M u s e u m  C r e a t e d  L e s s o n

Arctic Food Webs

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Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Ontario

The Arctic Web of Life
In this lesson, students will have the opportunity to explore Arctic food webs. Through their explorations, students will develop and understanding of the highlighted species, how they fit into Arctic food webs, and the concept of trophic structures.

Lesson framework and materials:
- This lesson should cover 1 full class period for grades 11-12.
- A notebook or flip chart to write down observations and reflections.
The Web of Life
Canadian Museum of Nature
© 2013, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.
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Learning Object: Arctic Food Webs
Plankton
A microscopic pythoplankton with the number 10 000 indicated.
Plankton are microscopic organisms that drift on, or swim in, the ocean’s currents. Phytoplankton are photosynthetic micro-organisms that are so productive they are responsible for generating and maintaining much of the Earth’s oxygen. Pythoplankton are at the bottom of the food chain. It takes around 10,000kg of phytoplankton to create enough energy to feed just 1kg of polar bear.

HabitatSeven




© 2013, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.
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Learning Object: Arctic Food Webs
Zooplankton
Numerous microscopic zooplankton with the number 1,000 indicated.
Everything on Earth relies on something else to exist. The Arctic food web is an intricate structure and as phytoplankton are at the bottom of the food chain, zooplankton feed off of phytoplankton. It takes approximately 1,000kg of zooplankton to create enough energy to feed just 1kg of a polar bear.

HabitatSeven




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Learning Object: Arctic Food Webs
Fish
A close up of a fish's face with the number 100 indicated.
Further up the Arctic food web, many fish, namely cod, feed off of zooplankton. It takes approximately 100kg of fish to create enough energy to eventually feed just 1kg of polar bear.

HabitatSeven




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Learning Object: Arctic Food Webs
Ringed seal
A close up of a seal with the number 10 indicated.
Traveling up the food chain, larger animals require more energy to survive. The larger the animal the more food it has to consume. Polar bears are a natural predator of ringed seals. To provide enough energy to 1kg of a polar bear the bear has to consume around 10kg of ringed seal.

HabitatSeven




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Learning Object: Arctic Food Webs
Polar bear
A polar bear standing on ice in water with the number 1 indicated.
Polar bears are a large land and marine mammal and are a key species at the top of the Arctic food web. During their travels they expel quite a lot of energy. A staple of a polar bear's diet are ringed seals. Approximately 10kg of ringed seals are needed to provide enough energy for just 1kg of a polar bear to survive.

HabitatSeven




© 2013, Canadian Museum of Nature. All Rights Reserved.
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Learning Object: Arctic Food Webs
The Overall Food Web
Canadian Museum of Nature
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Learning Object: Arctic Food Webs
Bowhead whale
A portion of a bowhead whale's skull.
Although humans harvest a few bowheads each year, killer whales travelling in pods are natural predators of bowhead whales.

Canadian Museum of Nature




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Learning Object: Arctic Food Webs
Bowhead whale Feeding
Bowhead whales (like all baleen whales) are omnivores that feed on plankton and tiny crustaceans from the water. Bowhead whales are skimmers or filter feeders that feed by swimming slowly along with their mouth open. When a Bowhead whale is feeding, you can see it skimming the water, then diving down. This video shows a bowhead whale feeding.
Students on Ice
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Learning Object: Arctic Food Webs
Muskox
A taxidermied muskox mount.
In the High Arctic, when Arctic wolves kill a muskox, the carcass becomes a “rendezvous site” for the pack.

Canadian Museum of Nature




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Learning Object: Arctic Food Webs
A Polar bear Meal
For the polar bear, sea ice means life or death. The polar bear uses sea ice for hunting. Polar bears need sea ice as a platform to reach the prey that sustains them: ringed and bearded seals.
Students on Ice
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Learning Object: Arctic Food Webs
Walrus
A walrus skull.
Walrus have been used as a source of meat, blubber, hide and ivory. Today, Canadian Inuit communities still harvest walrus, using the animal in the traditional ways.

Canadian Museum of Nature




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Learning Object: Arctic Food Webs
Suggested Activity
Have students think about the following reflection questions:

Specific questions:
- What are some of the animals which call the Arctic home?
- What roles do animals play in Arctic food webs?
- How do animals interact with one another?
- How do Arctic animals interact with other organisms in their environment?

General questions:
- What interested you the most?
- What surprised you to learn?
- What is one thing that you would like to know more about?

Have a class discussion based around reflection questions.
Have students create Arctic food webs which include the highlighted species from the lesson.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

- Familiarize himself/herself with Arctic animals and marine life.

- Learn about the concept of "food webs."

- Familiarize himself/herself with vocabulary used in biology.