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In this set of advanced lessons, students use different types of data to infer/interpret phylogenies among domains, within the vertebrates, and within primates while reflecting on how they answer the question “What do you think it means to be human?” and choose a characteristic that changed substantially in the human family tree to develop a scientific argument based on evidence for when the character evolved.
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
8 50-minute class periods
These lessons were designed for AP biology, but would work for college students as well. A condensed lesson sequence is available.
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.
- 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.
- Similarities among existing organisms (including morphological, developmental, and molecular similarities) reflect common ancestry and provide evidence for evolution.
- Science focuses on natural phenomena and processes.
- A hallmark of science is exposing ideas to testing.
- Scientists can test ideas about events and processes long past, very distant, and not directly observable.
- Our understanding of life through time is based upon multiple lines of evidence.
- Scientists use multiple lines of evidence (including morphological, developmental, and molecular evidence) to infer the relatedness of taxa.
- Evolutionary trees (i.e., phylogenies or cladograms) portray hypotheses about evolutionary relationships.
- Evolutionary trees (i.e., phylogenies or cladograms) are built from multiple lines of evidence.