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Exercise 19: Population Growth and Survivorship

Some populations grow in pulses such as a plant that starts growing in the spring and
producing seed that summer. The population would grow in a pulse every year. Another
example would be an insect species that reproduces once during the summer and then goes
dormant over the winter. Pulsed population growth will increase by a constant ratio with each
pulse.

Some populations have offspring all through the year and they overlap generations.
Human populations grow like this. Babies are born throughout the year and thus population
growth cannot be measured by using a constant ratio through the year. Instead the birth rate
and death rate are used to determine per capita rates of increase.

For either type of population growth, if resources are plentiful, the population will continue
to grow exponentially. However, populations are checked by environmental limits such as the
amount of food or space, predators, accumulation of metabolic wastes, and diseases. Compared
to a theoretical population actual population growth typically levels off resulting in logistic
growth.

Objectives
1. Compare pulsed and overlapping population growth
2. Gather, graph, and analyze population size data
3. Distinguish between survivorship curves and their implications for populations life
history patterns
4. Understand the factors that can impact population growth and survivorship

Materials:
25 dice (caramels or other cube shaped item can be used)
Timer

Procedure

Pulsed Population Growth: Theoretical Population


Some bacteria can reproduce every 20 minutes. This means they double in number every
20 minutes. If you start with 8 bacteria, after 20 minutes there will be 16. After 40 minutes
there will be 32.

In a theoretical population growth experiment 8 bacteria are placed in a flask with nutrient
broth (a good growth medium for bacteria). At 20 minute intervals the number of bacteria
is checked and recorded. Finish filling in the size of the population at each 20 minute interval for
the theoretical population that is doubling every 20 minutes.

Pulsed Population Growth: Actual Population


The actual results of a real experiment using bacteria to measure population growth can
differ from the predicted theoretical results. Actual results are shown in the last column of
the table in the worksheet.

Answer the questions in the worksheet comparing the two populations.

1
Overlapping Population Growth

A population starting out with 100 sloths was studied.

The growth rate (rmax) can be determined by subtracting the death rate from the birth rate.

Birth rate: There were 60 births/month


600 births/100 sloths = 0.6 birth rate

Death rate: There were 30 deaths/month


30 deaths/100 sloths = 0.3 death rate

What is the growth rate (rmax) per month? (subtract the death rate from the birth rate)

rmax = birth rate death rate


rmax = _______ ________
rmax = ______

Growth of the population can be determined using


G = rmax x N

N= number of organisms at the beginning of the month

What is the growth of the sloth population in one month (Net Monthly Increase)?
G = rmax x N

What is the size of the population after one month (New Population Size)?
N+G

Using the new population size as N, determine the increase and size for the second month.
Continue for each month filling in the table in the worksheet. (Round to whole numbers.)

2
Survivorship

Within a population, some individuals die very young while others live into old age. To a
large extent, the pattern of survivorship is species-dependent. Generally, survivorship takes on
one of three patterns, which we summarize using survivorship curves, graphs that plot the
pattern of mortality (death) in a population.
Type I:Low mortality early in life, most deaths occurring in a narrow time span at maturity,
usually few offspring
Type II: Rate of mortality fairly constant at all ages
Type III High mortality early in life, usually numerous offspring

Materials:
25 dice (caramels or other cube shaped item can be used)
Timer

Procedure:
The dice represent a population under study. You will roll the dice to represent a given
time period (1 roll = 1 year). Some dice will die and they will be removed from the population.
After each roll the number of survivors will be counted and recorded so that you can create a life
table for the dice. You will do two populations of dice the first can die due to heart disease. The
second population can die due to heart disease and cancer. Record your data in the worksheet
(Look for the red tab at the bottom of the excel spreadsheet labeled Survivorship. Click on that
tab to find the tables and graphs).

3
Population 1: Dice with Heart Disease
1. Carefully roll 25 dice onto a flat surface. If you are using caramels or another cube-shaped
item for the dice, you will need to mark one side of each cube.
2. Assume that individuals who come up as 1s (or the mark you used) die of heart disease.
Put all the 1s in a container (this is the cemetery).
3. All the others survive. Count the survivors and record the number in the survivors column
of the table. The first roll survivors will go on the line next to time 1.
4. Using just the survivors roll them out again. Remove any that come up as 1s. Count the
survivors and record the number in the survivors column next to time 2.
5. Repeat the process using only the survivors until all the dice have died from heart disease.
(The table has 30 generations. You may use less than 30 or you may end up using more than
30. It just depends on how the dice roll.)
6. The Excel table will calculate the percentage survivors and graph the values on the y-axis
against time on the x- axis. Just for your information this is the equation to determine the
percent survivors:

Percentage surviving = Number surviving x 100%


25

Population 2: Dice with Heart Disease and Cancer


1. Carefully roll 25 dice onto a flat surface. If you are using caramels or another cube-shaped
item for the dice, you will need to mark another side of each cube (so that two sides are
marked).
2. Assume that individuals who come up as 1s (or the mark you used) die of heart disease.
Individuals who come up as 2s (or the second mark you used) die of cancer. Put all the 1s
and 2s in a container .
3. All the others survive. Count the survivors and record the number in the survivors column
of the table. The first roll survivors will go on the line next to time 1.
4. Using just the survivors roll them out again. Remove any that come up as 1s or 2s. Count
the survivors and record the number in the survivors column next to time 2.
5. Repeat the process using only the survivors until all the dice have died from heart disease
or cancer.
6. The Excel table will calculate the percentage survivors and graph the values on the y-axis
against time on the x- axis.
8. Analyze both graphs and answer the questions