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Short Film
The Making of the Fittest: Natural Selection and Adaptation


The rock pocket mouse is a living example of Darwin’s process of natural selection.

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(Duration: 10 min 25 sec)

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Not only is evolution happening right now everywhere around us, but adaptive changes can occur in a population with remarkable speed. This speed is essential if you’re a desert mouse living in an environment where a volcanic eruption can reverse selective pressure in nearly an instant. The film features Dr. Michael Nachman, whose work in the field and in the lab has quantified the selective pressure of predators and identified the genes involved in adaptation. In a complete story, from ecosystem to molecules, pocket mice show us how random changes in the genome can take many paths to the same adaptation—a colored coat that hides them from predators.


  • 2012 W3 Awards; Silver
  • 2012 Davey Awards; Silver
  • 2012 Telly Awards; Silver

Curriculum Connections:

AP (2012–13)

1.A.1.a,c,d,e; 1.A.2.a,b,c; 1.A.4.b;1.C.3.a,b; 3.C.1.a,b,d; 3.C.2.a; 4.B.1.a; 4.C.2.a,b; 4.C.3.a,b 

NGSS (April 2013)


IB Biology (2009)

4.1, 5.4, D2

APES: Themes and Topics (2013)

Themes: 1, 3 Topics: II.A, II.C

"I love the furry little 'rock stars' (rock pocket mice) in this film. After showing the 10-minute film, I have students create an infographic, a summary, or discussion board post so that I can assess their understanding of the content. In under 30 minutes, I can elicit students' understanding of the term 'adaptation,' reveal their misconceptions, get them excited, and level the playing field on their basic understanding of evolution. I use this in both my high school and college courses."
– Melissa Csikari (Colonial Forge High School & Germanna Community College, VA)

Supporting Materials (7)

Classroom Resource
An activity in which students analyze amino acid data and draw conclusions about the evolution of coat color phenotypes in different rock pocket mouse populations.
Interactive Video
Embedded quiz modules test students’ understanding as they watch the short film on the rock pocket mouse—a living example of Darwin’s process of natural selection.
Classroom Resource
An advanced lesson that requires students to analyze partial DNA sequences of the Mc1r gene and identify the effects of mutations on the MC1R protein pathway.
Classroom Resource
A lesson that requires students to transcribe and translate portions of the wild-type and mutant rock pocket mouse Mc1r genes and compare sequences to identify the locations and types of mutations responsible for the coat color variation described in the film.
Classroom Resource
A data collection and analysis lesson that examines selection for coat color in pocket mouse populations on different color substrates over time.
Classroom Resource
A lesson that uses real rock pocket mouse data collected by Dr. Michael Nachman and his colleagues to illustrate the Hardy-Weinberg principle.
Film Guides
The following classroom-ready resources complement The Making of the Fittest: Natural Selection and Adaptation, which describes the physical and genetic evolutionary changes in rock pocket mouse populations.

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This series of five short films features unforgettable examples of the evolutionary process in action.

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