One of the most difficult concepts to teach anyone is the relationship between evolution and adaptation. The majority of people I have worked with, both adults and children, are confused about this to some extent. Let’s first create a simple story to frame our discussion.

Once upon a time, in a forest with leaves and soil on the ground, there is a family of rabbits. Many animals live in this forest, including several predators for the rabbits. The mom and dad are both brown rabbits and most of their rabbit children are also brown. One of the children was born with all white fur due to a mutation in the gene for fur color. The mutation was a random mutation that occurred in the egg cell before conception even occurred. In their current environment, which of rabbits will be more likely to survive (brown or white)?

The brown rabbits are more likely to survive because they can blend in with their environment. If a predator walks by they will probably see the white rabbit before the brown ones. Unfortunately this means the white rabbit has a greater chance of dying early.

The question that stirs up confusion is: Can an organism change in response to their environment?rabbits

I would first answer this by saying that the cells of an organism can respond to changes in their environment. In fact, this flexibility allows organisms to live. Does this mean that the white rabbit will adapt to its environment and become brown? No.

Adaptation in relation to evolution refers to the population as a whole. If a member of the population has a trait that provides an advantage for survival, it is likely that the trait will be passed on to future generations. Eventually, the trait can be seen in greater numbers and even throughout the population.

Although an organism may produce different proteins under different conditions, the DNA of the individual organism will not change because there is a need for a different trait.