Clippy Island: An Investigation into Natural Selection

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In this activity, leaners will observe the process of natural selection on a population of birds called 'Springbeaks' over four seasons of breeding on an isolated environment called 'Clippy Island.' Learners will simulate feeding in a timed exercise to illustrate how a limited food supply and the introduction of genetic variants can lead to natural selection and adaptation. Learners will examine whether or not beak size affects the ability of a Springbeak to gather food and how this variation can affect successive generations in the population. This activity is designed for large groups of 30 learners but can work for smaller groups of at least 16 learners.

Quick Guide

Materials List (per group of students)


Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Nature and Environment


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Animals
    • Ecology
      • Ecosystems
      • Populations
    • Evolution
      • Mechanisms of Evolution

To use this activity learners need to

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities

Components that are part of this resource

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of


Lauren Furness; Louise Sutherland; Hannah Chalk; Dr. Susan Bulleid; Dr. Amanda Bamford; Henry McGhie; The University of Manchester; The Manchester Museum


All Rights Reserved, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council,



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