population variation at seven days

Inheritance and Genetics: Observing Variation and Measuring Selection in Fast Plants

Variation is a fundamental attribute of life; understanding its nature is important to all. Wisconsin Fast Plants are an ideal model for teaching this concept, with easily observable variation in many plant traits. This variation can be observed, described, and measured or quantified to gain greater understanding of plant traits. Development of selection experiments allows analysis of recorded data and measuring gain from selection, providing an excellent opportunity for modeling evolution through “artificial” selection.

How can Fast Plants be used to teach about variation and natural selection?

variation in hairiness

On the left is a hairless (glabrous) leaf, and on the right is a hairy (hirsute) leaf. Density of hairs (trichomes) is variable, likely controlled by multiple genes. Can you increase your plants “hairiness” through selection?

anthocyanin variation selection

Left to right: plant stems with increasing intensity of anthocyanin expression. Expression of anthocyanin (purple pigment) is variable, dependent on both environment and genetics! Can you increase your plants purple expression through selection?

What kit can I use for investigating variation and selection in the classroom?