High School Biology / 9th and 10th Grade
Diversity of Life
How can we use fossils and DNA evidence to save orcas?
In this unit, students work as conservation biologists to understand the diversity and conservation needs of global orca populations to answer the question, How can we use fossils and DNA evidence to save orcas? Students first explore the concepts of species definitions and how species are organized on the tree of life. Next, students examine fossil evidence of the orca’s distant ancestors to extrapolate its morphological development over time. This knowledge is then used to understand concepts of orca speciation through DNA samples and phylogenetic tree analysis. Finally, students identify the number of orca species globally and propose a conservation plan for protecting orca diversity into the future.
Unit length: 7-9 Weeks
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