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Resource library Teaching materials Evolution 101

Lesson summary for:
Learn about the tree of life

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Overview:
This tutorial on phylogenetics explains the basics of tree-thinking and provides many examples from real organisms.
This resource is available from the Peabody Museum of Natural History

Author/Source:
Peabody Museum of Natural History

Grade level:
9-12

Time:
20 minutes

Teaching tips:
This article provides a brief introduction to phylogenetics. It would make a good opening reading for a unit in which students learn more about evolutionary trees and work with phylogenies.

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

  • Biological evolution accounts for diversity over long periods of time. (LS4.A, LS4.D)

  • Through billions of years of evolution, life forms have continued to diversify in a branching pattern, from single-celled ancestors to the diversity of life on Earth today.

  • Present-day species evolved from earlier species; the relatedness of organisms is the result of common ancestry. (LS4.A)

  • Scientists can test ideas about events and processes long past, very distant, and not directly observable.

  • Scientific knowledge is open to question and revision as we come up with new ideas and discover new evidence. (P4, P6, NOS3)

  • Scientists use multiple research methods (experiments, observational research, comparative research, and modeling) to collect data. (P2, P3, P4, NOS1)

  • Classification is based on evolutionary relationships.

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

  • Evolutionary trees (i.e., phylogenies or cladograms) portray hypotheses about evolutionary relationships.

Teacher background:

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