Teaching Natural Selection and the Genetic Code Using the Rock Pocket Mouse

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This playlist can be used to teach several core concepts in evolution and molecular biology by connecting students to actual research on the rock pocket mouse. The topics covered include adaptation, natural selection, and genetic variation at both the genotypic and phenotypic levels. The series of activities in the playlist allow students to gather evidence to explain how dark fur evolved by natural selection in some populations of rock pocket mice. The activities provide several opportunities for students to collect and analyze data.  

By completing the resources in this playlist, students will be able to:

  • Summarize, analyze, and describe evidence for the critical components of natural selection. 
  • Develop an explanation for evolution by natural selection that includes logic, evidence, and linking claims to evidence through scientific reasoning. 
  • Transcribe and translate portions of a gene to make connections between differences in DNA sequences and differences in phenotypes, and relate these differences to the variation observed in a population.

This playlist can be used in a general high school biology course. Implementing this playlist should take about three 50-minute class periods.

Color Variation Over Time in Rock Pocket Mouse Populations
Topic
Evolution
Resource Type
Activities

This card activity can be used to elicit student understanding of change over time in a population and its environment.

To use this resource as part of this playlist, combine it with other resources in the playlist as follows:

  • Have students read the introduction in the “Student Handout” for this activity.

  • Have students sort the cards from the “Illustrations” document in the most logical chronological sequence.

  • Show the film The Making of the Fittest: Natural Selection and Adaptation (resource 2 in this playlist) from 0:00–2:37.

  • Have students answer question 2 of the “Developing an Explanation for Mouse Fur Color” activity (resource 3 in this playlist). Use this question as a pre-assessment of students’ prior understanding of natural selection, and to identify misconceptions students may have about how populations change over time.

Estimated Time: Half of a 50-minute class period.

The Making of the Fittest: Natural Selection and Adaptation
Topic
Genetics
Evolution
Resource Type
Videos

This film describes natural selection and adaptation in populations of rock pocket mice living in the American Southwest.

To support the learning that occurs in the activities in this playlist, show the film in segments as follows:

  • Show 0:00–2:37 after students complete the “Color Variation Over Time in Rock Pocket Mouse Populations” activity (resource 1 in this playlist).

  • Show 2:37 to the end after introducing the explanation table in the “Developing an Explanation for Mouse Fur Color” activity (resource 3 in this playlist).

Estimated Time: 10 minutes for the film only.

Developing an Explanation for Mouse Fur Color
Topic
Evolution
Science Practices
Resource Type
Activities

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.

To use this resource as part of this playlist:

  • Have students complete all but question 2 of the “Student Handout.”

  • Have students complete question 2 as a post-assessment.

Estimated Time: One-and-a-half-50-minute class periods.

Molecular Genetics of Color Mutations in Rock Pocket Mice
Topic
Genetics
Evolution
Resource Type
Activities

In this activity, students transcribe and translate portions of the rock pocket mouse Mc1r gene to explore the genetic variations responsible for different mouse coat colors.

Have students complete “Student Activity 1” after finishing the rest of the playlist.

Estimated Time: One 50-minute class period.