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Resource library Teaching materials Evolution 101

Lesson summary for:
Relevance of evolution: Medicine


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Explore just a few of the many cases in which evolutionary theory helps us understand and treat disease. Bacterial infections, HIV, and Huntington's disease are highlighted.

UC Museum of Paleontology

Grade level:

30-40 minutes

Teaching tips:
This article is one of a set of three (agriculture, conservation, and medicine) that can be used to teach about the relevance of evolution. This article exemplifies many different evolutionary concepts (including several examples of natural selection in action) and would be well-supported by materials focusing on each of these concepts in particular. It touches on some fairly advanced topics towards the end.

Correspondence to the Next Generation Science Standards is indicated in parentheses after each relevant concept. See our conceptual framework for details.

  • Evolution results from selection acting upon genetic variation within a population. (LS4.B)

  • New heritable traits can result from recombinations of existing genes or from genetic mutations in reproductive cells. (LS3.B)

  • Mutations are random.

  • Traits that confer an advantage may persist in the population and are called adaptations. (LS4.B, LS4.C)

  • Inherited characteristics affect the likelihood of an organism's survival and reproduction. (LS4.B, LS4.C)

  • Depending on environmental conditions, inherited characteristics may be advantageous, neutral, or detrimental.

  • Natural selection acts on the variation that exists in a population. (LS4.B, LS4.C)

  • Natural selection acts on phenotype as an expression of genotype.

  • Over time, the proportion of individuals with advantageous characteristics may increase (and the proportion with disadvantageous characteristics may decrease) due to their likelihood of surviving and reproducing. (LS4.B, LS4.C)

  • As with other scientific disciplines, evolutionary biology has applications that factor into everyday life.

  • There is variation within a population. (LS3.B)

Teacher background:

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