Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

The Naturalist's Apprentice: Traps and Snares

OBJECTIVE: students learn some of the devious ways plants and animals catch their prey

MATERIALS: multiple copies of Traps and Snares cut apart

VOCABULARY: carnivorous, predaceous

COMMENTS: Some organisms resort to guile and deceit and create all manner of traps, snares, and ambush sites to help them catch their next meal.Ant lion larvae dig a funnel-shaped trap in sand and wait at the bottom for unsuspecting prey to tumble in where they are pierced with long, slender jaws. Orb weaver spiders build spiral webs of silk that entangle passing insects. One group of caddisfly larvae construct silken nets underwater that trap food particles. Fishing spiders feed mostly on small animals (although they will catch small fish) that fall in the water and become trapped in the surface film. They use the surface film of water as a web. The trapdoor spider builds a silk-lined burrow with a close-fitting lid. When it feels the vibrations of approaching prey, the spider jumps out, grabs its prey, and drags it into the burrow.


1. Introduce students to the material in Species Spotlight and the preceding comments section. Challenge them to remember what kinds of organisms use various types of traps and snares. Divide the class into several smaller groups of 5 or 6 each.

2. Copy the following page onto card stock (you may also glue the page to cardboard) and cut apart the paired cards. You will need one set of cards for each group.

3. Pass out the cards from the left-hand column (the organisms) and have each group try to identify that organism based on the descriptions you provide. Students then place the organism cards face down on a table while you pass out the snare/trap cards (right-hand column). Students do not look at these but place them face down with the organism cards and mix the sets together.

4.The first player in each group turns up two cards, tries to identify each card, and states whether the cards are a match. A match consists of an organism and its appropriate snare or trap. Students that correctly identify a match take those two cards from the desk top and play proceeds to the next student. If a match is not made, students place the cards face down on the table and play proceeds. The player with the most cards when all have been matched is judged the winner.


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Subject: INHSPUB-2114
Last Modified 3/19/96

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