What is evolution? How does natural selection affect the frequency of traits in a population?

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The purpose of this lab is to determine how the introduction of changes into butterfly habitat will affect the distribution traits in a population of butterflies.

Previously you observed the following:

  • Dragonflies prey on insects, but they only very rarely eat butterflies.
  • Goldfinches eat butterflies in large numbers.
  • Hawks prey on a small species of birds that are similar to the birds that eat butterflies.
  • The new plant species is similar to the plants that the butterflies eat, but their are no consumers that eat those plants in the meadow.
  • This viral strain kills a species of snail that lives in the butterfly habitat and eats the same plants as the butterflies.

Based on your previous observations, formulate a hypothesis on what the impact of one environmental factor would be. Why do you think this hypothesis might be correct? Keep in mind that any hypothesis that is testable is a good hypothesis. Even if your hypothesis is proven wrong, you will know more about butterfly populations than you did before! Write your hypothesis in your lab notes.

Choose another species or the viral strain, and write a second hypothesis about how this new introduction, made independently of the first one, would impact trait frequency.

Instructions, as well as more questions:

  1. Open the lab.  A new window should open up showing a meadow with butterflies flying around and a table at the bottom of the screen.
  2. Click to “open lab manual” on the right side of the screen.  If you don’t see the lab manual, there are five white icons on the bottom left of the screen.  Click on the center one to “see lab manual” and the manual should appear.
  3. In the manual, read the “Background.”  Then, click on “procedures” and read through those.  Complete the “experiment.”  You should have at least two snapshots of your butterfly log that you’ve taken (before and after you introduced a variable into the environment).
  4. Answer the questions.  The questions are:  What is evolution?  How does natural selection affect the frequency of traits in a population?  Copy/Paste (or screen shot) your butterfly log images from your portfolio.  You should have 2 images.  One from before you added your variable, and one from after.  In experiment 1 you recorded the frequency of certain butterfly traits over six generations in a stable habitat. Did you observe any fluctuations in the number of observed traits? If fluctuations occurred, did the frequency of each trait increase, decrease, or remain the same over the course of six generations? Were these results consistent with your expectations? Explain.

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