Are you a fan of the 19th Century
scientist, Charles Darwin?
If so, this website is for you!
This website aims to draw together key publications, media and websites on Charles Darwin for the enthusiast.
1) Find out about Britain's amphibians at ARC. Look at the courtship behaviour of the smooth newt. Look at smooth newts laying individual eggs in a pond from a distance and close-up and then the growth of the egg into an eft (young newt). Discuss evolution of amphibians.
2) Take a look at images of the abdomens (tummys) of smooth newts. Each pattern ('photo') is unique to each individual newt. This fact enables scientists to follow the individual movements of newts in and out of ponds. Short drift net fences can be erected around a pond and buckets sunken into the ground on both sides of the fence. Newts fall into the buckets as they are trying to enter or leave the pond. When an individual is found it is noted and then transferred by hand to the other side of the fence to enable it to continue its journey. Ask your pupils to design a newt tummy pattern on paper. In medium sized groups, 'create' a pond by creating a circle of rope. At various points around the rope place bean bags or such-like to 'make' buckets. Some pupils can be the surveyor and some pupils can be the newts. The teacher calls out or blows a whistle each time there is a 'midnight movement'. The 'newts' can decide whether to stay in the pond or move to one of the buckets on each call/blow of the whistle. The 'surveyors' have to map the movements of the individuals (which are all of the same species). They can have a reference colour photocopy of all the 'newts being played'. The surveyors need to decide how best to record the information. See newt fencing and buckets being installed in real life.
3) Collect some bare soil from around a pond, from a woodland or from a grassland or garden. Place it in a small tray/petri dish and lightly water. Keep in a warm place in sunlight; water regularly as required. Look to see if any seedlings start to germinate. What number and how many different kinds of plants germinate? Count them and produce a graph of their emergence. Do you think that if seedlings are pricked out, other seeds have a better chance of germinating? Alteratively clear an area of turf in the school grounds and see what germinates (outdoor study).
SUMMARY OF LEARNING POINTS IN THE STORY
* Female and male forms often have different appearances; ths arrives through 'sexual selection'. Each can develop particular breeding characteristics in order to attract the opposite sex. In the case of the Smooth newt, a crest and brighter coloring during the breeding season.
* Some species produce an extremely large amount of offspring, such as the Common frog and its tadpoles (the female laying between 1000-2000 eggs).
* Seeds can survive for long periods in mud, providing a time capsure of information about the characterstics of a species. The 'soil seed bank' is the natural storage of dormant seeds within the soil of most habitats. The study of soil seed banks is said to have started with Charles Darwin.