Evolution and inheritance
Put your class' observation skills to the test with these three flying animals. This activity is great for promoting observation and discussion skills.
Run the activity
1. Show the three images above and ask everyone to come up with as many similarities and differences as they can. If they get stuck, prompt them to think about:
- what they do
- where they might be found
2. Then, everyone needs to decide which one is the odd one out and why. Encourage a reason for every answer and there is no wrong answer!
None of these animals (a bat, a pterodactyl and a dragonfly) are birds (they are a mammal, a reptile and an insect respectively), yet they all fly. They have all evolved to overcome the same obstacles that birds have to make flight possible. For example, they need to be relatively light and (in the case of vertebrates) have specially adapted skeletons. The bones of the extinct pterodactyl, for example, were hollow and the walls were no thicker than a playing card. They also need large thin wings which use air resistance to help counteract the effect of gravity.
When animals evolve in similar ways to solve the same problem, scientists call this ‘convergent evolution’.
Take it further
Try challenging your children to make a spinner or paper aeroplane that stays in the air for as long as possible. What features help to make their creation better at staying in the air? They may also enjoy the Mission Survive activity Seeds which explores how seeds are adapted for dispersal.