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Evolution of the Sasquatch

In this activity students investigate how adaptations ensure that animals survive in their habitat.

What will happen when imaginary Sasquatch families need to leave the temperate rainforest of British Columbia and settle in other North American biomes?

Sasquatch (Sasquatch originalis) - a fictional mammal that lives in the mountains of BC Canada.

An adult Sasquatch is approximately 2 metres tall and has thick, brown fur and padded hands and feet with blunt claws. The Sasquatch is an omnivore, who prefers to eat small mammals, mushrooms and the needles of coniferous trees. The Sasquatch has no major predators, although on rare occasions one will be eaten by a desperately hungry bear. The Sasquatch must hunt quickly and carefully, because the animals they like to eat will run away quickly at any sight or sound of them.

The fictional Sasquatch lives in the mountains of BC in a temperate rainforest biome. 

A biome is a community of plants and animals that have common characteristics for the environment they exist in.

Biomes can be found over a range of continents and are distinct biological communities that have formed in response to a shared physical climate. The climate of a BC temperate rainforest biome is moderate. Here, fresh, flowing water is readily available year-round.

Scenario: A disaster has destroyed the area where all Sasquatches live.

In order to survive, the Sasquatches may begin to roam all over North America in search of food and shelter. As they travel farther away from their original home, the food, climate and surrounding life forms slowly change. For the area assigned to you, predict how the Sasquatches may change after 1,000 generations have been born in the new environment.

Sasquatch groups become separated by distance and members can only now mate with those in the same travelling group. As time passes, Sasquatch babies will be born and many sasquatches will also die. Some Sasquatches are not able to stay alive in climates that are much hotter, colder or drier than the temperate rainforest. Many have difficulty finding food and some may get eaten by predators. Future generations of Sasquatches will find themselves living in very different environments and only those who are well adapted to those environments will be able to survive and reproduce.

What evolutionary changes do you predict may happen to endure their survival in a new biomes?

Objectives

  • Describe the biotic and abiotic factors of several biomes.

  • Assess various survival pressures present in the biomes and speculate how a population might adapt over generations, in response to these particular pressures.

  • Describe examples of structural, physiological and behavioural adaptations.

  • Analyze similarities and differences in the new generations of Sasquatch descendants in order to create a cladogram representing possible relationships between the new species

Materials

Key Questions

  • How does the surrounding environment help to shape the life that lives there?
  • How can small changes in a population add up to big changes over time?

What To Do

Preparation

  1. Print out environment cards and cut paper, so that each card is on a separate piece of paper.
  2. Form four groups and hand out a different environmental condition card to each group. Teacher Tip: 4 groups per activity, plan accordingly for more than 1 activity to run in a larger class.

Activity

  1. In groups, learn about and describe your environment, by outlining important biotic and abiotic factors that your future Sasquatches will need to live with.
  2. Draw and describe your future Sasquatch. How does it compare to its ancestor from the temperate rainforest?
  3. Give your new species a name.
  4. Provide examples of structural, behavioural and physiological adaptations to the new environment.
  5. Be prepared to share your ideas and explain how these adaptations will help the animals to survive.

Optional: Cladogram creation extention

Extensions

  • List the shared and new traits displayed by the Sasquatch originalis and the 4 future populations of Sasquatches. Use these traits to make a cladogram.
  • If more than one group creates a cladogram, are they the same? If they are different, discuss various reasons why the cladograms are not the same.
  • What else would you want to know about the Sasquatch species to help you construct an accurate cladogram?
  • Which future Sasquatch species was most closely related to the Sasquatch originalis? Which one showed the greatest differences? Do these relationships match with the story of how the Sasquatch migrated?

Other Resources

Science World | Sasquatch Environment Cards and Migration Map

Tundra Adaptations | Conservation institute | UMass

Desert Adaptations | Desert USA 

Boreal Forest| borealforest.org

Tropical Rainforest | Tropical Rainforest Facts | Slater Musuem

Constructing a Caldogram

Khan Academy | Understanding and building a Phylogenetic Tree (Cladogram)

The Phylomon Project | Biodiversity Card Game