Endosymbiotic Theory and mtDNA

Overview & Concepts

This activity is meant to be a self-guided explanation of the endosymbiotic theory with emphasis on mtDNA.  It is linked to an assignment where students will BLAST a mtDNA sequence to solve a problem of identity.

Grade Level: 

Concepts Covered: 

endosymbiotic thoery, mtDNA inheritance and uses

Prior Knowledge Required: 

Endocytosis, basic genetic inheritance through meiosis

Activity Notes

Days to Teach: 



  • Computers to watch youtube videos and ultimately BLAST a mtDNA sequence. 
  • Pen or pencil
  • BRAIN!

Teaching Tips / Activity Overview: 

  1. Before this activity, you might wish to review of basic concepts such as genetic inheritance, endocytosis, and function of mitochondria.
  2. Hand out the Endosymbiotic Theory worksheet and allow students to work alone or in small groups to complete it.
  3. Don't give too many answers to students looking to complete without thinking.  Only give help to those who really require it.
  4. After everyone is through, review the answers with the class. 

This activity is designed to be a part of the activity A Tsar is Born, but it can also stand alone. 


Assess student knowledge by discussion at the end of the worksheet.  Highlight important concepts before moving on.


Have students create a pedigree of their own family that goes back several generations.  Have them identify all members of their family who share the same mtDNA as themselves.

Other mtDNA lessons include:




This activity was created based on information obtained at the Bioinformatics Seminar at Franklin & Marshall College 2012.

Academic Standards
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