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Lesson summary for:
The Making of the Fittest: The Birth and Death of Genes


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This 13-minute film describes how scientists have pieced together the evolutionary history of the Antarctic icefish by studying its genome — an excellent case study for genetic evolution as both the gain and loss of genes have led to key adaptations.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Grade level:

15-20 minutes

Teaching tips:
HHMI provides a variety of teacher resources to accompany this video: an in-depth film guide, student quiz, two demonstrations and three student lessons

Correspondence to the Next Generation Science Standards is indicated in parentheses after each relevant concept. See our conceptual framework for details.

  • There is a fit between organisms and their environments, though not always a perfect fit. (LS4.C)

  • An organism's features reflect its evolutionary history.

  • Evolution results from selection acting upon genetic variation within a population. (LS4.B)

  • Mutations are random.

  • Traits that confer an advantage may persist in the population and are called adaptations. (LS4.B, LS4.C)

  • Inherited characteristics affect the likelihood of an organism's survival and reproduction. (LS4.B, LS4.C)

  • Natural selection acts on the variation that exists in a population. (LS4.B, LS4.C)

  • Natural selection acts on phenotype as an expression of genotype.

  • Organisms cannot intentionally produce adaptive mutations in response to environmental influences.

  • Populations, not individuals, evolve.

  • Over time, the proportion of individuals with advantageous characteristics may increase (and the proportion with disadvantageous characteristics may decrease) due to their likelihood of surviving and reproducing. (LS4.B, LS4.C)

  • A hallmark of science is exposing ideas to testing. (P3, P4, P6, P7)

  • Scientists test their ideas using multiple lines of evidence. (P6, NOS2)

  • There is variation within a population. (LS3.B)

  • Evolution occurs through multiple mechanisms.

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