This module introduces the Lotka-Volterra model in the context of understanding how predator and prey interact. It is intended for an introductory biology audience.
Student Interaction: The Lotka-Volterra model is composed of a pair of differential equations that describe predator-prey (or herbivore-plant, or parasitoid-host) dynamics in their simplest case (one predator population, one prey population). It was developed independently by Alfred Lotka and Vito Volterra in the 1920's, and is characterized by oscillations in the population size of both predator and prey, with the peak of the predator's oscillation lagging slightly behind the peak of the prey's oscillation. The model makes several simplifying assumptions: 1) the prey population will grow exponentially when the predator is absent; 2) the predator population will starve in the absence of the prey population (as opposed to switching to another type of prey); 3) predators can consume infinite quantities of prey; and 4) there is no environmental complexity (in other words, both populations are moving randomly through a homogeneous environment).