Activity for Natural Selection in Humans
This activity explores the connection between malaria and sickle cell anemia — one of the best-understood examples of natural selection in humans — as discussed in the short film The Making of the Fittest: Natural Selection in Humans.
This film describes the work of Tony Allison, the first researcher to find a connection between the infectious parasitic disease malaria and the genetic disease sickle cell anemia. Allison’s discovery is among the first and best-understood examples of natural selection in which the selective force, the adaptive mutation, and the critical molecules were all identified — and all in humans.
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
- Recognize the link between genotype and phenotype.
- Describe how a mutation can have either beneficial or deleterious effects, depending on the environment in which an organism lives.
adaptation, Africa, allele, balancing selection, hemoglobin, heterozygote advantage, malaria, mosquito, mutation, sickle cell
Allison, Anthony C. “Protection Afforded by Sickle-Cell Trait against Subtertian Malarial Infection.” British Medical Journal 1, 4857 (February 6, 1954): 290–294. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.1.4857.290.
HS-LS1-1, HS-LS2-1, HS-LS2-2, HS-LS3-1, HS-LS3-3, HS-LS4-2, HS-LS4-3; SEP6
EVO-1.E, EVO-1.K, EVO-I.O, IST-4.A, IST-4.B; SP1, SP4
4.1, 4.3, 5.4, D.2
CC1, CC2; DP1