Evolution Animations




Evolution: Animations (Howard Hughes Medical Institute)

From the 2005 Holiday Lectures — Evolution: Constant Change and Common Threads

Becoming Human

Becoming Human is an interactive documentary experience that tells the story of our origins. Journey through four million year of human evolution with your guide, Donald Johanson.

Evolutionary Time and General

Fossil Record of Stickleback Evolution

A quarry site in Nevada carries the evolutionary history of a population of stickleback fish that resided there when it was a freshwater lake. In a short time span in evolutionary terms—about 10,000 years—the fish population can be seen to dramatically reduce the size of their pelvic spines. This particular fossil record is remarkably complete with nearly year-by-year detail which includes documentation of intermediate forms.

Gene Switch

Regulatory "switches" are found upstream from a gene. Regulatory molecules bind to the switches and recruit RNA polymerase to bind to the gene's promoter region, increasing the transcription of the gene into messenger RNA.

Pitx1 Expression

In the stickleback fish, pelvic-fin reduction resulted from changes in the regulatory switch elements of the Pitx1 gene. In the marine ancestor, the Pitx1 gene is activated in the pelvic-fin region during development to generate the fin. In the pelvic-reduced stickleback, the regulatory switch that normally turns on the Pitx1 gene is either missing or non-functional.

Paintbrush Gene

In two related Drosophila species, a so-called paintbrush gene is activated to "paint" the pigment on the body. In one species, an extra switch activates the gene, resulting in spotted wings.

Pocket Mouse and Predation

The rock pocket mouse is found in two color variants, or morphs: light and dark. In different environments, their visibility to predators such as owls varies. The dark morph is more vulnerable on light sandy desert, and the light morph on dark lava rock.

Pocket Mouse Evolution

This simulation shows the spread of a favorable mutation through a population of pocket mice. Even a small selective advantage can lead to a rapid evolution of the population.

Regeneration: Evolution and Medicine

An overview and comparison of different regenerative capabilities in many different organisms. Also featured on the recently released HHMI DVD, Potent Biology: Stem Cells, Cloning, and Regeneration, available free from HHMI. Order DVDs here.

Stickleback CT Scan

This animation shows a rotating 3-D image of a stickleback skeleton. The pelvic region, including the pelvic spines, is highlighted in red. Armored plating covers the flanks of the fish. The three prominent dorsal spines give the fish its name.

Wing Morph

This "morph" animation demonstrates how the expression of a particular toolkit gene in a butterfly larva corresponds to the location of the wing eyespots in an adult butterfly.

Human Evolution

Slide through time to see human ancestors and how they may be related. When did humans evolve? Who are our ancestors? Why did we evolve? This activity shows the major hominid (human or human-like) species discovered to date, when they lived, and how they might be related to each other.

Evolution and Phylogenetics Animations

Cladogram: An example of a cladogram, which depicts the relatedness of taxonomic groups; uses the Order Cetacea, whales, as an example. New Theoretical Approach in Whale Phylogeny: A phylogeny depicting the new picture of whale ancestry. Genetic Data: Demonstrates how scientists use genetic data to build a phylogeny and determine relatedness between a group of organisms. Tree of Life -- Lateral Gene Transfer Diagram: Revised "tree of life" with all groups divided into their domains. Includes information about lateral gene transfer and the endosymbiosis of bacteria that became mitochondria and chloroplasts.

Human Evolution

Hominoid Family Tree: Family tree of hominoids, including the apes and man.

Human Fossil Bush: The èHominid Family Bushî made up of modern humans, their ancestors, and their now-extinct relatives. Human Migration Hypotheses: Most scientists agree that an early hominid species evolved in Africa and spread across the Old World. After that, there is still some debate between the èMultiregionalî hypothesis and the èOut of Africa,î or èReplacementî hypothesis as to how modern humans came to evolve and populate the globe. Mitochondrial DNA: A 3-D animation of the way that a zygote receives nuclear, or genomic, DNA from both parents (sperm and egg cells) but inherits mitochondrial DNA only from the mother. Mitochondrial Eve: This shows how one female ancestor passed on her mitochondrial DNA to everyone living today. This woman, called "Mitochondrial Eve," probably lived only 200,000Œ300,000 years ago. Regulatory Hypothesis: This animation illustrates the experiments that Ajit Varki, Wolf Enard, and Svente Paabo carried out to compare the gene expression between chimpanzees, humans, and an outgroup, the Rhesus monkey. While gene expression was similar between humans and chimps in the liver and blood, they showed very different patterns of gene expression in the brain.

The Evolution of Organelles

Invasive Species as an Evolutionary Force




Timeline of Discovery




Evolution Lab

  • Evolution Lab: Do-it-yourself evolution! Use this humorous but powerful simulation tool to test the effects of selection, mutation and chance on the evolution of a trait. (Biology in Motion)