Artificial Selection

Long before Darwin and Wallace, farmers and breeders were using the idea of selection to cause major changes in the features of their plants and animals over the course of decades. Farmers and breeders allowed only the plants and animals with desirable characteristics to reproduce, causing the evolution of farm stock. This process is called artificial selection because people (instead of nature) select which organisms get to reproduce.

As shown below, farmers have cultivated numerous popular crops from the wild mustard, by artificially selecting for certain attributes.

Artificial selection in the mustard family.

These common vegetables were cultivated from forms of wild mustard. This is evolution through artificial selection.

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Teach this!
Lesson plans for teaching about artificial selection

• Broccoli image courtesy of Jeff Burke and Lorraine Triolo
• Cabbage image courtesy of
• Kale image courtesy of
• Kohlrabi image courtesy of Jozef Jarosciak
• Cauliflower image courtesy of The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
• Mustard image courtesy of Gernot Katzer

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Spanish translation of Understanding Evolution For Teachers from the Spanish Society of Evolutionary Biology.