Genetic drift simulation answer key

Genetic drift simulation answer key DEFAULT

Use this activity to teach and assess your students' understanding of genetic drift as a mechanism of evolution. In the simulation, students will randomly change (by rolling a die) allele frequencies (Driftbug colors) to show how change can occur in a population through the process of genetic drift. Assess their understanding of the process after completion of the activity through the use of the conclusion questions. Check out the preview for a complete view of the resource.

Keywords: science, biology, life science, evolution, genetic drift, natural selection, allele, allele frequency, fixed population, species, printable, graphic organizer, interactive notebook, notes, review, assessment, conclusion, activity, simulation, notebook, homework

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Evolutionary Biology at The Biology Project
The computer version of the simulation is designed to help students:
  1. understand that random events are a driving force of evolution
  2. visualize how genetic drift affects diversity in a population
  3. realize the unpredictable nature of evolution
30-45 minutes
Download and print the Answers Worksheet in PDF format. (If you prefer, have students write their answers on a separate piece of paper)
If possible, have students work in pairs or small groups around a computer. If using the Answers Worksheet, print and photocopy worksheets before class. Question 5 of the simulation asks students to compare their answers with classmates. This can be a good opportunity to "wrap-up" the activity and get students to talk about what they've learned.
Each group of students needs the Answers Worksheet or a blank piece of paper to write their answers on. Or, you may want to have students work together but turn in separate answer sheets for grading.
This simulation is designed to work on 3.x version browsers, but it will likely be a little faster on 4.x browsers. The simulation requires an active hookup to the Internet--it won't work if downloaded for use on a local server.

| Main Teacher's Page | Manual Version | Computer Simulation | Survey! |

[Genetic Drift][Evolution][Vocabulary][The Biology Project]

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Evolutionary Biology at The Biology Project

To begin with, let's examine a simple model of a population of fictional organisms called driftworms. In the following examples, the driftworms have only one gene, which controls skin color. Worms reproduce asexually and are connected to their parents by lines.

In the population of five worms below, each worm gives rise to exactly one worm in the next generation. There are five alleles (skin colors) at generation 0 and the same five alleles at generation 4.

Note that the model above starts with a diverse population (5 worms, 5 alleles). What would the model look like if there were no diversity to begin with?

With no diversity in generation 0 and no forces of evolution acting on the population, the model above begins and ends with all worms in the population having the same allele.

In the above examples, the populations of worms are not evolving--neither the genotypes nor phenotypes are changing. For evolution to occur, there must be mutation, selection, or random genetic drift. These are the three major forces of evolution. The cause changes in genotypes and phenotypes over time. They also determine the amount and kind of variation seen in a population at a given time. This simulation focuses on drift (mutation and selection are covered in later simulations).

When genetic drift is introduced into the model, the results are different:

Note that in generation 2, the pink worm produces 1 offspring, the 3 green worms produced none, and the dark blue worm produced 4.

In real life, some individuals have more offspring than others--purely by chance. The survival and reproductions of organisms is subject to unpredictable accidents. It doesn't matter how good your driftworm genes are if you get squished by a shoe before producing offspring.

  • An ant gets stepped on.
  • A rabbit gets swept up by a tornado.
  • An elephant drinks up a protozoa living in a puddle.
  • A plane crashes killing a Nobel Laureate.

None of the above events has anything to do with the dead organism's genotype or phenotype--these events occurred purely by chance.

In a population model with genetic drift, alleles will eventually become "fixed". When an allele is fixed, all members of the population have that allele. In the graphic below, note that the fixed after 4 generations.

<< DNA to phenotype | About the simulation >>

[Genetic Drift][Evolution][Vocabulary][The Biology Project]

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