Genetics, Natural Selection, Human Variation & Adaptation

PREPARE for viewing the film.  Read and submit quizzes for:

a. Chapter 5  Evolution & Genetics

b. Chapter 6 Human Variation & Adaptation

Part A. VOCABULARY  Define key vocabulary terms/ discuss with example or description, and page number.

1. Charles Darwin

2. Gregor Mendel

3. Trait

4. Phenotype

5. Genotype

6. Species

7. Population genetics

8. Genetic evolution

9. Natural selection

10. Pigmentation/ Melanin

11. Vitamin D deficiency

12. Folate Deficiency

13. Neural tube defects

14. Latitude

15. UV radiation

The Lesson on Biological Variation:  “Biology of Skin”

Anthropology works to understand human biological and cultural variation and adaptation.  The concept of “Natural Selection” as a major mechanism of biological variation is demonstrated in the case study presented in the film .  The case  of different skin pigmentation in populations across the planet is a powerful example of human variation and how that variation can be explained scientifically using biological science.   Many forms of biological variation in human populations represent adaptations to different geographies and ways of living (culture) after modern humans left Africa some 100,000 years ago.  In Chapter 6, in addition to discussion of race as a discredited concept in biology (pp.90 – 99), read about other examples of biological variation: body size and build, blood types, nose length, lactose tolerance, etc.  In this discussion, we focus on skin.


VIEW Film: “Biology of Skin Color”  (19 minutes) –

Take careful notes, identify key terms, use maps and other visuals to understand the biology of skin, the selective factors in each environment and the adaptation of a population to different conditions (in this case to the amount of UV radiation).    Work to understand human biological adaptation and the role of natural selection. Refer to the Table in the textbook (p.98).   Build your vocabulary by adding to your list of  words or key terms/concepts as appropriate.

Following the study of skin biology and biological adaptations of populations, you are asked to visit the website and read the statement of the American Anthropology Association, prepared to educate the public about the misguided construction of “race” as a discredited concept in biology.


Part B. Respond to Questions About the Film

  1. *What are the specific trait  variations and adaptations described in the case above.  *How are these trait variations explained? What variables are involved?  Be complete with least 3 key points.
  2. Describe scientific method (steps) used by the researcher (Jablonski) to develop explanation of the biology of variations in skin pigmentation in populations in different environments.
  3. Name 2 other human traits that vary between populations and can be explained as  biological “adaptations” of human populations and examples of natural selection? (Chapter 6) Anatomical characteristics/ blood types, etc.


Part C. Race, the American Anthropology Association, and the Legacy of Franz Boas (Links to an external site.)  (Links to an external site.)

1.  Go to the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Race Project website:  (Links to an external site.)  Explore the 3 major parts of the presentation: History, Human Variation, Lived Experience for “overview” of this project.

2. On the link “Human Variation”, carefully read through each of the 5 topics (1. “the human spectrum”; 2. “race and human variation”; 3. health connections; 4.  “our molecular selves”;and 5. “only skin deep”)

For each topic, summarize the content with vocabulary and major concepts, stating how this topic informs your understanding of the human biological variation and the anthropological critique of “biological race”.

This should be in 5 (numbered) separate paragraphs – can be in “bullet form”.

3. When you are ready, take the Human Variation Quiz (#6). (Links to an external site.)

Your score will be provided:  What was your Score?  If you did not get all correct, identify the question(s) you did not immediately answer correctly and if you understand why.

4. Print out and read carefully: the AAA Statement on RaceActions .

Identify 3 key points in this statement that reflect the current understanding and critique of “race” by the AAA.

(6 sentences.)

5.  Conclude: Is this discussion topic relevant for your personal perspective and experience?  What are 2 of the most surprising things  for you [interesting or new information] in your engagement with the materials and activities  learning about “human biological variation and the critique of biological race concept”.  Do you understand the statement that “race is a discredited concept in biology”.  [In sociology and cultural anthropology, race is researched as a social and cultural construct.]

If you would like to have more resources for study of race, the HCC library has access to the film, “Race the Power of an Illusion”.


Check to see if you have completed all parts of this discussion (do spelling and grammar check).

Then, post your discussion  by 11:59 p.m. Monday, 3/2.

Once you have posted your discussion, respond with helpful and informative comments and additions to two of your classmates posts. Consider this as a thoughtful “peer review”. [evaluating and sometimes learning from their statements.  Provide feedback about the accuracy and completeness of their discussion about “race, a discredited concept in biology” and the film, “Biology of Skin”.  The idea is to discuss content and information – less focus on grammar. Responses should be minimum of 4 – 5 sentences.

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