Questions for Caught in the act


Before reading:

1. Can you list one or more traits you inherited from your parents?

2. Pick a plant or animal that lives near you. How has it adapted to life in its environment? What makes it well suited there? What might make it poorly suited to live someplace quite different?

During reading:

1. In what ways does a trait help an organism?

2. What do kudzu, lionfish and fire ants have in common?

3. List some ways people alter Earth.

4. What are cichlids?

5. How did the introduction of Nile perch change the cichlid population in Lake Victoria?

6. Did all cichlids adapt to the introduction of the perch? How did researchers answer that question?

7. What is the advantage to cichlids of having a big head? A smaller head?

8. Why do male crickets chirp?

9. Explain the difference between a parasite and a parasitoid.

10. What disadvantage did mute crickets face in finding partners?

11. How does carbon dioxide make the ocean more acidic?

12. What happened to the urchins in the experiment that were unsuited to their new environment?

After reading:

1. Would you expect a useful trait to become more or less common within a population as time passed? Explain your reasoning, using two traits in people, livestock or pets.

2. How does the genetic variation seen in young purple sea-urchin larvae give a population of the animals greater flexibility in responding to changes in the environment? In what ways does Melissa Pespeni’s research support your answer?


1. Should society respond to any future studies that show a particular species of plant or animal cannot adapt to climate change? What if the cost of responding would be expensive or difficult? Imagine, for instance, that all common and popular songbirds could no longer survive in your climate. Is there a limit to how much you’d be willing to sacrifice to make changes so that these animals could persist in your environment, or possibly return?

2. Imagine an important food crop could no longer be grown due to changes in the environment. Would you support genetically modifying the crop to help it adapt to the new environment? Would you support altering the environment to make it once again suitable for the crop? Explain and support your answers.