Diet and the Evolution of Salivary Amylase
This activity engages students in analyzing authentic scientific data that explore the effects of different diets on the evolution of an enzyme that breaks down starch.
Students analyze data on the number of copies of the salivary amylase (AMY1) gene among different human populations. They then examine the connection between production of salivary amylase, which is the enzyme in saliva that digests starch, and dietary starch consumption. This activity involves analyzing and graphing research data, using correlation and other statistical tests, and making evidence-based claims by defining uncertainty.
Students should have some prior experience with constructing graphs and performing statistical calculations (i.e., mean, standard deviation, and confidence intervals). The activity includes an optional extension for students familiar with correlation coefficients and t-tests.
Student Learning Targets
- Explain the connection between gene copy number and protein production and function.
- Graph research data and appropriately label all graph components, including title, axes, units, and legend.
- Interpret primary data from different research studies in order to make claims using scientific reasoning and statistical analysis.
enzyme, gene, null hypothesis, starch, uncertainty
Perry, G. H., Nathaniel J. Dominy, Katrina G. Claw, Arthur S. Lee, Heike Fiegler, Richard Redon, John Werner, et al. “Diet and the evolution of human amylase gene copy number variation.” Nature Genetics 39, 10 (2007): 1256–1260. https://doi.org/10.1038/ng2123.
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.
HS-LS1-6, HS-LS3-1, HS-LS3-3, HS-LS4-3; SEP4, SEP5, SEP6
AP Biology (2019)
EVO-1.E, EVO-3.A, IST-1.K, IST-2.E, IST-4.A, SYI-3.A; SP1, SP3, SP4, SP5
IB Biology (2016)
2.5, 2.7, 3.4, 5.2, 6.1, B.5
AP Environmental Science (2020)
Topic(s): 2.6, 3.8, 5.3
Learning Objectives & Practices: ERT-2.H, EIN-1.C, EIN-2.C, SP5
IB Environmental Systems and Societies (2017)
Common Core (2010)
ELA.RST.9–12.7, ELA.RST.9–12.9, ELA.WHST.9–12.1
Math.S-ID.1, Math.S-ID.2, Math.S-ID.3, Math.S-ID.4, Math.S-ID.6, Math.S-ID.9, Math.S-IC.1, Math.S-IC.4, Math.S-ID.6; MP2, MP3, MP4
Vision and Change (2009)
CC1, CC2, CC3, CC4; DP1, DP2, DP6