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Lesson summary for:
Evolutionary trees and patterns in the history of life

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Overview:
Scientists use many different lines of evidence to reconstruct the evolutionary trees that show how species are related.
This article is located within Evolution 101.

Author/Source:
UC Museum of Paleontology

Grade level:
9-12

Time:
30-40 minutes

Teaching tips:
This article provides a comprehensive, general introduction to phylogenetics. It would make a good opening reading for an activity in which students apply phylogenetic concepts to specific data sets, research the relationships within a particular clade, or investigate the tree of life.

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

  • Biological evolution accounts for diversity over long periods of time. (LS4.A, LS4.D)

  • 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 species evolved from earlier species; the relatedness of organisms is the result of common ancestry. (LS4.A)

  • Anatomical similarities of living things reflect common ancestry. (LS4.A)

  • Evolution does not consist of progress in any particular direction.

  • Scientists test their ideas using multiple lines of evidence. (P6, NOS2)

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

  • Scientists use anatomical evidence to infer the relatedness of taxa. (LS4.A)

  • Classification is based on evolutionary relationships.

  • Evolutionary trees (i.e., phylogenies or cladograms) are built from multiple lines of evidence.

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

Teacher background:

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