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Selection and Evolution - Woozle Exercise

readings - introduction - exercise instructions - homework - instructor hints


Richard Dawkins. 1986. The Blind Watchmaker. W.W. Norton, New York and Longman, London. Chapter 3.

Introduction for students

This exercise focuses on the relative roles of chance and selection in the evolutionary process. You should introduce yourself to the POPULUS program that we will use during various parts of the course to demonstrate some aspects of the evolutionary process. There is a short assignment using the POPULUS simulations that you should complete and turn in next week. The instructions below will lead you through accessing the program and completing your assignment.

Exercise Instructions

Read the Introduction!

From the Model menu go to Selection Models and select "Woozleology". This is the demonstration Richard Dawkins discusses in the first part of the reading. Be sure to read the introduction and make sure you know how the program works. For an explanation of the Woozle demonstration, go to the "Help" menu and find the folder for Selection Models  - open it and then open the Woozleology file and read the "Background" information and "Parameters" information.

We will examine how aspects of brood size, mutation rate, and recombination rate affect the time it takes to “select” the phrase “METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WOOZLE”.  Play around with the program examining the effects of changing brood size, mutation rate, and recombination rate.


During discussion you will be assigned one of the following parameters to examine:

Graph the mean number of generations it takes to “evolve” the phrase against the range of your parameter. Be prepared to discuss in class the how and why changing your parameter affects the time it takes to evolve the phrase.

Instructor Hints

** POPULUS versions can be downloaded from   http://www.cbs.umn.edu/populus/