Mathematics and Biology

What are population cycles?
Math Awareness Week 1999 Exhibits

Math Awareness Month 1999

Population Fluctuations in Mammals 
by Aaron King, Ph.D.

hough they have been known since at least the sixteenth century, The lynx depends on the snowshoe hare as its primary food source during the winter months.the seemingly wild fluctuations of boreal mammal populations from year to year remains one of today's great scientific mysteries. 

Despite seventy-five years of intensive study, the cause of these cycles remains elusive. Some have proposed some pretty wild explanations.  Could the cycle be related to sunspots?  Or perhaps to the alignments of Venus and Mars?  Recent research at the University of Arizona promises to give insight as to how the more mundane interactions of hares and their environment can give rise to cyclic population fluctuations.

In the following, we'll look at answers to the following questions:
This tenacious survivor is the crux of the boreal forest ecosystem.What do we mean by "cyclic fluctuations"?
Which populations of animals show these cycles?
What are some of the possible causes?
How does mathematics help us to study this problem?

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