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Evolution Simulation

by Phil Vavala


A quick demonstration (5-10 minutes) of evolution and mutations can be accomplished by providing a student with a drawing, line by line, and having that student reproduce it, passing it on to the next student. Students can use 3 x 5 index cards or similarly sized cardboard or paper. Students should be instructed to copy each line as accurately and carefully as possible.

The lines can represent genes or groups of genes that can then be copied, mutated, and transmitted.

I like to create four or five ancestral lines (each row in a classroom, for example), tape them all together sequentially, and show how combinations of mutations over many generations can provide significantly different descendants from an identical ancestor. Divergence is always evident, and convergence often occurs.

It is important that students not know what the drawing will be beforehand , so that the evolution might not be "directed" by some preconceived notion of what "should be."

My source is Biology Teacher's Guide , by John H. Rosengren, Parker Publishing Company, West Nyack, NY, 1968.

Below is the series of clues for a fish. Note that clues are given one at a time, and then passed on...

What follows, are two ancestral lines of fish that evolved from #6 below, the "ancestral species."

Here is the ancestral fish from above. By separating the students into separate rows, we pass the same clues on to the first student in each row. who then passes it on to the person behind him.

The ancestral fish diverges into two separate lines, A and B.

Most of the time you can see similarities between two adjacent generations in a line, but occasionally there are catastrophic changes, as can be seen in the omission of the eye between generations B2 and B3, caused by B2's "creator" surprise and consternation when he found out that he was drawing a fish...

It's important that the ancestor look relatively "normal" so that it doesn't inadvertently look like B6! You might want to draw out each of your clues on separate cards...


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