The students blind themselves and incapacitate their opposable thumbs. The red masks they wear have no eyeholes and they extend two fingers while folding the others back against the palm. This is to rid themselves of any unfair advantage. The students are studying Ecology, Environmental Management or Applied Biology.
Each student takes a sheet of white paper to represent a field. Dried beans represent prey. The students represent predators.
Their fingers stalk across the white page. The fingers have to find and catch a bean within one minute. If they catch the bean it will be replaced with another bean. At the end of the minute the number of beans they have captured is taken down. The students repeat the exercise with a stock of 1, 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 and 50 beans. Each stock is self-replenishing during the sixty-second hunt.
The lecturer walks up and down the aisle between the two rows of benches, making sure everybody is blinded and is using their hand in the correct way.
‘No thumbdragging! The fingers must be upright.’
The results are counted and a graph is plotted. The graph begins to show a regular upward curve. The more prey there is, the more the predator can catch. However towards the end the line loses its sense of itself and levels off. It takes time to catch a victim and there is only so much pressure that the predator’s body can take.
– The predator seeks the edges of the field.
– After the predator has disposed of a piece of prey, it returns to the place it caught it.
– The introduction of a competitor makes the predator hunt more swiftly and with aggression.
– The more prey, the more time is lost in the act of hunting.
– The predator repeatedly mistakes a small plastic cone for its prey.
– The hands of the predator are easily tired.
– The fingers of the predator are prey to cramp.
– The pond is an unwelcome surprise.
– The predator looks funny behind a mask.
– The masks are not quite identical.
– The predator searches in circles.