Considering adaptation and the ‘function’ of traits in the classroom, using wiki tools

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The conceptual understanding of the process of adaptation (whereby a population becomes better suited to its environment over evolutionary time) is acknowledged to be a difficult one. Many studies have shown that there is an inherent misunderstanding of the term, which is often related to the learner adopting the common rather than biological usage of the term in the learner’s language. However, understanding adaptation is essential to understanding evolution, and learners need to be encouraged to understand how to relate hypotheses of the ‘function’ of a trait shown by an individual with the environment in which the individual lives. Here, I describe a practical which encourages a class of learners to create their own organisms, through a series of steps by which they create functional explanations of morphology and behaviour. Using a branching process whereby groups of students are split into smaller and smaller subgroups, an artificial phylogeny is created. A wiki system is then used to emphasise how individual species and groups of species are related. The relationship of this practical to problems of tree-thinking is discussed.
Translated title of the contributionConsidering adaptation and the 'function' of traits in the classroom, using wiki tools
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)633 - 640
Number of pages8
JournalEvolution: Education and Outreach
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2010

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Springer
Rose publication type: Journal article

Additional information: This is a post-print version of the article

Sponsorship: "Innovations in teaching" grant from University of Bristol

Terms of use: This is a copy of the author’s accepted version of this manuscript, and the definitive published version in Evolution: Education and Outreach may have changed slightly in response to editing. This version is made available on the University of Bristol’s repository, complying with Springer’s policy on self-archiving (7th April 2008). The original article is available at


  • functional explanations
  • adaptation
  • tree-thinking
  • trait
  • speciation
  • web 2.0
  • wiki


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