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Charles Darwin's Theory
Evolution and Natural Selection

In 1973, an evolutionary biologist named Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote an essay stating that "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." This has become a popular quote amongst biology educators, as it neatly summarizes the importance and beauty of Charles Darwin's theory. This unit provides an opportunity for the deft instructor to tie together the wide array of molecular-level concepts that typically precedes this unit with the macro-level concepts that follow it. Students with a true understanding of the concepts of evolution will gain an overall better understanding of all biological concepts, structures, and processes.


Charles Darwin and Natural Selection Lecture Powerpoint

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Purpose: The theory of evolution was not solely the result of Charles Darwin's work. This lecture begins by exploring the research of scientists like Cuvier, Hutton, Lyell, and Lamarck, as the pieces of evidence for natural selection began to fall into place. Finally, Charles Darwin embarks on his famous voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle, making discoveries that would lead to the eventual publishing of his book, On the Origin of Species. Each of Darwin's key observations, inferences, and conclusions used to construct this theory are explained. Examples of natural selection are given, ranging from pond guppies to the AIDS virus. Finally, students will learn about the specific pieces of evidence used to support the theory: fossils, embryology, molecular homologies, and homologous structures.

Essential Concepts: evolution, natural selection, behavioral adaptation, evolution, artificial selection, creationism, fossils, stratum, paleontology, speciation, extinction, catastrophism, gradualism, acquired trait, lamarck, darwin, beagle, galapagos islands, origin of species, descent with modification, homologous structures, comparative embryology, vestigial organs, convergent evolution, analogous structures, biogeography, pangaea, transitional forms, geographic separation, sexual selection.


Charles Darwin and Natural Selection Lecture Notes Outline

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Purpose: Taking efficient notes can be a big challenge for many students, especially when working from a Powerpoint lecture. This outline gives students a means to take notes that guides them toward important concepts and avoids the pitfalls of writing word-for-word or simply not taking notes at all. The outline is written as a series of questions, fill-in-the-blanks, or diagrams.

Essential Concepts: evolution, natural selection, behavioral adaptation, evolution, artificial selection, creationism, fossils, stratum, paleontology, speciation, extinction, catastrophism, gradualism, acquired trait, lamarck, darwin, beagle, galapagos islands, origin of species, descent with modification, homologous structures, comparative embryology, vestigial organs, convergent evolution, analogous structures, biogeography, pangaea, transitional forms, geographic separation, sexual selection.


Cosmos: Some of the Things that Molecules Do

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Purpose: The second episode of the Cosmos (2014) documentary miniseries focuses on life and evolution. Neil DeGrasse Tyson gives a brief, but very succinct overview of artificial and natural selection by using examples that are familiar to us -- the breeding of dogs from wolves, the evolution of the eye, and exploring the possibility of life on Saturn's moon, Titan.

Essential concepts: Evolution, natural selection, artificial selection, origin of life, extaterrestrial life.


Evidence of Evolution Worksheet Set

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Purpose: This is a series of diagrams and short activities to illustrate each of the major pieces of evidence to evolution. First, students identify changes in skull and foot fossils of different ancestors of the modern horse. They will compare embryos of different stages of chicken, human, fish, turtle, salamander, and rabbit. The common bones within the limbs of humans, whales, crocodiles, cats, birds, and bats will be identified. Finally, the animo acid sequence of a portion of the cytochrome C protein molecule will be compared for several different species.

Essential Concepts: Evolution, fossil record, molecular homologies, homologous structures, analogous structures, embryology, vestigial structures.


Evidence of Human Evolution Worksheet Set

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Purpose: This activity is an extension of the evidence of evolution worksheet set from above. Instead, the activities here focus around humans and their evolutionary relationship with other primates. Students will compare hand structure, the overall skeleton, cranial capacity of the skull, and the DNA sequence that produces the hemoglobin molecule of humans, gorillas, chimpanzees, and other primates.

Essential Concepts: Evolution, fossil record, molecular homologies, homologous structures, embryology, vestigial structures, primates.


PBS Evolution Series Worksheets

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Purpose: The impact that Charles Darwin's research had on the field of biology cannot be overstated. Darwin's Dangerous Idea is the first segment in the outstanding PBS Evolution series. This documentary combines re-enactments of some of the more dramatic moments of Darwin's research and personal life with modern day evolutionary biology scientists. In this assignment, students are given a short answer question to accompany each segment of the documentary -- ensuring they appreciate the big ideas presented before moving forward.

Essential Concepts: Evolution, fossil record, natural selection, Charles Darwin, Galapagos Islands, speciation, divergent evolution, adaptations, history of science.


BBC Walking With Monsters Worksheets

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Walking With Monsters Student Worksheets

Purpose: The BBC Walking With Monsters series takes the known pieces of the fossil record from some of the major evolutionary moments in the history of life on Earth and makes them come to life. A lot of what is in these documentaries is speculative -- but it is based on fossils and research currently available. This series is great for a quick overview of the different stages of vertebrate evolution. A little time is spent on what would become the modern fish, amphibian, and reptiles, ending with the age of the dinosaurs.

Essential Concepts: Cambrian period, Cambrian explosion, Silurian period, Devonian period, vertebrates, arthropods, giant impact hypothesis, amphibians, Carboniferous period, Permian period, Permian-Triassic extinction, Early Triassic period.


BBC Galapagos - Islands that Changed the World Video

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BBC Galapagos Worksheet

Purpose: This is another BBC nature documentary similar in quality to Planet Earth but focused entirely on the Galapagos Islands. Each episode covers a different aspect of the islands, but this worksheet focuses on the second episode entitled "The Islands that Changed the World." This is a good movie to show while discussing Charles Darwin and how he gathered the evidence for what would become his theory of evolution. It examines some of the same animals that he observed and collected, including the famous finches, tortoises, and lizards.

Essential Concepts: Evolution, natural selection, Charles Darwin, Galapagos Islands.


Hardy-Weinberg Equation Practice Problems Worksheet

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Hardy-Weinberg Practice Problems Worksheet

Purpose: The Hardy-Weinberg equation is a method of estimating the proportion of alleles in a given population that are dominant or recessive based on the frequency of homozygous recessive individuals. This worksheet provides a sample Hardy-Weinberg problem, then gives several different variations for students to practice on.

Essential Concepts: Hardy-Weinberg Equation, alleles, microevolution.


Evolution and Natural Selection Study Guide

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Purpose: This worksheet is a set of vocabulary words and practice questions meant to encourage students to condense their notes into a more manageable form to study from. The questions and vocabulary are taken directly from the lecture Powerpoint for this unit.

Essential Concepts: evolution, natural selection, behavioral adaptation, evolution, artificial selection, creationism, fossils, stratum, paleontology, speciation, extinction, catastrophism, gradualism, acquired trait, lamarck, darwin, beagle, galapagos islands, origin of species, descent with modification, homologous structures, comparative embryology, vestigial organs, convergent evolution, analogous structures, biogeography, pangaea, transitional forms, geographic separation, sexual selection, prezygotic, postzygotic.

 

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