This awesome video is the brainchild of Tyler Rhodes, an animation student at Virginia Commonwealth University. With the help of some elementary school students, he simulated multiple generations of evolution in the cutest way imaginable, complete with this visual proof.
Rhodes's animation uses drawings — and, perhaps even more adorably, sound effects — provided by students at William Fox Elementary School and the Patrick Henry School of Science & Art. Scientific American explains how Rhodes provided the kids with a drawing of a simple salamander-like creature, then let the kids redraw the creature to simulate the random mutations of evolution. Rhodes compares it to a game of telephone, only using visual imagery instead of a phrase. To simulate natural selection, Rhodes subjected the kids' drawings to some pretty hardcore survival of the fittest:
Tyler would ‘kill off' 98% of the organisms and start the process again, this time working from the sketches that ‘survived'. In subsequent iterations he would throw out curveballs like desertification or a volcanic explosion (subsequent to the sketching), which would help the group decide which animals were best suited to survive. They would then take these environmental changes into account when sketching their next creatures.
After six generations, the kids' drawings had rapidly diverged into from the original salamander, simulating how such a creature might evolve to survive in its rapidly changing environment. This animation brings the kids' drawings to life, and Rhodes says he hopes it illustrates how evolution is far more tree-like than linear. Evolution is also apparently just ridiculously cute.
Via Scientific American.