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Lesson summary for:
Evaluating Evolutionary Explanations


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Students use what they know about evolution and medicine to review an article written for a school publication. The task is to identify errors, explain the incorrect statements, and correct the information. They then explain the process of natural selection by creating a labeled illustration using one of the examples from an earlier lesson.

National Institutes of Health

Grade level:

1 hour

Teaching tips:
This lesson is set up as a group work assignment.  However, it could be used as an individual assignment in a smaller class.  Students will need some background knowledge on enzyme function, genetics, molecular genetics, and cladistics/evolutionary trees.

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.

  • 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.

  • Evolution results from natural selection acting upon genetic variation within a population.

  • Inherited characteristics affect the likelihood of an organism's survival and reproduction.

  • Over time, the proportion of individuals with advantageous characteristics may increase (and the proportion with disadvantageous characteristics may decrease) due to their likelihood of surviving and reproducing.

  • Traits that confer an advantage may persist in the population and are called adaptations.

  • An individual’s fitness (or relative fitness) is the contribution that individual makes to the gene pool of the next generation relative to other individuals in the population.

  • An organism’s fitness depends on both its survival and its reproduction.

  • As with other scientific disciplines, evolutionary biology has applications that factor into everyday life, for example in agriculture, biodiversity and conservation biology, and medicine and health.

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

Teacher background:

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