2.3.3 A Penguin Foraging Simulation Game
- 1 paper cup per student, for "stomach"
- spring-type clothespins as "bills"
- various food items assigned different points based on their energy
- 300 1/2" metal washers (large krill) (worth 10 energy points)
- 300 M&Ms (small krill) (worth 8 energy points)
- 300 round toothpicks (Thyanoessa) (worth 5 energy points)
- 300 marbles (salps) (worth 2 energy points)
- copy for each students of the "Adelie Breeding Cycle, Diet and
Foraging Facts" Blackline Master #13
Display materials for this Activity and tell students that they will
be simulating the foraging behavior of penguins. Have them review the Adelie
fact sheet, and discuss items which seem most of interest to your class,
setting the foraging simulation in its real-world context. Explain that
the washers, toothpicks, M&Ms, and marbles represent penguin food items.
Then demonstrate the use of the clothespin to represent a penguin's bill!
The object of the game is to capture as much "prey" (in the paper
cup) as you can within a time limit. The goal is to accumulate 500 points,
expending the least energy in the shortest period of time.
Sidebar: Foraging Facts
Many factors contribute to the chick-raising and foraging success of
penguins in Antarctica, including:
- type and abundance of prey available
- the amount of time a parent has to be gone from the nest
- suitability of the general area for trying to raise a chick
- how long it takes to get enough prey to feed a chick
- Select an open area such as a playground, park, or gym and randomly
distribute the food items over a wide but defined area.
- Explain to the students that you are the "top predator",
signaling the start and finish of each round of play. As top predator,
you may "capture" penguins that are breaking the rules or exhibiting
disruptive behavior. Explain to students that in nature, birds that break
the rules often have behavior patterns that attract predators.
- Give each student a clothespin bill. Explain that food items must be
picked up, not (scooped) with the bill and dropped into the paper cup "stomach".
As is true in many societies, throwing food items is not allowed!
- Give students 5 minutes to forage, or stop the round before the supply
is too low, but make a note of the time allowed (adjust time to skill of
- Count and record the number of food items collected and their energy
- Debrief findings in the first round of play. Next, alter conditions
How might the results of the game change if unequal numbers of prey are
distributed in the foraging area and the time limit is removed?
What is the expectation if food types are not randomly distributed in the
How would the game change if time were not a variable?
What might happen if only one prey type was used for the experiment, but
half were the same color as the feeding area and half were colored very
differently? Would one prey type be chosen more than the other?
What might happen if other predators enter the foraging area and compete
with each other for food?
- Repeat the activity, and record the results.
- Draw conclusions: what observations can you make about foraging behavior,
competition for food, and availability of prey? The amount of food brought
back to the chicks is pretty constant, so the major variables are the prey
distribution/abundance, and the time spent foraging.
Adapted with permission from the Los Marineros Curriculum Guide, a marine
science curriculum available from the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
at 805-682-4711, ext. 311.
Use a globe to show that all 17 species of penguins live south of the
equator. One species, the Galapagos penguin, lives on the equator in the
path of the cold Peru Current. Seven kinds of penguins visit Antarctica,
but only two species, the Adelie and Emperor penguins, breed exclusively
on the Antarctic continent.
How are the adult Adelie penguins able to survive while sitting on the
nest? (Blubber or body fat is a primary food source.)
Penguins are the only birds that migrate by swimming. Students can research
and map their migration routes, up the west coast of South America to Tetal
Point in northern Chile, or up to the east coast of South America past Argentina
as far north as Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Estimate the distances they travel.
Using satellite images located on-line, students can match the migratory
routes of penguins with the location of currents. What assumptions can they
make about migration routes by looking at infrared imagery? (penguins follow
cold water currents)
Research North America's own "penguins," the flightless Great
Auks. Learn how Great Auks were similar to penguins. Find out why they were
slaughtered (for food, their feathers, and for stuffed specimens). These
birds became extinct in 1844 when two museum collectors landed on a remote
island off Iceland, strangled the last surviving pair for their collection
and then smashed the last egg.
The Adelie Penguin Monitoring Program of the Australian Antarctic Division