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Understanding evolutionary trees


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Many disciplines within biology (and many basic biology texts) have come to depend on evolutionary trees. Get the basics you need to understand and interpret these key diagrams.
This article appears at SpringerLink.

Evolution: Education and Outreach

Grade level:

30 minutes

Teaching tips:
This article is written for teachers and is fairly long, but it can easily be understood by undergraduates. It explicitly corrects common misconceptions about phylogenies.

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.

  • Evolution does not consist of progress in any particular direction.

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

Teacher background:

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