The microevolution lab provides a rare opportunity for students to address evolution and natural selection with a hands-on experiment that can be completed in less than two weeks. The experiment utilizes Pseudomonas fluorescens, a common, nonpathogenic saprophyte that colonizes soil, water and plant surface environments and Tetrahymena thermophila to demonstrate diversifying selection in response to predator: prey interaction. The basic lab can be expanded to compare resource competition and predation as driving forces behind adaptive radiation. Students observe predator-driven real time evolution in a micro-environment in about a week. In the presence of a Tetrahymena predator, clear phenotypic changes in bacterial growth pattern and niche formation are observed in liquid culture, and related changes in bacterial colony formation on agar plates are easily distinguished. Colony formation is dependent on what niche bacteria occupy in the liquid culture, e.g. surface biofilm compared to bottom dwellers.


Module Protocols

High School

Glossary of Terms

Relevant Concepts

Mechanisms of Evolution; Population dynamics; Diversity of Organisms; Mutation; Prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells; Interdependence in Nature; Continuity and Change.

Next Generation Science Standards Relationships

High School:  |

Middle School: |  

NYS Science Curriculum Guideline Relationships

Key Ideas | | | | | |


Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence that feedback mechanisms maintain homeostasis.
Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem.
Make and defend a claim based on evidence that inheritable genetic variations may result from: (1) new genetic combinations through meiosis, (2) viable errors occurring during replication, and/or (3) mutations caused by environmental factors.
Communicate scientific information that common ancestry and biological evolution are supported by multiple lines of empirical evidence.
Construct an explanation based on evidence that the process of evolution primarily results from four factors: (1) the potential for a species to increase in number, (2) the heritable genetic variation of individuals in a species due to mutation and sexual reproduction, (3) competition for limited resources, and (4) the proliferation of those organisms that are better able to survive and reproduce in the environment.
Apply concepts of statistics and probability to support explanations that organisms with an advantageous heritable trait tend to increase in proportion to organisms lacking this trait.
Construct an explanation based on evidence for how natural selection leads to adaptation of populations.
Evaluate the evidence supporting claims that changes in environmental conditions may result in: (1) increases in the number of individuals of some species, (2) the emergence of new species over time, and (3) the extinction of other species.
Conduct an investigation to provide evidence that living things are made of cells, either one cell or many different numbers and types of cells.
Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how environmental and genetic factors influence the growth of organisms.
Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Develop and use a model to describe why structural changes to genes (mutations) located on chromosomes may affect proteins and may result in harmful, beneficial, or neutral effects to the structure and function of the organism.
Construct an explanation based on evidence that describes how genetic variations of traits in a population increase some individuals’ probability of surviving and reproducing in a specific environment.
The central purpose of scientific inquiry is to develop explanations of natural phenomena in a continuing and creative process.
Beyond the use of reasoning and consensus, scientific inquiry involves the testing of proposed explanations.
The observations made while testing proposed explanations, when analyzed using conventional and invented methods, provide new insights into natural phenomena.
Living things are both similar to and different from each other and from nonliving things.
Organisms inherit genetic information in a variety of ways that result in continuity of structure and function between parents and offspring.
Individual organisms and species change over time.
Plants and animals depend on each other and their physical environment.