Activity for Natural Selection and Adaptation
This activity explores physical and genetic evolutionary changes in rock pocket mouse populations, as discussed in the short film The Making of the Fittest: Natural Selection and Adaptation.
This film uses the rock pocket mouse as a living example of Darwin’s process of natural selection. It highlights the research of Michael Nachman, who has quantified predation on rock pocket mice and identified adaptive changes in coat-color genes that allow the mice to travel under the radar of hungry predators.
The “Student Handout” probes students’ understanding of the key concepts addressed in the film. The “Educator Materials” document provides suggested pause points in the film with questions for students, background information, and detailed discussion points; a list of related resources and references; and an answer key for the “Student Handout.”
Student Learning Targets
- Describe what a mutation is and how it may affect an individual’s survival and reproduction depending on the environment.
- Explain how variation, selection, and time fuel the process of evolution through natural selection.
camouflage, melanin, melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R), mutation, rock pocket mouse, selective pressure, trait, variation
Hoekstra, Hopi E., Kristen E. Drumm, and Michael W. Nachman. “Ecological Genetics of Adaptive Color Polymorphism in Pocket Mice: Geographic Variation in Selected Neutral Genes.” Evolution 58, 6 (2004): 1329–1341. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0014-3820.2004.tb01711.x.
Hoekstra, Hopi E., J. G. Krenz, and Michael W. Nachman. “Local Adaptation in the Rock Pocket Mouse (Chaetodipus intermedius): Natural Selection and Phylogenetic History of Populations.” Heredity 94, 2 (2005): 217–228. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.hdy.6800600.
Nachman, Michael W., Hopi E. Hoekstra, and Susan L. D’Agostino. “The Genetic Basis of Adaptive Melanism in Pocket Mice.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 100, 9 (2003): 5268–5273. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0431157100.
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HS-LS1-1, HS-LS2-1, HS-LS3-1, HS-LS3-3, HS-LS4-2, HS-LS4-3, HS-LS4-4; SEP6
EVO-1.C, EVO-1.D, EVO-1.E, EVO-1.G, EVO-1.H, EVO-1.J, EVO-1.O, EVO-3.A, IST-4.A, IST-4.B, SYI-3.D; SP1, SP4
4.1, 5.4, D.2
Topic(s): 2.6, 2.7
Learning Objectives & Practices: ERT-2.H, SP1, SP4, SP5
CC1, CC5; DP1