Where did altruism come from? In-Class Discussion for Dec. 6th

header-logo-2So far as we’ve seen, selection favors traits beneficial to the individual. In that case, how did altruism evolve? The concept of group selection offers a compelling perspective…

Once again, we’re going beyond what’s in our textbooks to look at some related topics that connect with more recent developments in Biology. Today, we’ll consider portions of a Science Friday interview with EO Wilson and TED Talk by Jonathan Haidt below should provide a nice introduction to the concept of group selection, another means by which species can change over time.

Also included here are excerpts from The Social Conquest of Earth in case you’d like to get more familiarized with group selection.

Naturalist Perspectives Challenge: Wrap-Up

To finish off the Naturalist Perspectives portion of our course, see if you can discuss at least 5 of the topics we’ve covered this semester in terms of what you’ve encountered during the time you’ve spent outdoors. For example, how can you explain an aspect of cell biology to someone by talking about an organism in Site Alpha or elsewhere?

Feel free to draw upon the assignments and challenges you’ve worked through to complete this challenge.

If you’d like to work on this challenge as one of your four required for the Naturalist Perspective part of the course, you may submit the blog post for it by the end of the day on Dec. 6th.

Naturalist Perspectives Challenge: Evolution in the Landscape

12862_2013_article_2375_fig2_htmlFor this challenge, you can utilize observations you’ve made in the past or go outdoors again. If you’d like to work on this challenge as one of your four required for the Naturalist Perspective part of the course, you may submit the blog post for it by the end of the day on Dec. 6th.

  1. Pick an organism that you’ve seen at Site Alpha, Beta or Gamma.
  2. Perform some informational research to see if you can find out the evolutionary history of this organism. Try to answer these questions in the course of your research:
    • How old is this species or its family, evolutionarily speaking? Apidae family of bees, for example, arose about 87 million years ago, while it’s thought that the honey bee we know today came into being around 2-3 million years ago; contrast that with the Deep Look video below, which tells us that sea otters as a species are only about 1.6 million years old.
    • What species are this organism most closely related to? What characteristics do these species have in common?
    • What kind of common ancestor gave rise to all these species? This might be a challenging question to answer.
    • When did that common ancestor arise? The common ancestor of all bees, for example, appeared 135 million years ago.
  3. Write a blog post summarizing what you’ve been able to find out.

Class Prep on Dec. 6th: Evolution

colors-2-_custom-afc93498ec5df91f516ee25aa3141c750524cd16-s700-c85For class on Dec. , please do the following:

  • Read Biology 20.1, 20.3, 20.4 (20.2 optional) or EO Wilson’s Life on Earth chapter 3
  • Listen to this news story about color and be prepared to answer these questions in class: (a) what selective pressure(s) are mentioned in the news story? (b) what is the result of the pressures?
  • Also, to get some perspective on (cosmic) evolution through a short oral history of the universe, listen to the “What Are The Origins Of The Universe?” TED Radio Hour segment. The rest of the episode has some fantastic perspectives on biological evolution as well.

If you’re curious about how some butterfly wings take on vivid colors, give this Deep Look video a watch.

In Class Nov. 29th: Genetic Engineering and Gene Therapy

NPR logoAs we listen to these two news stories, keep track of any questions you have as well as connections to material we’ve covered. We’ll discuss your thoughts on these two news stories together.

Naturalist Perspectives Challenge: How Much Has Changed?

img_5194Now that it’s been a good while since you first visited sites Alpha, Beta and Gamma, this is a good time to see how much they’ve changed as we head toward winter.

  1. Visit sites Alpha, Beta and Gamma and take some time to observe.
  2. Conduct an observation transect at each site, noting anything new or different along the transect.
  3. Record all your observations in your notebook, as always including with Date & Time, Location and Weather Conditions.
  4. At home, compare the transects you’ve just performed to the transects you’ve performed at sites Alpha, Beta and Gamma in the past. What similarities and differences can you find among your observations across places and times?
  5. Determine a way you can effectively summarize these similarities and differences. Can you set up a table or timeline or some other kind of chart to consider how these locations have changed or remained constant over time and how they compare to each other?
  6. Write a blog post that shares what you’ve found in step 5.