Coloration in Vertebrates
This activity explores images of animals with a mutation that affects coloration, which serve as phenomena for learning about skin color genetics and evolution.
How color patterns are formed is not well understood for vertebrates. Researchers use model organisms, including zebrafish and mice, to investigate the genes behind coloration. One such gene is MFSD12, which also affects human skin color. Scientists have used the CRISPR-Cas9 technique to knock out the MFSD12 gene in both zebrafish and mice. These images compare mutants with the knocked-out gene to their wild-type counterparts. These comparisons can shed light on the role of MFSD12 in multiple vertebrates, including humans.
The “Educator Materials” document includes background information and implementation suggestions for using the images as phenomena. The “Student Handout” includes the images and background information.
Student Learning Targets
- Examine images of phenomena, make observations, and ask questions.
- Collaborate with peers on ideas, ask questions that require higher levels of reasoning, and develop deeper understanding of concepts.
- Describe how studying coloration in vertebrates may shed light on the evolution of human skin color.
CRISPR-CAS9, gene knockout, model organism, mouse, mutant, pigmentation, skin color, zebrafish
Nicholas G. Crawford, Derek E. Kelly, Matthew E. B. Hansen, Marcia H. Beltrame, Shaohua Fan, Shanna L. Bowman, Ethan Jewett, et al. “Loci associated with skin pigmentation identified in African populations.” Science 358, 6365 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aan8433.
To access this article, set up a free AAAS account. An annotated version of the article is also available from Science in the Classroom.
Accessibility Level (WCAG compliance)
HS-LS1-1, HS-LS4-4; SEP1
AP Biology (2019)
SYI-3.B, IST-5.A; SP3
IB Biology (2016)
AP Environmental Science (2020)
Learning Objectives & Practices: ERT-2.H, SP1, SP2
Common Core (2010)
Vision and Change (2009)