Table 6. Example modifications of the standard lab protocol to teach advanced evolutionary concepts.
Advanced ConceptModification of Standard Procedure
Genetic drift after bottleneckDuring the second generation of pancake production, a “surprise” power loss is applied to all but one burner. As a result, the only pancake produced and, thus, reproduced will be the one from the functional burner.
Neutral theoryNeutral theory of molecular evolution suggests that for some alleles there is no selective advantage in variants; this can be illustrated by shifting from one form of a food to another, very similar, one. For instance, the change from a Reese's Cup to a Reese's Egg or Tree in a blindfolded taste test shows no difference. Students are then challenged to think about this in the context of human traits with questions such as “Are there traits that vary from person to person or population to population that do not have any impact on fitness?” This is a springboard for considerations of how these traits might change over time without the constraints of fitness on frequencies.
Evidence for evolutionAfter several generations of creating and judging pancakes, students are asked to imagine that the pancakes they made are preserved in an anaerobic environment for millions of years. Students are then asked what could be analyzed to reconstruct the evolutionary history of the pancakes. Appearance of ingredients (phenotype of fossils), chemical analysis of the ingredients (genotype of fossils), and ingredient geographic distribution through geological time (biogeography) are examples of answers.
Clades and monophyletic groupsAfter two rounds of making and judging pancakes, introduce the concept of cladistics and guide the students in constructing clades based on similarities in ingredients.