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Classroom Resource
Evolution in Action: Data Analysis


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.

The Grants have provided morphological measurements, including wing length, body mass, and beak depth, taken from a sample of 100 medium ground finches (Geospiza fortis) living on the island of Daphne Major in the Galápagos archipelago. The complete data set is available in the accompanying Excel spreadsheet.

In one activity, entitled “Evolution in Action: Graphing and Statistics,” students are guided through the analysis of this sample of the Grants’ data by constructing and interpreting graphs, and calculating and interpreting descriptive statistics.  The second activity. “Evolution in Action: Statistical Analysis,” provides an example of how the data set can be analyzed using statistical tests, in particular the Student’s t-Test for independent samples, to help draw conclusions about the role of natural selection on morphological traits based on measurements.

Curriculum Connections:

NGSS (April 2013)
HS-LS4-2, HS-LS4-3, HS-LS4-4, HS-LS4-5, HS-LS4.B, HS-LS4.C, Science and Engineering Practices 4-7

AP (2012–13)
1.A.1, 1.A.4, 1.C.1, 1.C.2, Science Practice 5

IB (2009)
Topic 1, 5.1, 5.4, D2

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.
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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Additional Materials

Bulletin Article