examples of adaptation by natural selection

Examples of Natural Selection Instructions

In this week’s discussion forum, you will explore examples of adaptation by natural selection. You have been reading about Darwin (and Wallace), Mendel, the evolutionary synthesis, and the process of natural selection. There are many fascinating examples of natural selection, including those involving humans! You have already read about a few examples between the lessons and your text book, including the Galapagos Finches and Tortoises. Let’s explore some more.

Part I:

You will need to conduct some independent research and describe an example of adaptation by natural selection. You can use any example, including those from living species or fossil species. Your example can be from any animal, plant, or even bacteria. Several examples are listed below – use one of these or find another on your own. Just remember that an adaptation is something that results from natural selection because it increased an individual’s fitness (i.e. ability to survive and reproduce). Your example must be of an adaptation caused by natural selection (not something that is due to genetic drift or gene flow alone).

Here are 10 possible topics that you can investigate further, or you may find your own:

  1. Wing color in the peppered moth (If you pick this topic, you must use an outside source and expand beyond the description in Lesson 3)
  2. Lactase persistence in some human populations
  3. Mimicry in sea dragons
  4. Sickle-cell anemia in humans living in regions with endemic malaria
  5. Trichromatic color vision in some primates
  6. Human skin pigmentation and UV radiation, vitamin D synthesis, and folate
  7. Human high altitude adaptations
  8. Bacterial antibiotic resistance
  9. Body armor in marine versus fresh-water stickleback fish
  10. Mimicry in orchids

Some of these examples are explained in various chapters of your textbook (check the index) or are common enough to be found in most introductory biology textbooks, if you have one. Otherwise, you can find information on all of these on the internet using any search engine.

Part II:

Once you have decided on an example and conducted independent research to learn about it, write a discussion post explaining how your example demonstrates adaptation by natural selection. Describe the adaptation in detail by answering the following questions:

  • What is it?
  • Why is this trait considered to be adaptive?
  • How does it increase fitness of the individuals that have it?
  • What is the selective pressure that drove this adaptation?

Feel free to include pictures (remember to provide citations). You are encouraged to also discuss what you thought was interesting or surprising about your example, along with any remaining questions you might have. Please provide at least one citation beyond the course lessons.

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