ABT Evolution Issue
For February 2010

Don't miss the February, 2010 issue of The American Biology Teacher, dedicated to topics in teaching evolution. Here are the article titles - to whet your appetite:

Were Australopithecines Ape-Human Intermediates or Just Apes? A Test of Both Hypotheses Using the "Lucy" Skeleton (available online) by Phil Senter
This article is avilable directly online (by clicking its title here). Illustrations of chimp, modern human and "Lucy" skeletal components are used to compare point-by-point differences and similarites. This could be a useful extension (or replacement) for the ENSI lesson on Cranial Comparisons.

Charles Darwin's Botanical Investigations by Suzanne M. Harley
Following Darwin's publication of "On the Origin of Species," he published several studies of plants, focusing on pollination, flower morphology, plant growth and movements, and carnivorous plants. It is interesting how his observations and interpretations were informed by his application of natural selection, to plant morphology and physiology, where will and consciousness are not involved. Sharing these studies with students does much to show the diversity of Darwin's work, along with his publications on biogeography, geology, his monographs on barnacles, and the evolution of human behavior.

Darwin's "Imaginary Illustrations": Creatively Teaching Evolutionary concepts & the Nature of Science by Alan C. Love
How Darwin used his "thought experiments" to clarify how natural selection is competent to produce adaptive evolutionary change. The author shows how this strategy can be useful for teaching the elements of natural selection today.

Education's Missing Link: How Private School Teachers Approach Evolution by Michael W. Schulteis

Florida Teachers' Attitudes about Teaching Evolution by Samantha r. Fowler & Gerry G. Meisels

PopGen Fishbowl: A Free Online Simulation Model of Microevolutionary Processes by Thomas C. Jones & Thomas F. Laughlin
This article shares a freely available online interactive simulation of natural selection, where students can change several factors, one at a time, to test the predicted effect of each one on population size and changes in gene frequency. Makes a quick-and-easy investigative study. Suggestions for classroom use are included. You can take a look at the online simulation by clicking HERE and then clicking there on "Population Genetics." For directions, click there on "More Information." Clicking on PopGen Fishbowl will take you directly to the online simulation.

The Power Of Natural Selection: A Guided Investigation of Three Case Studies by William Beachly

A Lesson on Evolution & Natural Selection by Anthony D. Curtis
This article describes three separate activites to illustrate elements of natural selection. Each is clever and provides sample student instructions along with teacher notes. Included are elements of extinction, and the role of major climate changes in the 5 known great extinctions, with a focus on the current evidence for a 6th great extinction accompanying our current climate change - nice opportunity to address natural selection in the context of a current climate event being experienced by everyone.

Evolution & Phylogenetic Analysis: Classroom Activities for Investigating Molecular & Morphological Concepts by Wilfred A. Franklin
This article provides a flexible collection of multiple independent lines of evidence all pointing to evolution and the resulting phylogenetic connections linking different grops of organisms. Materials that can be used (depending on availability and time) include the forelimb bones of various vertebrates, hominid and other primate skulls, miscellaneous vertebrate skeletons, and freely available internet tools (with directions for use) for comparing proteins and DNA, and producing phylogenies based on those analyses. Here are the several websites utilized by the activities presented in this article:
Using Wisconsin Fast Plants for Evolution Experiments
HHMI/Bryn Mawr Outreach Project - HS Labs on P
hylogeny, Molecular Genetics, Forensic Biology/DNA Fingerprinting, etc.
Mesquite: Web-based Phylogenetic Pkg
NCBI Website - for analyzing DNA and polypeptide sequences
HHMI-Biointeractive Activity - for studying the gene and protein associated with circadian rhythm
Cn3D - NCBI online program for visualizing 3D molecular structures
Protein Database and Tools for Visualizing Protein Crystal Structure (Appendix A)
eSkeletons (U of Texas at Austin) - for comparing human and other primate bones

From the Beginning (Biology Today column by Maura Flannery)
Excellent overview of the status of research on the early Earth, along with the origin(s) and early life on Earth. Delightfully presented as an example of the ongoing changes in our limited understanding about life's beginnings and the many unanswered questions that prevail - yet there IS progress!

QuickFix: Experience Millions of Years by Larry Flammer

Guest Editorial: Where Is the "Origin" in The Origin of Species? by William F. McComas

From the President: Do You Believe in Evolution? by Bunny Jaskot

My QuickFix article: Experience Millions of Years offers a novel way to help students gain a realistic sense of deep time, relative to their own years of existence, then focuses on the times when major groups of vertebrates first emerged, many tens of millions of years apart. What might be lost is the realization that there were NO hominids of any kind prior to about 7 mya, NO modern-type whales prior to about 25 mya, NO birds prior to about 150 mya, NO mammals prior to about 220 mya, NO reptiles prior to about 310 mya, NO pre-mammals prior to about 320 mya, NO amphibians prior to about 365 mya, NO jawed fishes prior to about 440 mya, and NO jawless fishes prior to about 500 mya. Even upper elementary kids should be made aware of these patterns of vertebrate emergence, staggered over a few hundreds of millions of years, and the total lack of fossils for those groups prior to those times of origin.

Furthermore, students should be informed that the traits for each group are clearly modifications of traits found in their predecessors, and that there are many excellent examples of transitional fossils, showing a mosaic of gradual changes documenting the pre-emergence of each group. These direct observations of clear evidence of sequential emergence and descent with modification, should establish the reality of evolution as early as possible, so middle school and high school teachers can introduce the abundant molecular evidence that confirms evolution, and concentrate on the genetic mechanisms of change, and not have to spend precious time trying to convince students of the reality of evolution.

All the materials to do this, plus an informative PowerPoint, are available in the Patterns in Time lesson on the ENSI site.

Larry Flammer
ENSI webmaster