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The genes that lie beneath: The work of Leslea Hlusko


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Evolutionary biologist Leslea Hlusko's research takes her from the deserts of Ethiopia, where she hunts for hominid and primate fossils, to a baboon colony in San Antonio where she takes thousands of measurements of the primates' imposing canines. This research profile describes how the two projects are linked by a hunt for genetic variation, a key component of natural selection.

UC Museum of Paleontology

Grade level:

40 minutes

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This research profile includes discussion and essay questions that can be assigned to students. Get tips for using research profiles in your classroom.

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.

  • There is a fit between organisms and their environments, though not always a perfect fit.

  • The fossil record provides evidence for evolution.

  • There are similarities and differences among fossils and living organisms.

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

  • The fossil record documents the biodiversity of the past.

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

  • Natural selection and genetic drift act on the variation that exists in a population.

  • Natural selection acts on phenotype as an expression of genotype.

  • A hallmark of science is exposing ideas to testing.

  • Scientists test their ideas using multiple lines of evidence.

  • Scientists use multiple research methods (experiments, observational research, comparative research, and modeling) to collect data.

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

  • Science is a human endeavor.

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

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