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Lesson summary for:
Phylogenetics laboratory: Reconstructing evolutionary history

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Overview:
By examining specimens, students fill in a data matrix of animal taxa and complete exercises to learn about synapomorphies, mapping characters on a phylogeny, and assessing parsimony.

Author/Source:
Kefyn Catley and Laura Novick

Grade level:
13-16

Time:
3 hours

Teaching tips:
Use this resource to relate evolutionary concepts to the topic of animal diversity (or get more suggestions for incorporating evolution throughout your biology syllabus).

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.

  • 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.

  • An organism's features reflect its evolutionary history.

  • Similarities among existing organisms (including morphological, developmental, and molecular similarities) reflect common ancestry and provide evidence for evolution.

  • Not all similar traits are homologous; some are the result of convergent evolution.

  • 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.

  • The principle of parsimony suggests that the phylogenetic hypothesis most likely to be true is the one requiring the fewest evolutionary changes.

  • Evolutionary trees can be used to make inferences and predictions.

Teacher background:

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