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Classroom Resource
Beaks As Tools: Selective Advantage in Changing Environments

Summary

This classroom experiment supports the film The Origin of Species: The Beak of the Finch. Students collect and analyze data to learn why even slight variations in beak size can make the difference between life and death.

In their study of the medium ground finches, evolutionary biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant were able to track the evolution of beak size twice in an amazingly short period of time due to two major droughts that occurred in the 1970s and 1980s. This activity simulates the food availability during these droughts and demonstrates how rapidly natural selection can act when the environment changes. Students use two different types of tools to represent different beak types to see which is best adapted to collect and “eat” seeds of different sizes. Students collect and analyze data and draw conclusions about traits that offer a selective advantage under different environmental conditions. They have the option of using an Excel spreadsheet to calculate different descriptive statistics and interpret graphs.


Curriculum Connections:

NGSS (2014)
HS-­‐LS2-­‐1, HS-­‐LS2-­‐2, HS-­‐LS4-­‐2, HS-­‐LS4-­‐4, HS-­‐LS4-­‐5, HS-­‐LS2.A, HS-­‐LS2.C,  HS-­‐LS4.B, HS-­‐LS4.C

COMMON CORE
CCSS.ELA-­‐LITERACY.RST.9-­‐10.3, CCSS.ELA-­‐LITERACY.RST.9-­‐10.4, CCSS.ELA-­‐LITERACY.RST.9-­‐10.5, CCSS.ELA-­‐LITERACY.RST.11-­‐12.3, CCSS.ELA-­‐LITERACY.RST.11-­‐12.4, CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.HSS-­‐ID.A.2

AP (2012–13)
1.A.1, 1.A.2, 1.A.4

IB (2009)
5.4, D2


Supporting Materials (4)

Classroom Resource
These two activities support the film The Origin of Species: The Beak of the Finch. They provide students with the opportunity to analyze data collected by Princeton University evolutionary biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant.
Film Guides
The following classroom-ready resources complement The Origin of Species: The Beak of the Finch. By following four decades of research on the finches of the Galápagos islands, the film illustrates how geography and ecology can drive the evolution of new species.
Click & Learn
Finches discriminate between members of their own species and those of a closely related species based on song and appearance.
Short Film
Four decades of research on finch species that live only on the Galápagos Islands illuminate how species form and multiply. 

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