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Lesson summary for:
Discovering the great tree of life


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This short video introduces basic concepts in phylogenetics and provides a model to help understand lineage-splitting.
This resource is available from the Peabody Museum of Natural History

Peabody Museum of Natural History

Grade level:

10 minutes

Teaching tips:
This video provides a brief and intriguing introduction to phylogenetics. It would make a good opener for a unit in which students learn more about evolutionary trees and work with phylogenies.

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

  • 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 life forms are descended from past life forms; all life is related. (LS4.A)

  • Scientists test their ideas using multiple lines of evidence.

  • Evolutionary relationships may be represented by branching trees (i.e. phylogenies or cladograms).

  • Scientists use multiple research methods (experiments, observations, comparisons, and modeling) to collect evidence. (P2, P3, P4, NOS1)

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

  • Science is a human endeavor. (NOS7)

Teacher background:

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