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Processes by which organisms are changed over time

Evolution is the process by which organisms change over time. Mutations produce genetic variation in populations, and the environment interacts with this variation to select those individuals best adapted to their surroundings. The best-adapted individuals leave behind more offspring than less well-adapted individuals. Given enough time, one species may evolve into many others.

Images and animations are courtesy of the National Human Genome Research Institute's Talking Glossary (

Materials for Evolution


Who's Who In Human Evolution

Description: An interactive animation that traces the evolution of mankind


Are Humans Still Evolving?

Description: For much of nature, natural selection and ‘survival of the fittest’ still play a dominant role; only the strongest can survive in the wild. As little as a few hundred years ago, the same was true for humans, but what about now?


Description: Introduction to evolution with links for finding further detailed information

Evolution 101 - Understanding Evolution

Description: A seven part series exploring key concepts of evolution

Evolution Education - Understanding and Teaching the Science of Evolution

Description: Information on evolution and related topics

Evolution in your life

Description: Recorded interviews with various experts describing how evolution can be seen in the world around us

Evolution of Modern Humans

Description: The origin of modern humans has probably been the most debated issue in evolutionary biology over the last few decades.

Evolution of the Human Brain

Description: The human brain, in all its staggering complexity, is the product of millions of years of evolution.

How Did We Get Here?

Description: A history on evolution and discovery

The Common Genetic Code

Description: Information and a video on evolution and gene conservation

The New Genetics - Life's Genetic Tree

Description: Information from a science education booklet that covers evolutionary biology, SNPs, model organisms, circadian rhythms, bioinformatics, and gene sequencing

What Is Evolution?

Description: In biology, evolution is the change in the characteristics of a species over several generations and relies on the process of natural selection.


Darwin for a Day

Description: An activity exploring and cataloging your discoveries on the Galapagos Islands using a web application and Google Street View

Do You Want To Be an Evolutionary Biologist

Description: An interactive trivia game testing your knowledge of evolutionary biology

Evolution in Action

Description: A game on natural selection and evolution

Interactive Tutorials

Click and Learn App

Description: Interactively explore topics in biology with the Click and Learn app. Each module features supporting videos and animations (Internet connection required). Learn about topics in evolution, neurobiology, infectious diseases, bioinformatics, stem cells, RNA, obesity, cancer, and genomics.

Evidence - How Do We Know What We Know? A Case Study in Human Origins

Description: This case study explores how scientific evidence is being used to shape our current understanding of ourselves, such as What makes us human and how did we get this way?

Evolution of Tungara Frog Mating Calls

Description: An interactive tutorial on the mating calls of Physalaemus frogs, including how the calls have evolved over time and how genetic information has been used to create an evolutionary tree

Explore Your Inner Animals

Description: This interactive explores different anatomical features of the human body and what they reveal about the evolutionary history we share with other organisms.

Introduction to Evolution

Description: Video and practice problems teaching core concepts of evolution, including mechanisms for evolutions and classifications and taxonomy

Life Science

Description: Videos and practice problems teaching core concepts of life science, including the structure and function of cells, cellular reproduction, heredity, evolution and biodiversity


Description: This web simulation allows students to explore adaptive radiation of a fictitious group of birds called Pollenpeepers over a period of 5 million years.

Quirkies Evolution App

Description: This game teaches how evolution works: quirkies evolve through natural selection, reproduction, recombination and mutation of genes.

The Timeline of Ancient DNA

Description: How old is the oldest DNA ever sequenced? Find out in the Timeline of Ancient DNA. Zip through 32 fact-filled entries highlighting the exciting world of ancient DNA research. In the early 1980s, scientists began isolating ancient DNA from sources such as museum specimens, archaeological finds, fossil remains, fossilized feces, permafrost ice cores and other unusual sources of DNA. Not surprisingly, DNA from these specimens is of low quality, posing special technological challenges for ancient DNA analyses. Researchers in many fields are actively retrieving genetic information from ancient specimens, making ancient DNA research a fertile area of collaboration between research institutions and museums. Works on desktop computers, tablets and smartphones.

Variation, Selection, and Time

Description: A rich source of engaging videos, interactive tutorials, and articles on natural selection and genetic variation.

Labs & Experiments

Do You See What I See?

Description: A series of lesson plans and laboratory exercises exploring vision, color perception, color-blindness, diversity of vision across species, and how this diversity affects survival and reproduction. You may need to register to view the lesson plans, but the plans and registration is free.

Exploring Mutant Organisms

Description: An evolution and genetic diversity virtual laboratory experiment

NOVA Evolution Lab

Description: Here find virtual laboratory experiments for teens and adults on a variety of topics, including phylogenetics, the study of the evolutionary relationships among species. The labs engage students in solving a series of evolutionary puzzles.

Stickleback Evolution Virtual Lab

Description: A virtual lab teaching skills of data collection and analysis to study evolutionary processes

Teacher Resources

Applied Evolution: How Will We Get There from Here? (PDF 28.17 KB, Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Students perform a simulated natural selection activity with candy, prepare a mock HIV court case, imagine Earth in the future, track a Hantavirus outbreak, conduct “Marty the Mutating Marcescens” experiment, and brainstorm a potential detergent enzyme.

cK-12 Foundation - Teachers

Description: Ck-12 Foundation offers life-science simulations to immerse students in an interactive learning experience, practice problems, free full-text FlexBook Textbooks, tools for leading group discussions and more.

Classroom Activities: Gene Switches (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Teaching materials on evolution and genetic variation with a classroom activity to model a gene switch

Comparing Species through the Fossil Record (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: In this lesson, students begin to understand how physical features noted in the fossil record provide clues about the evolution of species.

DNA to Darwin (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Allows students aged 16-19 to explore the molecular evidence for evolution through practical bioinformatics activities that use data analysis tools and molecular data.

Do You See What I See? (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: A series of lesson plans and laboratory exercises exploring vision, color perception, color-blindness, diversity of vision across species, and how this diversity affects survival and reproduction. You may need to register to view the lesson plans, but the plans and registration is free.

Evolution - Variation + Selection and Time (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Lesson plans and quizzes on geologic time, misconceptions about natural selection and evolution, and sexual and asexual reproduction.

Evolution and Medicine (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Lesson plans on how evolution informs human health, biomedical problems, and disease treatment

Evolution in a Ring (PDF 28.17 KB, Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This lesson engages students in critical thinking about ring species and how the process of speciation occurs.

Evolution: Are There Really Missing Links? (PDF 13.91 KB, Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This lesson focuses on applying evidence for evolutionary transitions to the general theory of evolution. Students can investigate how Darwin’s finches would adapt to simulated island environments, create an exhibit of “missing links” art, market a virtual natural history museum and more.

Evolution: Is It Fact and/or Theory? (PDF 26.75 KB, Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This lesson examines patterns of change in nature, mechanisms of evolution, and factual evidence for evolution.

Exploring Learned and Innate Behavior (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This lesson explores the differences and similarities between innate and learned behavior and skills among humans and monkeys.

Extinction: Is It Inevitable? (PDF 28.17 KB, Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This lesson explores the cycle of extinction and biotic recovery, with special emphasis on the causes of extinction.

How Do New Species Form? (PDF 28.17 KB, Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This lesson explores speciation, stasis, and change with activities that focus on comparing gradualism to punctuated equilibrium.

Identifying Angiosperms (PDF 28.17 KB, Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: The lessons use photography and guided discussion to engage students in learning about classification, co-evolution, and the mystery of disappearing bees crucial to the pollination of flowers.

Mapping Change Over Time (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Collect information about the organisms alive at different times since the Earth formed. Discuss reasons for extinctions. Discuss advantages of change

mtDNA: So What Did You Inherit from Your Mom? (PDF 26.75 KB, Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This lesson examines the structure and function of mitochondria and its role in evolution

Poster: Fossil Evidence and Evolution

Description: A printable poster for your classroom. Students are challenged to place seven types of fossils into the proper geological era.

Roots: The Ancestry of Modern People (PDF 13.91 KB, Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This lesson examines the two main models of the origin of modern humans. Students can map the movements of early humans, consider what it takes to be a paleoanthropologist, write a news flash about Lucy’s discovery, chart a book plot about the adventures of an early hominid, and create a sketchbook of hominid fossils.

Teaching Materials: Understanding Evolution

Description: Resources for teaching evolutionary patterns, processes, and theory

The History of Evolutionary Theory (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This lesson provides high-school students with an introduction to a more detailed study of evolution by focusing on the historical origins of Darwin theory and the ideas that came before it.

The Teacher-Friendly Guide™ to Evolution Using Bivalves as a Model Organism

Description: A guide providing teachers with background information to support existing curricula and aid in teaching the concept of evolution.

Visualizing Gene-Expression Patterns

Description: A slide show with video clips illustrating how scientists detect when a gene is being expressed in tissues

What Makes Honey Bees Work Together? (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: A series of lesson plans exploring how genes and environment affect behavior, as well as introduces students to research tools used to investigate gene expression. You may need to register to view the lesson plans, but the plans and registration is free.


Genetic Switches

Description: A video explaining how genetic switches enable old genes to be used in new ways

The Making of the Fittest: Evolving Switches, Evolving Bodies

Description: A short film on how stickleback fish have adapted to new environments

The RNA Origin of Life

Description: Go on a tour of RNA's evolving role through billions of years of evolutionary history.