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Lesson summary for:
The Missing Link


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The setting for this case study is a paleontological dig in East Africa, where an undergraduate student has unearthed part of what appears to be an ancestral human skull. Students read the story and then examine a number of primate skulls. They are asked to build a phylogeny based on their observations.

Strasser, M. Elizabeth

Grade level:

45 minutes

Teaching tips:
The case study includes teaching notes. It was originally designed for a lower division laboratory course that accompanies a lecture course in physical (biological) anthropology. Also, note that the lesson is titled "The missing link." This phrase can reinforce misconceptions. For clarification, see our page on common teaching pitfalls.

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

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

  • An organism's features reflect its evolutionary history.

  • There is a fit between the form of a trait and its function, though not always a perfect fit.

  • The fossil record provides evidence for evolution.

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