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Evolution: DNA and the Unity of Life - NGSS Connections

This unit has been designed to address these elements of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS):

Disciplinary Core IdeasShared BiochemistryCommon AncestryHeredityNatural SelectionSpeciation
HS-LS1 A: Structure and Function
  • All cells contain genetic information in the form of DNA molecules. Genes are regions in the DNA that contain the instructions that code for the formation of proteins, which carry out most of the work of cells.
HS-LS3 A: Inheritance of Traits
  • Each chromosome consists of a single very long DNA molecule, and each gene on the chromosome is a particular segment of that DNA. The instructions for forming species’ characteristics are carried in DNA. All cells in an organism have the same genetic content, but the genes used (expressed) by the cell may be regulated in different ways. Not all DNA codes for a protein; some segments of DNA are involved in regulatory or structural functions, and some have no as-yet known function.
HS-LS3 B: Variation of Traits
  • In sexual reproduction, chromosomes can sometimes swap sections during the process of meiosis (cell division), thereby creating new genetic combinations and thus more genetic variation. Although DNA replication is tightly regulated and remarkably accurate, errors do occur and result in mutations, which are also a source of genetic variation.
HS-LS4 A: Evidence of Common Ancestry and Diversity
  • Genetic information provides evidence of evolution. DNA sequences vary among species, but there are many overlaps; in fact, the ongoing branching that produces multiple lines of descent can be inferred by comparing the DNA sequences of different organisms.Such information is also derivable from the similarities and differences in amino acid sequences and from anatomical and embryological evidence.

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HS-LS4 B: Natural Selection
  • Natural selection occurs only if there is both (1) variation in the genetic information between organisms in a population and (2) variation in the expression of that genetic information—that is, trait variation—that leads to differences in performance among individuals.
  • The traits that positively affect survival are more likely to be reproduced, and thus are more common in the population.
HS-LS4 C: Adaptation
  • Evolution is a consequence of the interaction of four factors: (1) the potential for a species to increase in number, (2) the genetic variation of individuals in a species due to mutation and sexual reproduction, (3) competition for an environment’s limited supply of the resources that individuals need in order to survive and reproduce, and (4) the ensuing proliferation of those organisms that are better able to survive and reproduce in that environment.
  • Natural selection leads to adaptation, that is, to a population dominated by organisms that are anatomically, behaviorally, and physiologically well suited to survive and reproduce in a specific environment. That is, the differential survival and reproduction of organisms in a population that have an advantageous heritable trait leads to an increase in the proportion of individuals in future generations that have the trait and to a decrease in the proportion of individuals that do not.
  • Adaptation also means that the distribution of traits in a population can change when conditions change.
  • Changes in the physical environment, whether naturally occurring or human induced, have thus contributed to the expansion of some species, the emergence of new distinct species as populations diverge under different conditions, and the decline–and sometimes the extinction–of some species.

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Science and Engineering PracticesShared BiochemistryCommon AncestryHeredityNatural SelectionSpeciation
Developing and Using Models
  • Develop, revise, and/or use a model based on evidence to illustrate and/or predict the relationships between systems or between components of a system.
Developing and Using Models
  • Develop and/or use multiple types of models to provide mechanistic accounts and/or predict phenomena, and move flexibly between model types based on merits and limitations.
Developing and Using Models
  • Develop and/or use a model (including mathematical and computational) to generate data to support explanations, predict phenomena, analyze systems, and/or solve problems.
Analyzing Data
  • Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution.
Analyzing Data
  • Evaluate the impact of new data on a working explanation and/or model of a proposed process or system.
Engaging in Argumentation From Evidence
  • Compare and evaluate competing arguments or design solutions in light of currently accepted explanations, new evidence, limitations (e.g., trade-offs), constraints, and ethical issues.
Engaging in Argumentation From Evidence
  • Evaluate the claims, evidence, and/or reasoning behind currently accepted explanations or solutions to determine the merits of arguments.
Engaging in Argumentation From Evidence
  • Respectfully provide and/or receive critiques on scientific arguments by probing reasoning and evidence, challenging ideas and conclusions, responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, and determining additional information required to resolve contradictions.
Engaging in Argumentation From Evidence
  • Construct, use, and/or present an oral and written argument or counter-arguments based on data and evidence.
Engaging in Argumentation From Evidence
  • Make and defend a claim based on evidence about the natural world or the effectiveness of a design solution that reflects scientific knowledge and student-generated evidence.
Crosscutting ConceptsShared BiochemistryCommon AncestryHeredityNatural SelectionSpeciation
  • Different patterns may be observed at each of the scales at which a system is studied and can provide evidence for causality in explanations of phenomena.
Structure and Function
  • Investigating or designing new systems or structures requires a detailed examination of the properties of different materials, the structures of different components, and connections of components to reveal its function and/or solve a problem.
Structure and Function
  • Investigating or designing new systems or structures requires a detailed examination of the properties of different materials, the structures of different components, and connections of components to reveal its function and/or solve a problem.
Systems and System Models
  • Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions—including energy, matter, and information flows—within and between systems at different scales.
Cause and Effect
  • Empirical evidence is required to differentiate between cause and correlation and make claims about specific causes and effects.

Strikethrough text shows element portions that are not addressed in the unit.