Developing an Explanation for Mouse Fur Color
In this activity, students collect and analyze evidence for each of the major conditions for evolution by natural selection to develop an explanation for how populations change over time.
This activity is based on the study of fur color evolution in rock pocket mouse populations shown in the film The Making of the Fittest: Natural Selection and Adaptation. Students summarize the evidence for evolution by natural selection shown in the film and in figures from a scientific paper. They should then be able to apply the same concepts to any trait that changes in response to natural selection in any species. The activity helps students develop skills aligned with the science practices of constructing explanations and engaging in argument from evidence.
This activity is adapted from an activity in the “Evolution of Human Skin Color” curriculum unit for AP Biology, which is part of the Smithsonian Institution’s “Teaching Evolution through Human Examples” project (NSF Grant No. 1119468).
Student Learning Targets
- Summarize, analyze, and describe the evidence needed to make claims about natural selection.
- Develop an explanation for a case of evolution by natural selection that includes logic and evidence, by linking claims to evidence through scientific reasoning.
adaptation, argument, explanation, inheritance, melanin, rock pocket mouse, variation
Hoekstra, H. E., Kristin E. Drumm, and Michael W. Nachman. . “Ecological genetics of adaptive color polymorphism in pocket mice: Geographic variation in selected and neutral genes.” Evolution 58, 6 (2004): 1329–1341. https://doi.org/10.1554/03-418.
Nachman, M. 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 of the United States of America 100, 9 (2003): 5268–5273. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0431157100.
HS-LS3-1, HS-LS3-2, HS-LS3-3, HSLS4-2, HS-LS4-4; SEP4, SEP6
EVO-1.C, EVO-1.D, EVO-1.E, EVO-1.H, EVO-1.J, EVO-1.L, EVO-1.M, EVO-1.O, IST-2.E, EVO-3.A, SYI-3.D; SP5, SP6
ELA.WHST.9–12.1, ELA.WHST.9–12.5, WHST.9–12.9
CC1, CC3; DP2