Sharing inspirations and experiences forum for principals, teachers, supervisors, lectures, communities, and students in developing a successful school


Learning About Adaptation and Natural Selection from Extinct Moth Species

By Tina Mardiana SPd, Teacher at SMPN 1 Bendahara, Aceh Tamiang

Learning About Adaptation and Natural Selection from Extinct Moth Species
Students make observations in the school yard.

ACEH TAMIANG, ACEH – Many students say how they love studying Biology because what they learn about is closely linked to everyday life. Biology that is factual and theoretical is not enough because it needs a deeper understanding, especially by teaching students to apply their knowledge of Biology in everyday life. Therefore, we used some moths called "peppered moths" (Biston betularia) as a simple medium to provide an understanding of Adaptation and Natural Selection.

The materials used for this were plywood, small nails, black cloth, scissors, colored paper (white, yellow, green, blue, red, black), small safety pins and masking tape. The plywood was cut into four 30 x 40 cm boards. Then these boards were covered with black cloth which represented the soot/black smoke due to air pollution. The paper was cut into the shapes of several moth wings of various colors. The safety pins were used as the moths' bodies and so were wrapped in the same color paper as the wings. Then the bodies of these moths were mounted on the clothcovered plywood boards.

The peppered moth (Biston betularia).

Then, the students were divided into five small groups (depending on the number of plywood boards). In each group, one student had the job of holding the boards with the peppered moths attached to them. The other students acted as predators by counting the number of moths they could see from increasing distances. These students playing the role of predators used an observation sheet.

The number of moths that were visible were those that would be devoured by the predators. The moths that were not seen were the moths that survived and would produce the next peppered moth generation.

The next process was to analyze the student observation sheets. The results showed that the moths that were brightly colored more often fell prey to the predators, while for the darker ones, it was less so. This happened because it was harder for the predators to see the dark moths because the environment was covered by pollution in the form of soot or smoke.

Moth color observation sheet.

In conclusion, the peppered moths that were brightly colored became extinct due to their inability to adapt to a changing environment which became darker and dirtier during the industrial revolution in England. Before the industrial revolution, many black peppered moths were eaten by predators. But after the industrial revolution took place and black smoke polluted the air, dark-colored peppered moths were more adaptive than the brightly colored ones. This occurred because of the process of adaptation and natural selection.

By using this learning media, students could understand the links between adaptation and natural selection. Students could apply this knowledge to life so that it is preserved and extinctions are avoided. "I came to understand why there are animals becoming extinct, while other animals survive and remain stable." said Winda, a Grade IX student.


comments powered by Disqus
This Web site was developed by Research Triangle Institute (RTI) International, Education Development Center (EDC), and World Education (WE) for the U.S. Agency for International Development, under cooperative agreement AID-497-C-12-00003. The information provided on this Website is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government. © 2012 RTI International, EDC, and WE. All rights, except those in favor of the United States Government, are reserved.