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Lab Report: Darwin’s Finches

By: Zachary Ewoniuk


Introduction: Nature.com and Uppsala Universitet both have articles on Darwin’s Finches. They
expand on Darwin’s observations of the Finches in the Galapagos Islands and further breakdown
how the beaks of certain Finches living in different areas specialize in different ways of eating.
They explain how the larger beaked Finches eat off the ground more often, pick up, and break
seeds with their larger beaks. Other Finches with narrower beaks may use it to spear insects or to
eat the nectar off cactus flowers. The idea is that they specialize and adapt to their environment
and they all came from the same origin. How well each specialization does determines how
much the Finch reproduces with said specialization. That brings us to our class experiment of
seeing which “beaks” (common household objects) are best at picking up and “eating” seeds.

Hypothesis: If the beak is smaller, then it is harder to pick up seeds.

I think it will be harder to pick up more seeds because your fingers will tire out. The people with
the salad tongs will have their whole hand to use, making fatigue less likely to occur.

Materials and Methods:

We used Tweezers, Chip Clips, Salad Tongs, Cups, and a class of competitive students.

We used each household object like a beak. The idea is that you use the object to pick up one
seed at a time and put it in your stomach, the cup. The seeds are spread out along the table and
the students have one minute to consume as many seeds as possible. The two students with the
least amount of seeds at the end of one minute “fail to reproduce” and the two students with the
most amount of seeds successfully pass their trait on to the next generation. The two worse
students get to use the objects used by the best students. We then repeated this for 5 generations
and counted how many of each beak type was left.

Results:

Beaks Initial Gen 1 Gen 2 Gen 3 Gen 4 Gen 5


Tweezers 4 3 2 2 2 2
Chip Clips 4 3 3 4 4 5
Tongs 3 5 6 5 5 4
Total 11 11 11 11 11 11
7

4 Tweezers
Chip Clips
3
Tongs

0
Initial Gen 1 Gen 2 Gen 3 Gen 4 Gen 5

We initially started with four chip clips, four tweezers, and three tongs. After the initial round of
“eating”, we lost a tweezer and a chip clip and replaced them each with tongs. Then the
following round resulted in a loss of a tweezer and a tong, however the best two were both tongs,
so we only added one additional tong. Next round resulted in the loss of a tong and the gain of
chip clip. The round after that, gen 4, resulted in a net zero; the same two that were winners were
also the two losers. Gen 5 resulted in the addition of one chip clip and the loss of one tong. In
conclusion, Tweezers dropped down to two after two generations and then maintained the
population the rest of the time. Chip Clips and Tongs fought for dominance until the end when
Chip Clips were up by one.

Conclusion: My hypothesis, “If the beak is smaller, then it is harder to pick up seeds”, was
supported but not entirely. Yes, tweezers dropped right from the beginning and never made a
comeback, however, chip clips are smaller than tongs and they ended up with the largest
population at the end. My error in my hypothesis was not being more specific. Maybe I should
have gone with “Between the three beaks, tweezers will produce the least and tongs will produce
the most.” It is also possible that people refused to say if they were the losers and allowed other
beaks to fail during the experiment. Our sample size was small; it is entirely possible that a
different group of students and researchers would experience very different results.
Discussion: The scientific method is used to test ideas and evaluate them with data to determine
if the initial idea was valid or whatever can be determined from the experiment. Any field of
science uses the scientific method. Physics, Chemistry, Biology, etc. they all use the scientific
method. This activity was an experiment. We had a hypothesis, we tested the hypothesis, we
gathered data, we compared the data to our hypothesis, and then made a conclusion which would
prompt other hypothesis and more tests. People use the scientific method all the time in the real
world, cooking can be used as an example. You determine what you want to do; your hypothesis
is the meal will be delicious. You cook and do experiments with the food, you taste the food and
determine how good it tastes, then you take your findings and you tweak the ingredients or
cooking methods and then you try again to improve your meal.

Citations:

http://www.uu.se/en/media/news/article/?id=4166

http://www.nature.com/news/darwin-s-iconic-finches-join-genome-club-1.16896