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Natural Selection

Natural Selection

Natural selection is a key mechanism of evolution, and over time changes the frequency of many traits within a population. It is the gradual, non-random, process by which biological traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential survival and reproduction of their bearers. In order for natural selection to operate on a trait, the trait must possess heritable variation and must confer an advantage in the competition for resources.

Materials for Natural Selection


Evolution in Action

Description: A game on natural selection and evolution

Natural Selection

Description: Explore natural selection by controlling the environment and causing mutations in bunnies.

Interactive Tutorials

Natural Selection

Description: Explore how changes in the environment affect both plants and animals in a simple ecosystem

Quirkies Evolution App

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

Variation, Selection, and Time

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

Labs & Experiments

A Model for Natural Selection – Spaghetti Worms

Description: Investigate natural selection using ‘worms’ made from cooked spaghetti of different colors, observe which ones birds prefer to eat and monitor how ‘populations’ change over time

A Simple Model for Natural Selection

Description: Pick grains of colored rice from colored vermiculite as a model for natural selection. Follow the change in the characteristics of a population over a number of generations

Brine Date

Description: An investigation of living brine shrimps to demonstrate sex selection

Finding Selection in All the Right Places

Description: An expert authored advanced classroom laboratory experiment using bioinformatic tools to compare DNA from closely related species

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.

Teacher Resources

Beanbag Population Genetics (PDF 46.88 KB, Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Classroom exercises demonstrating genetic drift and natural selection

Bird Beaks (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: In this lesson, students will explore the relationship between a birds beak and its ability to find food and survive in a given environment.

Classroom Activities - Natural Selection and Adaptation (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: A teachers guide, educational video, student quiz, and activity plans for teaching natural selection and adaptation

Classroom Activities: Battling Beetles (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: A series of activities teaching concepts of natural selection, genetic variation, and evolution

Color Variation Over Time in Rock Pocket Mouse Populations (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This activity provides an introduction to natural selection and the role of genetic variation by asking students to analyze illustrations of rock pocket mouse populations (dark/light fur) on different color substrates in the Sonoran Desert (light/dark) over time. Based on this evidence, and what they learn about variation and natural selection in the accompanying short film, students use this evidence to explain the change in the rock pocket mouse populations on the lava flow (dark substrate) over time.

Comparing Theories - Lamarck and Darwin (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This lesson provides an opportunity for students to compare the theories of two historically important evolutionary scientists: Jean Baptiste Lamarck and Charles Darwin.

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.

Feathers - The Evolution of a Natural Miracle (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This lesson will help students learn more about the predictive power of scientific theories and fossil evidence by studying the evolution of feathers.

Introduction to Natural Selection (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This lesson is an introduction to natural selection. Students read an article on the evolution of finch species in Hawaii, answer questions about their reading, then complete a worksheet, group activity, and short written summary.

Natural Selection (PDF 13.91 KB, Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: In this lesson plan students develop a conversation with Darwin, chart examples of natural selection in action, and speculate on the future of evolutionary history.

Nowhere to Hide (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Through the use of an interactive activity, this lesson focuses on the concept of natural selection.

Selection In Action - Peppered Moths (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Use web-sourced material, maps and population data to explore the industrial melanism of the Peppered Moth

Sooty Selection (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: A classroom activity adaptable for grades 3rd, 4th or 9th. Includes detailed teacher guide with common science standards, tips, quiz and PDF handout.

Sun, Natural Selection, and Skin Color (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: In this lesson, students explore how the intensity of the sun at different latitudes has contributed to variations in human skin color.

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.


Natural and Artificial Selection

Description: A short summary of core concepts of natural selection

The Making of the Fittest - Pocket Mouse Evolution

Description: A 15 minute video on the Pocket mouse and natural selection

Variation, Selection, and Time

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