Unit 43 Laboratory Activity: Changes in Population Characteristics
Goal: See how a population with individuals having different traits changes over time.
Equipment and Materials:
- Graph paper and pencil
- Website for The Game of Life. This website contains a Java Applet you can use to play the "Game of Life", which simulates population changes as the result of a set of simple rules.
In this simulation, each cell location is an individual organism. Its survivability is determined by the presence or absence of neighbors. A cell is alive if it is occupied by a color, and dead if it isn't.
- Bring up the Game of Life webpage.
- Leave the game alone for a minute and read the rules for the survival of a cell. These rules define "fitness" for survival.
- Scroll back up to the game. You should see 5 cells occupied by a "Glider" form on the main grid.
- Copy the Glider form onto a piece of graph paper and number the cells so that you can identify them. Predict which cells will survive, and where new cells may form.
- Let the game run for several generations. What happened to the original cells? Did any of them "survive"?
- Select a different shape from the left-most dropdown and repeat your observations.
- You can make new shapes by using CLEAR and then clicking and dragging on the grid.
- Can you create three different shapes which preserve the "life" of a given cell?
- Can you create a shape that increases the population of living cells?
What characteristics were necessary for the survival of a given cell? How did the survival of the individual influence the survival of the population of live cells? How could this kind of analysis be applied to the population of a given species in a particular area?
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