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Classroom Resource

Natural Selection

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9, 10, 11, 12


In this PhET Activity, students will generate data from a population of rabbits in different environments. Students will introduce mutations and/or environmental factors that affect rabbits’ traits and adaptations. Students will analyze the generated charts and graphs to evaluate how different traits and adaptations caused the population to change over time due to natural selection. This activity can be used as an introduction to natural selection or as a virtual inquiry lab.

    Science (2015) Grade(s): 09-12 - Biology


    Analyze and interpret data to evaluate adaptations resulting from natural and artificial selection that may cause changes in populations over time (e.g., antibiotic-resistant bacteria, beak types, peppered moths, pest-resistant crops).

    Unpacked Content



    • Artificial selection
    • Natural selection
    • Evolution
    • Genetic variation
    • Geographic variation
    • Mutation
    • Evolutionary fitness
    • Phenotypes
    • Genotypes
    • Sexual reproduction
    • Adaptations
    • Artificial selection
    • Genetic isolation
    • Adaptive radiation


    Students know:
    • Organisms can produce enormous numbers of offspring.
    • These offspring must compete for limited resources.
    • These offspring also have genetic differences that are observed as phenotypic trait variations.
    • The offspring whose phenotypes provide the best chance to survive to adulthood and reproduce will pass on the highest frequency of their traits (and therefore genetic differences) to the next generation.
    • The process of directed breeding to produce offspring with desired traits is called selective breeding or artificial selection.


    Students are able to:
    • Analyze and interpret data to recognize a pattern in changes in populations over time.
    • Analyze different sources of evidence.
    • Interpret the validity of data.
    • Read and construct a graph.
    • Recognize examples of artificial selection.
    • Predict phenotypic adaptations as a result of changing environments.
    • Compare organisms derived from artificial selection with their wild ancestors, who were products of natural selection.


    Students understand that:
    • Natural selection leads to adaptation—to a population dominated by organisms that are anatomically, behaviorally, and physiologically well suited to survive and reproduce in a specific environment.
    • Survival and reproduction of organisms that have an advantageous heritable trait leads to an increase in the proportion of individuals in future generations that have the trait and to a decrease in the proportion of individuals that do not.
    • The distribution of traits in a population can change when conditions change.
    • Artificial selection allows humans to produce plants or animals with desired traits.

    Scientific and Engineering Practices

    Analyzing and Interpreting Data

    Crosscutting Concepts

    Cause and Effect
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