Begin by observing specimens in their enclosures. Do they all appear identical? How do their physical traits differ? Do you see any behavioral differences among them? Do you think these traits are inherited (genetic), caused by their environment, or influenced by both genetics and the environment?
Choose three or more anatomical traits that may be genetically inherited, and quantify (measure) the trait among your specimens, or design a behavioral experiment to assess variation. If you were studying snails, for example, some possible traits to explore might include length of foot, length of antennae when extended, color and pattern of shell, food preference, attraction or repulsion to water or light, and speed of movement, among many other possibilities. For example, the length of the entire salamander is being measured in the photo below.
Of the heritable traits you’ve studied, are any variants more prevalent in the population? Can you think of how some trait variants could be advantageous to the individual in its environment? Are there any traits you’ve observed that could be a disadvantage to the animals?
Conduct measurements and experiments on at least five specimens of the same organism. Record your observations and experimental results, and share with other groups.