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Construct an Evolutionary Tree

One of the best ways to visualize evolutionary relationships is by drawing a evolutionary tree, also known as a phylogenetic tree or a "tree of life". This activity has students construct their own tree from a set of animals provided, using only specific, observable physical differences. This activity gives students an opportunity to classify organisms on their own, and begin to visualize the types of evidence used to show their evolutionary relationships. Due to the open-ended nature of this worksheet, students will come up with many different combinations and layouts. However, the end result should be an evolutionary tree that shows the basic relationship between each of the animals. Arthropods such as the spider and moth should be far apart from an aquatic mammal such as the walrus. This is also a good opportunity to gauge how well students understand the basis of different classifications, such as reptile, amphibian, and mammal.

Essential concepts: Evolution, natural selection, adaptations, habitat, niche, biodiversity, classification, evolutionary tree, phylogenetic tree.

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