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Stickleback Evolution Virtual Lab

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Overview:
This virtual lab teaches skills of data collection and analysis to study evolutionary processes using stickleback fish and fossil specimens.

Author/Source:
Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Grade level:
9-12

Time:
3 hours

Teaching tips:
The basic version of the lab is appropriate for an introductory biology course at the high school level. The advanced version of the lab is appropriate in level for AP students, but may be too time-consuming for many teachers to implement in a high school class. Answers to the worksheets are readily available online, so if this is a concern, you may wish to have students complete those in class.

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

  • Biological evolution accounts for diversity over long periods of time. (LS4.A, LS4.D)

  • Present-day species evolved from earlier species; the relatedness of organisms is the result of common ancestry. (LS4.A)

  • 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.

  • The fossil record provides evidence for evolution.

  • The fossil record documents the biodiversity of the past.

  • There are similarities and differences among fossils and living organisms.

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

  • 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)

  • Depending on environmental conditions, inherited characteristics may be advantageous, neutral, or detrimental.

  • 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)

  • Scientists can test ideas about events and processes long past, very distant, and not directly observable.

  • Scientists use multiple research methods (experiments, observational research, comparative research, and modeling) to collect data. (P2, P3, P4, NOS1)

  • Scientists use fossils (including sequences of fossils showing gradual change over time) to learn about past life.

  • Scientists use physical, chemical, and geological evidence to establish the age of fossils.

  • Scientists use the geographic distribution of fossils and living things to learn about the history of life.

  • The sequence of forms in the fossil record is reflected in the sequence of the rock layers in which they are found and indicates the order in which they evolved.

Teacher background:

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