Biology Rock, Paper, Scissors – 2nd Grade

The second grade students took a look into the natural world of biology and were surprised to learn that there is a lizard that uses a form of the game “Rock, Paper, Scissors” for the survival of its species. The male side-blotched lizard is divided into three different types. Each type varies in how it competes with other males for mates. A cycle is created because each type does well against one type, but poorly against the other. Before we tested this in the classroom, we assigned colors to the different types below:

Orange – beats blue with aggression
Yellow – sneaks into the orange territory and tricks them by pretending to be a female
Blue – protects one female from the yellow

Orange beats Blue
Yellow beats Orange
Blue beats Yellow

Once we established how the lizards compete, we played a game to see how it works. Each student was given a colored lizard to wear backward around their neck. They traveled around the room and challenged one another. The losing color had to leave the game. The last color standing was the type that had the greatest lizard population for that year. We played the game several times to see a pattern. We played 4 rounds that resulted in two of the colors dominating each for 2 years. There was a clear way to cheat at the game, but the students were encouraged to follow the instructions so that we would have an accurate experiment. Biologist have observed this cycle occuring about every 4 years. The “Rock, Paper, Scissors” mechanism has also been observed in the three strains of e.coli, coral reefs, plants, marine invertebrates, and fungi.

This was a great activity. It was fun and a great way to take a game and apply it to learn a concept. Nature is an amazing thing.