbits I found that the first few got there rabbits fairly easy but the last few struggled and two didn’t survive because the remaining rabbits were to far apart to capture.  By generation nine a cycle was completed were the lynx grew to a number that depleted the supply of rabbits and so they died out and the process started over with just one lynx and three rabbits.

By Generation 16 the cycle had repeated itself to almost the same point as in Generation 5. Two lynx going after 28 rabbits.

This same trend continued on and by generation 20 we were at the end of yet another cycle.


I feel like this experiment documented very well a simulation of a predator vs. prey situation.  It allows the participant to see the ups and downs in both the predator and the prey’s population and understand how one influences the other.


1. Keep in mind that, as in any simulation (even sophisticated computer models), certain assumptions are made and many variables overlooked. What sort of variables could subject a natural population to pressure or disturbance? Name five.


  •  Weather- Weather is a variable that could change the outlook dramatically.  Through the generations droughts or even the opposite heavy rains could play a role to increase or decrease the amount of water and food for both species.
  •  Food Web- Other predators in the same ecosystem could change the outcome of this experiment if two predators are after the same prey they are fighting for the same resource and the amount of lynx that survived could be altered.
  • Producers- If there was a lack of green plants the rabbits would have food in order to reproduce and therefore the lynx would not have enough rabbits to prey on.
  • Disease-Disease could wipe out a whole generation or more of one of the species leading the other to eradication as well.
  • Human Interactions-If humans hunt the rabbit of the lynx it would cause a shift in food chain.

2. What might be the outcome if the lynx was exterminated?

Answer – The rabbit population might become out of control and may also starve because there might not be enough food to feed them.  Also another predator might come in and replace the lynx as the rabbit’s nemesis.

3. What patterns did you observe?  Describe any evident lag times.

Answer- I observed that 10 out of 20 generations could only support one lynx.  It takes more time for the population of a lynx to increase then it does for the rabbit population.  This is shown when you look at the data as a whole you see a pattern of lag times.  Those times are as the cycle starts and stars over so in the first few generations and then right after the mid point.

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Posted by on February 13, 2012 in Uncategorized


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