Keystone Species

Submitted by Juli Uhl on

Prairie dogs are small burrowing mammals native to North American grasslands.  They live in colonies and forage above and below ground for seeds and insects.  Ecologists have labeled prairie dogs as a keystone species, a species that is critical to maintaining high levels of species diversity in a community.  Imagine a farmer in Kansas kills all the prairie dogs on his farm because he didn’t like “molehills.”  Predict the likely outcome in this grassland community when prairie dogs are removed.

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation (DUE grants: 1438739, 1323162, 1347740, 0736952 and 1022653). Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.