Evolutionary History Teacher Sheet

Evolutionary History Teacher Sheet


In this activity, your students will have the opportunity to gain a further understanding of how all of the plant life around them is related by creatinga phylogenetic tree

Before creating a phylogenetic tree of the plant specimens they sampled, your students should answer these questions from the video on identification and classification:

  • What data have you collected that will help you understand the evolutionary relationships shared by the plants you identified?
    • They have collected pictures and plant classification data from the Encyclopedia of Life.
  • Should the most closely related plants have a more or less similar classification?
    • The more closely related, the more similar the classification of two species. For example, two species found within the same genus are more closely related than two species in completely different genera. See the phylogenetic tree at the end of this teacher sheet.

Check your students work and identify any misconceptions they might have before continuing.

Now your students will have the opportunity to create an evolutionary tree, showing the relationships between each of their collected specimens. Students should follow the steps on the Evolutionary History student sheet to create their tree.

Here is an example of what your students will construct. The following five grassland species (three monocots in the grass family Poaceae and two dicots in the Fabaceae and Papaveraceae families) are some of the many plants that scientists at the Angelo Reserve in northern California are studying in their research:

  • Bromus tectorum
  • Bromus diandrus
  • Aira caryophyllea
  • Lupinus bicolor
  • Eschscholzia californica

Note: The tree your students will construct is not indicative of evolutionary time. It is a simple tree that models the relationships between plant specimens that your students collected based on the classification scheme (taxonomic levels: F=family, G=genus, S=species) used in the Encyclopedia of Life. This is an excellent way for students to start “tree thinking” about evolutionary relationships among plants.

phylotree ex

This teacher sheet is a part of the Grassland Plants: Plant Classification lesson.

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