Questions for ‘Plants, animals adapt to city living’


In its native environment, woodland surfaces are rough enough to give this lizard plenty of strong toe-holds.

Alan Schmeirer/Flickr (Public Domain)

To accompany feature “Plants, animals adapt to city living”


Before Reading:

1.   What do you understand evolution to mean?

2.   Over what timescale does evolution occur?                 

During Reading: 

1.   How does the story define evolution?

2.   How does the white clover deter predators?

3.   What chemical is part of that defense?

4.   Is the chemical toxic to the clover? If yes, how does the plant defend itself from the chemical?

5.   According to the story, why did Kenneth Thompson expect to find more “booby trapped” clover in downtown Toronto? Was that hypothesis correct?

6.   What did the role of climate (think cold and snow) play in whether a clover booby-trapped its leaves and stems?

7.   What were two visible differences about the legs of city and country Anolis cristatellus lizards in Puerto Rico?

8.   When those lizards were raised in the same environment, did those differences reverse?

9.   What are the two suspicions that Kristin Winchell has about the potential role of genes in explaining those differences?

After Reading: 

1.   Do some reading about how evolution sometimes leads to rapid adaptations of an organism to its environment. Possible sources of background readings: the story of the peppered moths, the story of dog domestication, and a piece on fish, crickets and sea urchins. Now find two species in your home range and describe what features make them comfortable around human habitation. Consider their sources of nutrients here (as opposed to in the wild), the degree to which they are more or less sheltered, or have more or fewer predators nearby.

2.   Think about how farming breeds species for better traits. Some tomatoes have been bred for better taste or stronger skins to survive handling in transportation. Some cows have been bred to produce more milk. Some grains have been bred to withstand fungal blights. Compare and contrast farm breeding of animals and plants with the natural evolution of new strains or species in the wild. How are they similar and how are they different?