HomeHHMI's BioInteractiveThe Origin of Species: The Beak of the Finch


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Short Film
The Origin of Species: The Beak of the Finch


Four decades of research on finch species that live only on the Galápagos Islands illuminate how species form and multiply. 

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(Duration: 15 min 54 sec)

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Over the past four decades, evolutionary biologists Rosemary and Peter Grant have documented the evolution of the famous Galápagos finches by tracking changes in body traits directly tied to survival, such as beak length, and identified behavioral characteristics that prevent different species from breeding with one another. Their pioneering studies have revealed clues as to how 13 distinct finch species arose from a single ancestral population that migrated from the mainland 2 million to 3 million years ago. 

Curriculum Connections:

AP (2012–13)

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

Supporting Materials (4)

Classroom Resource
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.
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.

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The richness and diversity of life raises two of the most profound questions in biology: How do new species form? And, why are there so many species?

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