Biodiversity and Evolutionary Trees
In this activity, students use DNA sequences from marine mollusks to construct phylogenetic trees. This activity uses mollusks as model organisms to introduce phylogeny and the importance of evolutionary relationships in modern taxonomy.
In Part 1, students learn how DNA can be used to study evolutionary relationships. Part 2 introduces an online software (MAFFT) for generating DNA sequence alignments and phylogenetic trees. In Parts 3 and 4, students build and explore phylogenetic trees of different mollusks. In the optional inquiry-based extension, students apply the techniques they’ve learned to explore evolutionary relationships among species of their choosing.
This activity was designed to accompany the Click & Learn Sorting Seashells, in which students construct an evolutionary tree of the same mollusk species based on morphological characteristics.
Student Learning Targets
- Use an online software to align DNA sequences and build phylogenetic trees.
- Interpret simple phylogenetic trees.
- Use phylogenetic trees to compare hypotheses about evolutionary relationships among groups of organisms.
- Explain how DNA sequences can be used to study evolutionary relationships.
biodiversity, classification, DNA, evolutionary relationship, evolutionary tree, mollusc, morphology, phylogeny, sequence alignment
The resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license. No rights are granted to use HHMI’s or BioInteractive’s names or logos independent from this Resource or in any derivative works.
Accessibility Level (WCAG compliance)
HS-LS4-1; SEP2, SEP6
AP Biology (2019)
EVO-1.M, EVO-1.N, EVO-3.B, EVO-3.C; SP1, SP2, SP4, SP6
IB Biology (2016)
5.1, 5.4, B.5
AP Environmental Science (2020)
Learning Objectives & Practices: ERT-2.H, SP2, SP5
IB Environmental Systems and Societies (2017)
Vision and Change (2009)
CC1; DP1, DP3