Babysitting Gives Students Experience with Interspecific Competition

Written by Kelly A. Hogan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

When discussing interspecific competition I always get students to think about a sitiation in which they are babysitting two kids. I make up different scenarios to illustrate ideas of competition. For example, I might tell them that there are two brothers (age 8 and 4) and only one remote control for the video game. What do they predict would happen with the brothers? If the big brother pushes the little brother out of the way and takes the control for himself, I explain Gause’s competitive exclusion principle. If I ask them what they might suggest as the babysitter, and they usually come to the conclusion quickly that the boys must share the remote. The little brother may “adapt” to his big brother by using it only when the big brother goes to eat a snack. Sharing the remote, illustrates resource partitioning as a way of differentiating niches, in this case temporal differentiation.

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