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Charles Darwin and Evolution

In this worksheet, students will be challenged to extend and expand their understanding of evolution, the ideas behind the theory and current debates within the scientific community.

'Charles Darwin and Evolution' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 2

Curriculum topic:   Evolution and Inheritance

Curriculum subtopic:   Changes Over time: Fossils

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

Evolution is one of those areas in science which is exciting a lot of debate, especially at the moment. You see, some things in science have been tested and proved, again and again. For example, we can show what proportion of the air is oxygen or CO2 and there's not really any room for much dispute. With other areas of science, the work is carrying on around a theory - the force of gravity is a theory (which attempts to explain why there is a force of attraction between objects), but it has lots of evidence to support it; we're still finding out loads about gravity, though. Evolution is another - when Charles Darwin first published his theory in the mid-1800s it created a storm of controversy, especially from the established church which upheld the Biblical account of worldly creation.

 

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

 

Today, the idea of evolution, of gradual change in environment and organisms, is more firmly held and understood. However, as we dig deeper into our world and the universe, finding out more and more about its laws and forces, there are louder voices challenging the theory of evolution and those ideas, themselves, have been evolving!

 

So, use this activity to explore a little more deeply into the ideas behind evolution, how they came about and why they are being challenged.

Just to show that life-learning covers a broad area, and science is no different, the first question is historical!

 

Charles Darwin worked on his theories and evidence for them for many years before his book 'On the Origin of Species' was published in 1859.

 

Which monarch was on the English throne at that point?

King Charles I

Queen Victoria

King George VI

Queen Elizabeth II

The full title of Darwin's book is 'On the Origin of Species, by means of Natural Selection'.

 

Which one of the following would you choose as an example of natural selection in action?

Giraffes with longer necks passing on the ability to reach higher leaves

Hummingbirds going into a 'hibernation'-type state to survive cold nights

Darwin's frogs growing their tadpoles in the throats of the male frogs

Evolution is still, scientifically-speaking, a theory.

 

Which of the following definitions do you believe most closely relates to 'a theory'?

An idea which seems to explain some observations

A prediction of what is likely to happen in a given set of circumstances

An explanation of the data that's been observed that fits the evidence

A proven scientific fact that has been tested in a variety of ways with identical results

Imagine you are having a discussion with your friend Joss.

 

Joss says, "Arctic foxes change the colour of their fur to white in the winter so that they match the snowy ground - that's evolution."

 

Arctic fox

 

You disagree with Joss and say...

An idea which seems to explain some observations

A prediction of what is likely to happen in a given set of circumstances

An explanation of the data that's been observed that fits the evidence

A proven scientific fact that has been tested in a variety of ways with identical results

However, Joss goes on to say, "yes, but as organisms change to suit their environment, that's the core of evolutionary process".

 

You discuss further examples of this with Joss.

 

Match up the organism with the way it's designed to suit its environment (think carefully about the order as some might fit two or more organisms).

Column A

Column B

Polar Bear
Forward-facing eyes
Camel
Eyes on the top of its head
Stick Insect
White fur
Barn Owl
Broad feet
Cacti
Outside coated in spines
Crocodile
Thin body

As the discussion about evolution continues, you agree with Joss that these changes may have an effect on the process.

 

However, you have one important suggestion to make. Fill the missing word.

Column A

Column B

Polar Bear
Forward-facing eyes
Camel
Eyes on the top of its head
Stick Insect
White fur
Barn Owl
Broad feet
Cacti
Outside coated in spines
Crocodile
Thin body

To back up your argument, you and Joss look up examples of what are known as "living fossils". These are animals that are alive today but look pretty much like their fossil ancestors from several million years back (these pictures are there to help you visualise the organism - they're not all living fossils).

 

Crocodile Trilobite Ammonite Velociraptor Horseshoe Crab Cycad Mammoth
CROCODILE TRILOBITE AMMONITE VELOCIRAPTOR HORSESHOE CRAB CYCAD MAMMOTH

 

Can you pick out the three living fossils from this list?

Crocodile

Ammonite

Trilobite

Horseshoe crab

Cycad

Velociraptor

Mammoth

What is the name given to characteristics that are passed on from one generation to another and that may contribute to evolution?

 

Write your answer in the box.

One of the controversial areas around evolution at the moment is the search for 'in-between' versions of an organism. As organisms evolve, we should be able to find fossil remains of lots of versions as they slowly change. Darwin was unable to find examples of this sort of transition and, 150 years on, such examples are still almost unknown.

 

Complete the sentence below.

Which of the following world events do you think are likely to be factors which could be driving forces behind the possible evolution of living organisms?

 

Tick those which you agree with.

Climate change

Volcanic eruptions

Hurricanes

Movement of continents (continental drift)

Asteroid strike on Earth

Eclipse of the Sun

  • Question 1

Just to show that life-learning covers a broad area, and science is no different, the first question is historical!

 

Charles Darwin worked on his theories and evidence for them for many years before his book 'On the Origin of Species' was published in 1859.

 

Which monarch was on the English throne at that point?

CORRECT ANSWER
Queen Victoria
EDDIE SAYS
Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901 and she was on the throne during an extraordinary time of change in technology and the expansion of our understanding about science. Queen Elizabeth II is still on the throne today.
  • Question 2

The full title of Darwin's book is 'On the Origin of Species, by means of Natural Selection'.

 

Which one of the following would you choose as an example of natural selection in action?

CORRECT ANSWER
Giraffes with longer necks passing on the ability to reach higher leaves
EDDIE SAYS
What an extraordinary choice of answers! They are all part of our amazing natural world, but only the ability to pass on positive characteristics is to do with natural selection. In a drying world, giraffes with longer necks would be able to graze higher up, survive, and pass on that advantage to their young. That's natural selection in action. By the way, Darwin's frogs do exist - check them out online!
  • Question 3

Evolution is still, scientifically-speaking, a theory.

 

Which of the following definitions do you believe most closely relates to 'a theory'?

CORRECT ANSWER
An explanation of the data that's been observed that fits the evidence
EDDIE SAYS
Wow, that's tough! If you're not sure what to go for (with any multiple-choice question) knock off one or two you're pretty sure aren't right. A theory is more than an idea and not as strong as proven fact, so 1 and 4 must be wrong. Then, a prediction - that's not a theory; it's your idea of what's likely to happen when you test your theory. So there we have it: it's an explanation of observed data that fits what you've observed. Voila!
  • Question 4

Imagine you are having a discussion with your friend Joss.

 

Joss says, "Arctic foxes change the colour of their fur to white in the winter so that they match the snowy ground - that's evolution."

 

Arctic fox

 

You disagree with Joss and say...

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
When an animal changes its colour to match its environment, or camouflage itself, that's a good example of that animal adapting itself to suit its environment. Adaptation may be a part of the evolutionary process but isn't evolution in itself.
  • Question 5

However, Joss goes on to say, "yes, but as organisms change to suit their environment, that's the core of evolutionary process".

 

You discuss further examples of this with Joss.

 

Match up the organism with the way it's designed to suit its environment (think carefully about the order as some might fit two or more organisms).

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Polar Bear
White fur
Camel
Broad feet
Stick Insect
Thin body
Barn Owl
Forward-facing eyes
Cacti
Outside coated in spines
Crocodile
Eyes on the top of its head
EDDIE SAYS
These adaptations may be part of the evolutionary process. Some seem fairly obvious but, for example, you could choose 'broad feet' for several organisms, so do the specific ones first, 'white fur' must be a polar bear, 'outside covered in spines' must be cacti - that sort of thing. A camel's broad feet stop it sinking into the sand and a barn owl's forward-facing eyes are vital for pin-pointing prey.
  • Question 6

As the discussion about evolution continues, you agree with Joss that these changes may have an effect on the process.

 

However, you have one important suggestion to make. Fill the missing word.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Scientists studying evolution disagree as to whether evolution is always a slow and steady process or whether some changes happen quickly. Ultimately, the timescale it occurs over is a long one.
  • Question 7

To back up your argument, you and Joss look up examples of what are known as "living fossils". These are animals that are alive today but look pretty much like their fossil ancestors from several million years back (these pictures are there to help you visualise the organism - they're not all living fossils).

 

Crocodile Trilobite Ammonite Velociraptor Horseshoe Crab Cycad Mammoth
CROCODILE TRILOBITE AMMONITE VELOCIRAPTOR HORSESHOE CRAB CYCAD MAMMOTH

 

Can you pick out the three living fossils from this list?

CORRECT ANSWER
Crocodile
Horseshoe crab
Cycad
EDDIE SAYS
How many of these organisms do you know about? Well, fossil crocodiles look very similar to the crocs alive today. That's the same with horseshoe crabs and you can go into somewhere like Kew Gardens to see cycads - plants that formed forests around the dinosaurs! The others are all extinct.
  • Question 8

What is the name given to characteristics that are passed on from one generation to another and that may contribute to evolution?

 

Write your answer in the box.

CORRECT ANSWER
inheritance
inherited
EDDIE SAYS
So, take the giraffes - those with slightly longer necks can reach higher leaves, survive better and then their young have a greater chance of inheriting that same beneficial characteristic. Similarly, bacteria that develops a resistance to penicillin are no longer killed by the antibiotic and so the next generation of bacteria may inherit that resistance to penicillin.
  • Question 9

One of the controversial areas around evolution at the moment is the search for 'in-between' versions of an organism. As organisms evolve, we should be able to find fossil remains of lots of versions as they slowly change. Darwin was unable to find examples of this sort of transition and, 150 years on, such examples are still almost unknown.

 

Complete the sentence below.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Scientific theories, however well-established, are always going to be tested and finding masses of evidence to confirm the theory is what is needed. Once there is sufficient evidence, the theory becomes accepted and proven fact.
  • Question 10

Which of the following world events do you think are likely to be factors which could be driving forces behind the possible evolution of living organisms?

 

Tick those which you agree with.

CORRECT ANSWER
Climate change
Movement of continents (continental drift)
Asteroid strike on Earth
EDDIE SAYS
If you've understood the fact that evolution is a process that happens over enormous periods of time, you'll appreciate that relatively 'fast' events, like eclipses, hurricanes and eruptions are too quick to effect a change in an organism's design. Climate change has happened before, in Earth's history and, indeed, an asteroid strike (such as the one that we believed wiped out the dinosaurs) can cause massive climatic change - this sort of thing can force organisms to move, change or die.
---- OR ----

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