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Interview: Douglas Futuyma on natural selection


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This interview with one of the most influential evolutionary biologists of today addresses many aspects of natural selection: how it works, examples, misconceptions, and implications.
This article appears at ActionBioscience.org.


Grade level:

20 minutes

Teaching tips:
Though clear, the content and writing level of this resource are somewhat advanced. However, it might serve as good topic for discussion in an AP biology classroom.

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

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

  • New heritable traits can result from recombinations of existing genes or from genetic mutations in reproductive cells. (LS3.B)

  • Mutations are random.

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

  • Random factors can affect the survival of individuals and of populations.

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

  • 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)

  • Evolution results from genetic drift acting upon genetic variation within a population.

  • Speciation is the splitting of one ancestral lineage into two or more descendent lineages.

  • Evolution does not consist of progress in any particular direction.

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

  • Science is a human endeavor. (NOS7)

  • As with other scientific disciplines, evolutionary biology has applications that factor into everyday life.

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

Teacher background:

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