Shell Shocked

Students study the elaborately whorled, sculpted, and ornamented shells of gastropods not as objects of beauty, but as artifacts born of an evolutionary tradeoff: They are costly to build and carry around, yet essential for survival in a dangerous ocean. The high school version introduces the concept of an evolutionary arms race (coevolution) and reinforces the Darwinian principle of “form follows function.” The middle school version emphasizes the concepts of animal adaptation and predator avoidance. In both versions, there is a hands-on activity with shells, and written analysis interpreting the fossil record.

This lesson was created by Kevin Goff, Virginia Institute of Marine Science educator.

We provide both high school and middle school versions of this lesson. The instructor's guide applies to both versions.