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Lesson summary for:
Monkey opsins


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This case study in the form of a set of PowerPoint slides examines the evolution of trichromatic vision in old world monkeys.


Grade level:

Two class periods

Teaching tips:
The comparison of trichromatic vs. dichromatic color vision should engage students. The topic is addressed from four different sub-disciplines of biology (ecology, cell biology, molecular genetics, and phylogenetics, showing how they are inter-related. It introduces multiple key concepts using one story. Students could review the website or ppt slides before class and questions could be source of class discussion. Instructors may select to use only a few slides from the entire presentation due to time limitations. Recommended to assign this exercise only after students have completed a genetics unit.

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

  • 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.

  • Classification is based on evolutionary relationships.

  • 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.

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