Effects of Natural Selection on Finch Beak Size
This activity guides the analysis of a published scientific figure from a study that investigated evolutionary changes in seed-eating finches after a drought.
In 1976, seeds on the Galápagos island of Daphne Major were diverse and plentiful. A drought in 1977, however, reduced seed availability. The figure in this study shows the distribution of beak depths (measures of beak size) for the island’s medium ground finches. White bars represent the distribution for the initial population in 1976, and black bars represent the distribution for the finches that survived the drought in 1977. The carets on the x-axis indicate the mean beak depths for each group. The “Educator Materials” document includes a captioned figure, background information, graph interpretation, and discussion questions. The “Student Handout” includes a captioned figure and background information. The “Finch Presentation” PowerPoint provides an alternative approach for guiding students through a discussion of the figure.
Student Learning Targets
- Analyze and interpret data from a scientific figure.
- Describe how the distribution of traits in a population may change over time due to natural selection.
adaptation, Darwin’s finches, histogram, morphology, selective pressure, trait, variation
Grant, Rosemary B., and Peter R. Grant. “What Darwin's Finches Can Teach Us about the Evolutionary Origin and Regulation of Biodiversity.” BioScience 53, 10 (2003): 965–975. http://bioscience.oxfordjournals.org/content/53/10/965.full.pdf.
Accessibility Level (WCAG compliance)
HS-LS4-3, HS-LS4-5; SEP2, SEP4, SEP5
AP Biology (2019)
EVO-1.D, EVO-1.E, SYI-3.D; SP1, SP4
IB Biology (2016)
AP Environmental Science (2020)
Topic(s): 2.6, 2.7
Learning Objectives & Practices: ERT-2.H, SP5
IB Environmental Systems and Societies (2017)
Common Core (2010)
Math.S-ID.3, Math.S-IC.1; MP2, MP5
Vision and Change (2009)
CC1; DP2, DP3