Bear Evolution

Overview & Concepts

How can gene sequences be analyzed in order to show similarities and phylogenic relationships? Students use NCBI to look up gene sequences for several mammals. They then draw phylogenic trees and analyze the data about relationships between organisms.

This lesson updates an activity found in the article Building Phylogenetic Trees from DNA Sequence Data: Investigating Polar Bear & Giant Panda Ancestry by Caroline Maier, The American Biology Teacher, 63(9):643-646. 2001.

Grade Level: 

Concepts Covered: 

Evolutionary Biology, genetics, gene sequencing, evolution, phylogenic trees, ribosome, rRNA 

Prior Knowledge Required: 

Basic genetics concepts

Activity Notes

Days to Teach: 

1-2 Days

Materials: 

  • Computers with internet access
  • Family of Bears student handout (see attached documents)
  • Computer with projection capability
  • Bear Evolution PowerPoint (see attached documents) 

Teaching Tips / Activity Overview: 

  1. Before teaching:
    1. Test out Biology Workbench to make sure it works correctly on your school's computers.
    2. Have a few copies of the teacher answers ready to hand out to students if the online components are too slow to be productive.  Students can be given answers to an earlier section to continue working on the next section.
  2. Introduction:
    1. Use Bear Evolution PowerPoint to spark student interest in the relationships of "bears"
    2. Encourage students to give their opinions about bear phylogeny.
    3. Model how to use biology workbench and ncbi.
  3. Activity:
    1. Distribute handout, "Family of Bears" and allow students to go to computers. Students work on Family of Bears activity.
    2. Walk around the room and assist students as needed.
  4. Closure:
    1. Gather the group to discuss findings and any questions. Students will give ideas about what the matrix and tree tells us about bear evolution.
    2. Discuss the accuracy of the tree/matrix.
    3. Collect Family of Bears if completed Ð otherwise assign it as homework.

Assessment: 

Collection of phylogenetic trees and answers to questions.

Resources: 

Acknowledgements: 

These teacher notes and resources were produced by Tara Flick.  This lesson is based upon the article Building Phylogenetic Trees from DNA Sequence Data: Investigating Polar Bear & Giant Panda Ancestry by Caroline Maier, The American Biology Teacher, 63(9):643-646. 2001. 

Academic Standards
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