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ETD 3: A. What are the 3 main ideas of the Coot Study Assignment? + B. Why are male Black Widow spiders cool with cannibalism?
September 30, 2013 at 3:30pm


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Makaila Heifner
October 18, 2015 at 6:38pm

Parent: Makaila did a good job at explaining these ideas. I never knew that animals could, or even would, show favoritism. However, I found the Black Widow part to be really interesting. It seems strange that an animal would allow its self to be eaten just to have kids. 

Student: Teaching this ETD made me have to clarify the different parts of a null hypothesis and why exactly coots showed favoritism to certain chicks. Likewise, I had forgotten some details about the male Black Widow spiders, such as how they were okay with being eaten because it increased the time for their sperm to be transferred and they passed on their suicide genes to their babies which ensures that the male babies will also be okay with being eaten during reproduction. 

Adam Wulfing
November 01, 2015 at 1:34pm

Parent:  About Coots with different plumage feed differently.  Similar plumage to mom gets fed more.  Underlining how successful plumage gets passed on (good for mom, good for the kids).  

Cannibalistic spiders:  Suggests that living beings are all about transportation of their DNA.  

Student: It is always important to remember we are just the transportation for our genes both the coot and black widows show that as long as their genes are passed on there lives and the lives of the individual is the method by which life continues.

Lauren Masters
November 25, 2015 at 11:48am

Parent: I already knew about inherited traits that can make a species act the way it does. Did not know that black widow spiders were so masochistic.

Student: I talked to my mom about how coots show favoritism. She thought how the widow spiders interact was interesting. I explained why they what they do. I also talked about fitness. Increased survival + reproduction = increased fitness

Kate Freeman
January 09, 2016 at 10:37am

Parent: Today I learned about the NULL hypothesis which is easy to proved false and how controlled experiments need manipulated variables, responding variables, control groups and control variables. Next, she explained how Coot shows favoritism toward their chicks based on instinct. I learned why Black Widow male spiders are okay with suicide since it helps increase the genes in their offspring and increase fitness.

Student: I talked to my dad about the 3 main ideas of the coot lab were. It was good to go over the idea of a null hypothesis again as I remembered it is sometimes a better option to use in experiments as it is easy to prove false. I then discussed each variable needed in an experiment and provided examples.I also talked about how increased survival and reproduction = higher fitness which explained why coots can't help but show favoritism based on their genes. I had forgotten some of the reasons that the black widow male promotes suicide, such as suicide increases the time to transfer sperm to the female therefore increasing the male's genes in the offspring. It was helpful to remember the ideas of fitness and how animals will decrease survival to increase reproduction, which is a major part of biology.

Brody Magbaleta
October 16, 2017 at 8:23pm

Parent: I found it very interesting that coots showed favoritism in regards to how they appear to their parents and that the more favored ones had a better chance at survival. It reminds me of humans in regard to beautiful people receiving more opportunities in life. Also, I was very surprised that both the mom and dad black widow commit suicide in able to have their babies. I also learned what type of variables to use in a controlled experiment. (Independent, Dependent, Controlled)

Student: I told my parents about the 3 main ideas from the coot lab. By reviewing parts of the experiment such as the null hypothesis (prediction you can test and falsify) and what a controlled experiment entails, it reinforced how important controlled variables and other variables such as independent and dependent are. I also talked to my parents about the concept of increased survival and reproduction = fitness and how this relates to the coots lab. My parents showing favoritism to the orange headed coots rather than the black headed coots, the orange headed coots were fed more which led to a higher survival rate which means they are more likely to reproduce and pass their genes on to the next generation. This is a major part in biology in regards to evolution. 

Joey Ribera
January 01, 2018 at 1:30pm

Parent: I learned what the three main ideas of this experiment. The first point was a null hypothesis. This is a prediction not of the effects, but is one that you are meant to falsify through testing. The second idea  controlled experiments. This consists of one independent, one dependent, controlled variables, and groups. Lastly, I found it interesting that the Coots favored orange chicks due to their instinct. 

Black widows commit suicide because once they have passed down their genes they have are ok with being eaten.

Student: Teaching my parents has helped with with reviewing this informations. With the null hypothesis, I reviewed how it's there solely to falsify it through tests. Also, reveiewing what a controlled experiment is will allow me to have more accurate labs in the future. Lastly, seeing how the coots favored a certain color chick versus another helped me to review the instinct animals have.

Teaching  my parents about the black widow situation guided me to the driving forces of behavior. They are selfish genes and fitness. Also, taxis(directional movement toward or away from stimulus), parent care(carry on genes), and mating behavior( spread genes).

Kaelynn Leick
January 21, 2018 at 5:59pm

Parent: I found it interesting that mothers selecting there favorited are an actual thing that happens in ecosystems. That they coots select the orange birds as their favorites based on their genes and instincts. I also learned that a null hypothesis is a test that predicts no effect so you can try to prove it wrong. And I already knew that controlled experiments involve colled variables that are kept the same to compare. Male black widows are okay with cannibalism because it is their sole purpose to pass down genes. It's interesting that they only want to mate with a female than are okay with dying. 

Student: Reviewing what I learned on this day is helping me go through this information before our semester final. Teaching them what a null hypothesis not only helped me re-understand it meaning but it is what we are currently learning about in statistics so it is a nice refresher on what is going on it both classes. Reviewing controlled experiments reminded me how much I have to be careful during an experiment to make sure it is VERY controlled. I had forgotten about altruism and how spiders are willing to kill themselves to pass on genes. A helpful reminder that everyone's sole purpose on this earth is to pass on their genes. 

Bre Glover
January 23, 2018 at 4:44pm

Parent: a) I learned about control group, null hypotheses, and the coot experiment. A null hypothesis is where there is no relationship, and it is favored by researchers because it is easier to disprove). Control groups are important to experiments and you need more than one controlled groups where you don’t manipulate a variable. I also learned that coots favored their orange headed chicks and fed them more.

b) I learned that black widow males are okay with cannibalization because it allows them more time to transfer their genes, and thus increasing their ability to reproduce. Females, then let their young eat them, which is cool.



I thought it was interesting that my dad already was familiar with the black widow concept. However, I found that answering questions and talking out loud with my dad really helped me solidify the experiments to me. Talking about control groups vs regular manipulated groups, and null hypothesis clarified the concept for me.


Eli Smith
January 24, 2018 at 9:21pm

Parent: We discussed what a "null hypothesis" is. He explained that it is a prediction of no relationship between the variables being tested.  We also talked about a controlled experiment and an uncontrolled experiment. A controlled experiment has one independent variable. An uncontrolled experiment has multiple variables being manipulated, and thus lacks specificity. We also discussed that male black widows do not resist being eaten by female black widows once they have passed on their DNA to the next generation.

Student: I had forgotten about the null hypothesis and how I had initially been confused about how it worked but it was a nice refresher. Went over controlled experiments, not really anything new there. We went over the black windows and how females eat the males after fertilization. I look at simple things like this very differently now because I better understand the process of the egg and sperm turning into multiple cells through mitosis.

Nicole Stan
January 07, 2019 at 2:23pm

Parent: My daughter explained this assignment relating Coot birds and how there were 3 Main Ideas to it. The first one was a null hypothesis which is a prediction that you can test and falsify so it predicts no relationship between variables and predicts no effect. The next one was a controlled experiment which I remember her previously learning in chemistry and her other science courses. She explained that it has to have 1 manipulated variable/independent variable, 1 Responding variable/dependent variable, controlled variables, and control groups. What I found interesting was the third point which was that Coot Parents favored orange chicks and I had not realized that birds showed favoritism. She also discussed that male black widows are okay with cannibalism because more sperm is transferred and there is an increase in the number of genes passed to the next generation.

Student: I was able to review the null hypothesis which I almost completely forgot about and the parts of a controlled experiment. I recapped that having as many controlled variables as possible is crucial for making sure you are only testing one thing and not having things like the environment compromise it. I also was able to review manipulated vs responding variables, because I always confuse those. I also taught my parents that females consume male black widows after fertilization, but males are okay with it because the genes/DNA are then passed to future generations. I also recapped on Increased Fitness which comes out of an increase in survival and reproduction. 

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