Darwinian Snails

Lab: Darwinian Snails

An introductory lab that examines the assumptions behind natural selection using an engaging interactive simulation of green crabs preying on periwinkle snails. Students are able to "violate" each assumption in turn to explore whether evolution by natural selection still occurs. Exercises are targeted to address common misconceptions among biology students. Suitable for non-majors and introductory biology courses.
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Level: Intro
Key Concepts: Experimental Design; Genetic Variation; Heritability; Natural Selection
Courses: Evolution; Intro Bio: Eco/Evo/Genetics; Intro Bio: Non-majors; Marine Biology


"[I like] the way [the Snail lab] walks the students through the requirement for natural selection one by one, and shows what happens if each of the requirements isn't met. I also like that it has students working with real data."
Dr. Jennie Hoffman, Everett Community College
"[In the snail lab, I liked] the active student participation. Students were very involved and excited about 'being a crab' and actually eating the snails. Students reinforced their ability to graph data and made use of critical thinking skills; reinforcement of the fact that it is populations, not individuals, that evolve and the factors that effect evolution of populations; the knowledge that they could study an evolutionary process in real time. "
Dr. Laura Pannaman, New Jersey City University
"We completed running 20 Biology sections of Darwnian Snails last week. The laboratory sessions went very well. Most instructors opted to take students to our computer lab and offer help while the students worked at the computer. Some instructors gave students the option of completing the exercise at home. Very minimal problems were reported with the software. ...All in all I saw lots of smiling faculty and heard the comment more than once that this lab really drives home basic principles of evolution."
Dr. Joel Watkins, Schoolcraft College, Introductory Biology Course

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