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Lesson summary for:
Solving the Mystery of the Neandertals


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This interactive web activity lets students compare the number of mutations in the mitochondrial genomes of Neandertals, humans, and chimps to determine ancestry and relatedness.

Dolan DNA Learning Center

Grade level:

20-30 minutes

Teaching tips:
To access this activity, click on media/animation at the top of the screen and then select "Solving the Mystery of the Neandertals." This activity requires Shockwave or Flash Player.

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. (LS4.A)

  • An organism's features reflect its evolutionary history.

  • The fossil record documents the biodiversity of the past.

  • The fossil record documents patterns of extinction and the appearance of new forms.

  • All life forms use the same basic DNA building blocks. (LS4.A)

  • Scientists can test ideas about events and processes long past, very distant, and not directly observable.

  • Our knowledge of the evolution of living things is always being refined as we gather more evidence.

  • Scientists use the similarity of DNA nucleotide sequences to infer the relatedness of taxa. (LS4.A)

  • Scientists use fossils (including sequences of fossils showing gradual change over time) to learn about past life.

Teacher background:

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