Natural Selection
Tim Griffin

I’ve got a song to sing you and I’ll try to make it rhyme,
‘Bout a theory that explains why life’s evolving all the time
We wondered how the creatures got their feathers, feet, and fins
‘Til Charlie Darwin figured out the species’ origins.
Now everybody knows that every creature that’s alive
Has one paramount priority and that is to survive
A cheetah that cannot run fast will never catch his lunch
While the faster cheetah gets gazelles and eats them by the bunch.

(chorus) It’s natural selection and it isn’t very nice
A species that cannot adapt is gonna pay the price
Survival of the fittest means you’ve got to be the best
‘Cause nature will get rid of all the rest!

A monk* named Gregor Mendel showed that every living thing
Tends to pass its good traits and its bad along to its offspring
So the faster cheetah’s babies will be quick just like their Dad
While the slower cheetah starves to death, although it’s very sad.
Now the cheetah who can catch gazelles is gonna eat so well
That he’s gonna make a lot of baby cheetahs like himself
This means you’ll get a lot of baby cheetahs that are fast
While the slow ones, as I said before, are never gonna last.

(chorus) It’s natural selection and it’s not a pretty tale
Just look at all the fossils of the animals that failed
Survival of the fittest means you’ve got to be the best
‘Cause nature will get rid of all the rest!

So each new generation runs with greater speed and power
And by now the cheetahs chase gazelles at eighty miles an hour
But they never chase the fast gazelles; they’re lazy just like you
So the cheetahs eat the slow ones and gazelles get faster too!

(chorus) It’s natural selection and it isn’t blasphemy
It just means that creation is a process you can see
Survival of the fittest means you’ve got to be the best
‘Cause nature will get rid of all the rest… and all of this is gonna be on the test!


This song introduces a key component of evolution, but two corrections are required:
-First, for accuracy it should be noted that Gregor Mendel was a monk, not a priest. My thanks to the polymath Bob Kanefsky for the correction, and I now try to make a point of checking my lyrics with experts *before* recording a song for an album!
-More importantly, in this song I helped to perpetuate a common misconception about the role of the organism versus the role of genes in natural selection. To be clear, in order to "win" the game of natural selection an organism does not need to survive indefinitely; it just needs to reproduce its genes (i.e. make viable babies or at least help its close relatives make babies) as much as possible before dying. Darwin didn't know about genes, but we now understand that in the gene-centered (or, as Richard Dawkins would have it, the Selfish Gene) paradigm it is the ability of genes to make copies of themselves that causes particular traits of organisms to increase or decrease in frequency across generations. Jon Perry did a great kid-friendly video about this; click here to watch it.

Here are some content standards from the NGSS, NRC’s Framework for K-12 Science Education, the Common Core, and the state of California addressed by this song:


  • K-LS1-1. Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive.
  • LS1.C: All animals need food in order to live and grow. They obtain their food from plants or from other animals. Plants need water and light to live and grow.
  • K.MD.A.2 Directly compare two objects with a measurable attribute in common, to see which object has “more of”/”less of” the attribute, and describe the difference.

First Grade:

  • LS3.A: Inheritance of Traits. Young animals are very much, but not exactly like, their parents.
  • LS3.B: Variation of Traits. Individuals of the same kind of plant or animal are recognizable as similar but can also vary in many ways.
  • NGSS 1-LS1-2: Read texts and use media to determine patterns in behavior of parents and offspring that help offspring survive.
  • NGSS 1-LS3-1: Make observations to construct an evidence-based account that young plants and animals are like, but not exactly like, their parents.
  • LS1.A: All organisms have external parts. Different animals use their body parts in different ways to see, hear, grasp objects, protect themselves, move from place to place, and seek, find, and take in food, water and air.
  • LS1.B: Adult plants and animals can have young. In many kinds of animals, parents and the offspring themselves engage in behaviors that help the offspring to survive.
  • 1-LS1-2: Scientists look for patterns and order when making observations about the world. Patterns in the natural world can be observed, used to describe phenomena, and used as evidence. (1-LS1-2)
  • 1-LS3-1: Patterns in the natural world can be observed, used to describe phenomena, and used as evidence.

Second Grade:

  • 2-LS4-1: Scientific Knowledge is Based on Empirical Evidence; scientists look for patterns and order when making observations about the world.

Third Grade:

  • NGSS 3-LS1-1. Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death.
  • NGSS 3-LS3-1. Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence that plants and animals have traits inherited from parents and that variation of these traits exists in a group of similar organisms.
  • 3.LS1.B. Reproduction is essential to the continued existence of every kind of organism. Plants and animals have unique and diverse life cycles.
  • LS2.D. Being part of a group helps animals obtain food, defend themselves, and cope with changes. Groups may serve different functions and vary dramatically in size. (Note from Tim: this relates to the gazelles; a gazelle does not need to be faster than a cheetah, just faster than the next gazelle.)
  • 3-LS2-1. Construct an argument with evidence, data, and/or a model.
  • 3-LS4-1. Analyze and interpret data from fossils to provide evidence of the organisms and the environments in which they lived long ago.
  • 3-LS4-2. Use evidence to construct an explanation for how the variations in characteristics among individuals of the same species may provide advantages in surviving, finding mates, and reproducing.
  • 3-LS4-3. Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.

Fourth Grade:

  • NGSS 4-LS1-1. Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.
  • CA LS.4.2.b. Students know producers and consumers (herbivores, carnivores, omnivores, and decomposers) are related in food chains and food webs and may compete with each other for resources in an ecosystem.

Middle School:

  • NGSS MS-LS1-4. Use argument based on empirical evidence and scientific reasoning to support an explanation for how characteristic animal behaviors and specialized plant structures affect the probability of successful reproduction of animals and plants respectively.
  • NGSS MS-LS1-5. Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how environmental and genetic factors influence the growth of organisms.
  • NGSS MS-LS2-1. Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
  • NGSS MS-LS2-2. Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.
  • NGSS MS-LS3-1. Develop and use a model to describe why structural changes to genes (mutations) located on chromosomes may affect proteins and may result in harmful, beneficial, or neutral effects to the structure and function of the organism.
  • NGSS MS-LS4-1. Analyze and interpret data for patterns in the fossil record that document the existence, diversity, extinction, and change of life forms throughout the history of life on Earth under the assumption that natural laws operate today as in the past.
  • NGSS MS-LS4-4. Construct an explanation based on evidence that describes how genetic variations of traits in a population increase some individuals’ probability of surviving and reproducing in a specific environment.
  • NGSS MS-LS4-6. Use mathematical representations to support explanations of how natural selection may lead to increases and decreases of specific traits in populations over time.

Guitar Chords:
C, G, G7, C7, F. Note that for this song I play the C in bar form as well as in the “usual” way, but you don’t have to do that unless you want to.