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Ms. Bagish's Class: Experiment Page

The Study of Survival and Extinction in Gantcatchers and Panthers

Introduction: California Gnatcatchers and Florida Panthers are endangered species. This means that they are at risk of going extinct. We need to know a few things about their ecology before we can help them. Important questions include:

  • Where do they live?
  • How much habitat do they need?
  • How many babies do they have?
  • How many die and survive each year?
  • What are the threats to their survival?

Research Problems:

  • What is going to happen to the gnatcatchers?
  • What is going to happen to the panthers?
  • How can we keep them from going extinct?
  • Will the same things help both the panthers and the gnatcatchers?

Panther ecology: Florida panthers are big cats that occur only in a small area of habitat in southern Florida. In the past, these panthers occurred throughout the southeastern U.S. Florida panthers hunt for their food. They eat animals like rabbits. Many panthers live for more than 10 years, and female panthers have one or two babies every other year. Panthers are often killed by cars when crossing roads and they are losing habitat.

Gnatcatcher ecology: Gnatcatchers are small birds that live in coastal sage scrub habitat in southern California. Gnatcatchers eat insects like gnats. The gnatcatchers are about 4 inches long. It is good for a gnatcatcher to move fast, so they could eat a lot of insects. If there are a lot of gnatcatchers they could survive for 100 years. Gnatcatchers are threatened by the loss of habitat, and they also have a hard time with cold, rainy weather.


The best way to protect panthers will be to:

  1. Add/protect habitat
  2. Add more animals
  3. Reduce mortality (the number that die)

The best way to protect gnatcatchers will be to:

  1. Add/protect habitat
  2. Reduce mortality (the number that die)

Methods: We used a computer to simulate gnatcatchers and panthers since we could not bring enough of them into our classroom. A simulation uses math to create a computer "game" that represents the real ecology of animals we are interested in.

We tested four hypotheses for panthers:

  1. Add/protect habitat
  2. Release related panthers from Texas
  3. Release animals from captive breeding
  4. Reduce mortality

We tested four hypotheses for gnatcatchers:

  1. Reduce mortality in young gnatcatchers (protect babies)
  2. Reduce mortality in adult gnatcatchers (protect adults)
  3. Add/protect habitat
  4. Increase chance of winter storms (catastrophes)


Panther Results

Hypothesis Results
Add/slow loss of habitat Go extinct
Add Texas cats Only a few survive
Add cats from captive breeding Only a few survive
Reduce human-caused mortality They survive / population grows

Gnatcatcher Results

Hypothesis Results
Protect babies Very important, only a 10% change and they go extinct
Protect adults Less important, a 20% change is needed to cause them to go extinct
More storms A big change is needed to threaten gnatcathcers (100% change)
Add/protect habitat A 25% loss of habitat is O.K., more and they go extinct

Conclusion: Panthers A panther is threatened and gets run over by cars on the road. A way to stop that is by putting signs on the road. Keep your eyes on the road. Build a fence so that a panther does not run out in the road. They put underpasses or bridges for them to cross without getting run over. Panthers need to be provided with care too.

Gnatcatchers Gnatcatchers are going to live because we are going to find the eggs and protect them and raise them then we will release some from our school so that they wouldn't have to be extinct. We will release about 2 (each year) one female and one male per year then there will be enough for the whole world. Gnatcathcers also cannot lose much more habitat without going extinct.