Science Explorations
Animals, Adaptation, and the Galápagos Islands
Level 3

Grade Level: 7–Up

Solve the Mystery

  1. Students will need to examine multiple pieces of information (tortoise shell, field notes, and a dusty crate) and then determine which facts are relevant and what the evidence means.
  2. In Solve the Mystery, students predict if the shell — or carapace — dates from Darwin’s time.
    (Teacher Solution: Yes, the shell does date back to Darwin’s era. This can be concluded because the stamp dates from Darwin’s lifetime. Additionally, the DNA test suggests the shell is from the Galápagos Islands and the saddleback shape of the shell supports that it’s not from the Indian Ocean, where giant tortoises are domed. The field notes hint that the shell originated on Abingdon Island.)
  3. Through further guided inquiry and observation they should find evidence to help them hypothesize that the shell was collected from Abington Island in the Galápagos.
  4. Along each step of the activity, encourage students to enter information into their Field Journal (PDF).
  1. Review the investigate questions with your class and have them use the photos and articles to learn how humans have affected this ecosystem.
  2. Students can record research notes in the Field Journal (PDF) and then illustrate the impact of new species and tourism on the Galápagos Islands with a Cause — Effect Model (PDF).

Lesson Extensions
For offline activities that encourage self-directed inquiry, check out Backyard Science.

Follow Up Thinking
Continue student discussion with these questions.

  • What other clues might scientists use to determine the origin of an artifact?
  • Why is it valuable for scientists to know where and when an artifact is from?
  • The power of DNA testing — and popular culture like the TV show CSI — have led the public (including juries) to expect definitive answers from any evidence. What are some of the pros and cons of introducing DNA testing as evidence?
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