Activities

Evolution of a Virus

Name: _________________________________       Date: _____________

All species on the planet evolve, even microbes like bacteria. To keep a step ahead of bacterial evolution, new antibiotics are developed all the time. What about viruses? Although some scientists don't even consider them living organisms, viruses evolve as well. In 1918 and 1919 The deadly Spanish Flu epidemic in 1918 and 1919 was the result of a bird virus that mutated to a more dangerous form. In this activity, you'll explore how mutations turn the wheels of evolution.

  1. Go to Evolution and avian flu. Read the first paragraph. How is the bird flu virus spread?
  2. What did biologists worry might happen to the bird flu virus?
  3. Take a look at natural selection. Use the beetle example to illustrate the four steps:
    1. Variation in traits
    2. Differential reproduction
    3. Heredity
    4. End results
  4. Return to Evolution and avian flu. Scroll to Where's the Evolution? What "ingredients" need to be in place for natural selection to occur?
  5. Why doesn't the H5N1 virus strain pass easily from birds to humans?
  6. Explain why viruses evolve so rapidly.