Organism Profile – the Eastern Cottontail


 Assignment Instructions: You will write an organism profile based on literature researched about your chosen organism. Research should come from scientific information on the internet and research articles.  Your paper should include, but not be limited to, the following topics:

 1.  Introduction/background – information about the Eastern Cottontail – Include common and scientific names, the area you and this species live (U.S. Northern Virginia), the area’s biome classification, etc.

2.  Life cycle of the species Describe the life cycle of the Eastern Cottontail. The life cycle refers to the series of changes in both development and growth from its beginnings as an independent life form up until maturity, when it is able to reproduce. 

3.  Structure and Function – Describe the structure and function of at least one major organ system (e.g., digestive system, reproductive system). Choose one system and explain how this organism’s system is structured anatomically and physiologically. Identify any species-specific characteristics or adaptations that are particularly unique to the Eastern Cottontail and explain why.

4.  Evolution of the organism – Evolution is simply heritable change over time. Sometimes changes from one generation to the next can give individuals an advantage.  Specifically a trait that increases reproductive success or survival ability could be advantageous. Include a section in your profile paper about the Eastern Cottontail’s evolution. Here are possible ways to research the topic:

               a. Conduct a review of scientific literature to understand what is known about the Eastern Cottontail’s past evolution.  Search key words may include evolution, fossil, ancestor. Often technical reports from wildlife and conservation agencies have descriptions of an organism’s evolution.

               b. Summarize research on any adaptive traits. Search key words include adaptation, evolution, trait, and character.

               c. Find an article on the family tree or phylogeny. Summarize the information describing related species. Search key words might include phylogeny, phylogenetic, and genetic analysis.

               d. Use the Tree of Life Project to describe the phylogeny of your organism. Start at species, if possible, and trace back to the root. In addition to your summary, include any interesting patterns or unknown data.  (

5.  Additional interests – The diversity of biological organisms is vast. Therefore, if the Eastern Cottontail has a particularly interesting aspect about its biology that is not covered in the life cycle, structure and function, and evolution add a section to your paper on that aspect. For example, if your species has an interesting parental care strategy or mating system (i.e., protrandry/protogyny, polygymy, promiscuity, monogamy) you can include that in your paper.



****The paper should be pertinent to the subject matter and demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the subject with an appropriate abstract, introduction, supporting paragraphs, and conclusions. The paper should be 750-1000 words (not including cover page, references, etc.).   Your paper should be written in your own words using proper in-text citations where indicated.




****You should use a minimum of five current and reliable sources for your research: two of which must be from credible scientific organizations. You can use Internet articles, journals, textbooks, etc.  paper should utilize APA style format and contain a cover page, page headers, in-text citations, abstract, introductory and concluding paragraphs, a main body, and a reference page. References should be cited and properly listed in APA format.

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