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A New, Exciting Topic for Biology Teachers!

Evolutionary Developmental Biology: This cutting-edge area of biological research is enjoying much attention, and providing dramatic, visual confirmation of evolution. More importantly, the work is bringing clear, compelling evidence for macroevolution. Every knowledgeable biology teacher who recognizes the reality of evolution will want to share this exciting new material with students. Vivid teaching ideas and materials are being developed, and I would encourage you to seek them out and use them in your classes. Don't wait for this to appear in textbooks.
Look below for more information on Evo-Devo in... the Update to NABT Convention, Summer Reading, Whale Evolution, and other resources.


GUEST EDITORIAL: If you missed Dr. Platt's Guest Editorial in The American Biology Teacher journal of January 2006, be sure to read it. He has kindly allowed us to post it here for your convenience. In it, he shares vignettes of some major morphological changes in stickleback fishes that have not only been observed, but whose molecular and genetic mechanisms have been revealed. If I were still teaching, I would definitely use visual material from the source he links to, along with other material from the new HHMI DVD on Evolution, lesson ideas from the PBS Evolution resources and the Teachers' Domain site. I would like very much to add a lesson or two to the ENSI site that utilizes evo-devo material, so if you have one, discover one, or develop one that works well, please share it with us.

NEW EVO DEVO LESSON - The Case of the Threespine Stickleback, developed by Jim Platt, is ready for use as an interactive classroom lesson...

SUMMER READING: An excellent introduction to evo-devo, readable and conveniently available, is Sean B. Carroll's 2005 book Endless Forms Most Beautiful. Highly recommended for your Summer read! As you read, be prepared to jot down ideas for how and where you could incorporate the material into your Biology course. If you develop a lesson on this subject to use in your classes, please share it with us.

And don't miss Carroll's even more recent (2006), and even more classroom-friendly book, The Making of the Fittest. Click on the title for a more detailed review of the book, A very useful introduction to EvoDevo is presented mostly in chapter 8.

And while we are suggesting recent MUST READ books for biology teachers, get a copy of Neil Shubin's (2008) Your Inner Fish, with its wealth of evolutionary explanations for many of the anatomical and physiological features, and problems, that we find in people. He includes some of the latest work in EvoDevo that show how easily complex features can be developed and incorporated. Click on the title to get a further review of this "must read" book.

Read the excellent article in the NY Times Science section, with recent developments (2007) in Evo Devo. Click HERE to read the review and get the links. Includes a link to an excellent video clip by Sean Carroll, very useful for explaining EvoDevo to students.

WHALE EVOLUTION: A recent application of evo-devo to a subject always fascinating to kids:
How ancient whales lost their legs, got sleek and conquered the oceans: an Evo-Devo solution.
This is a beautiful blending of paleontology, developmental morphology and the blossoming field of evolutionary developmental biology, and an excellent example of MILEs: (Multiple Independent Lines of Evidence), confirming the tetrapod origin of whales. A recent study, using porpoise embryos, has revealed how a mutation in the gene for "sonic hedgehog" (shh), a developmental signaling protein necessary for normal limb development, resulted in the loss of the hind limbs of early whales about 35 million years ago. Fossils have shown the gradual reduction in hind limbs prior to that time, over a 15 million year period, but the shh mutation appears to be the final step bringing the full sleekness that we see in cetaceans today. Very clever science.

This 2006 PNAS report, by whale evolution veteran JGM Thewissen, et al., is nicely summarized (with full citation to the original) by PZ Myers on the Pharyngula site at:
It includes an excellent illustrated cladogram (from the original report) showing the gradual hind limb reduction in ancestral whales, and the corresponding changes in regulatory genes. If you are one of the many teachers using our Becoming Whales and/or Whale Ankles and DNA lessons, be sure to share this latest footnote with your students. If you don't, you should!

For MORE RESOURCES on EVODEVO, go to Teaching MacroEvolution and EvoDevo.