Monday, April 29

We Were There with Charles Darwin on H.M.S. Beagle

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At only 22 years old, Charles Darwin set sail on a five-year voyage around the world!  While not particularly fond of school, he loved being outdoors and collecting natural things (especially rocks and beetles).  On the voyage, his job was map the coast of South America and make scientific observations in the area.  He spent most of his time in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and the Gal├ípagos Islands.


While journeying through South America, he noticed interesting differences in bird beaks, and wondered how they had developed so differently.  He observed their habitats and actions, sketched the different species, and took thorough notes.  He also observed that the birds not only had different beaks, but behaved differently and even carried themselves differently.

Though he is most famous for his Theory of Natural Selection, Darwin did not actually develop and publish it for nearly thirty years after the voyage!  The theory says that organisms possess heritable traits that enable them to better adapt to their environment compared with other members of their species will be more likely to survive, reproduce, and pass more of their genes on to the next generation – in someone else’s words, “survival of the fittest.”

There is a difference between evolution and adaptation, though these two words are often confused.  Mutations in the DNA sequence that are carried on to the next generation are a form of evolution.  Adaptation, or natural selection, is a change that helps an organism to survive which is taught (or given through genes) to the next generation. 

Read
Make / Do
Watch
Define / Identify
  • Natural selection 
  • Overpopulation 
  • Camouflage 
  • Adaptation 
  • Mutation 
  • Biodiversity 
  • Species 
  • Variation 
  • Evolution
  • Vestigial
Think
  • Sketch out four different leaves.  Look for the similarities and differences in the leaves.  Why do you think they are different?
  • Examine the finches in Darwin's drawings below.  The beaks are different.  What do you think is the purpose for each of those differences?

Check out all of our We Were There unit studies!

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