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Natural Selection and Adaptive Behavior in Goldfish

Troy Murphy
2004-2005 Fellow


Using inquiry skills, students will design hypotheses, experimental tests, and conduct behavioral observations to test if/how goldfish make adaptive decisions about forming schools.) Working in groups, students investigate adaptive schooling behavior of goldfish. One goldfish will be placed in the middle of a tank. In each side of the tank, a jar will hold one of five things, depending on which hypothesis the students choose to test: a small school of goldfish, a large school of goldfish, no fish, white paper, or orange paper. Students will then monitor how much time a goldfish that was placed in the middle of the tank spends near each of the jars. By doing this, the students will determine if goldfish prefer to associate with other fish, with larger schools, or with colored paper that resembles the color of the fish. The study of animal behavior provides a wonderful tool to teach about adaptation and natural selection, and this experiment teaches students how to design and implement an experiment.

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