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Big Idea 1, Investigation 3, Science Practices 1, 5
Horses, chickens, tuna, humans, Ateles (monkeys), chimpanzees, rabbits, Arabidopsis thaliana (plant), rattlesnakes, frogs, dogs, bees, cows—what do all these organisms have in common? Students find out when they use BLAST (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool), a bioinformatics computer comparison tool, to research the gene sequence for a protein found in each organism. Evolutionary relationships are surprising and easy to understand with computer-generated cladograms or phylogenetic trees—we might be more alike than you think!
This Inquiry Lab begins with a Baseline Activity that uses BLAST to compile data, which the students use to develop a computer-generated cladogram that depicts evolutionary relationships. Students use this research model as a stepping off point for the second portion of the activity, Opportunities for Inquiry. Questions like, “What other organisms have similar evolutionary patterns?” and “Are other genes conserved among organisms?” help guide and inspire students to develop a testable hypothesis and then design a bioinformatics research project. Results provide a great topic for a mini-scientific conference, as encouraged by the AP Biology learning objectives and science practices.
Includes detailed teacher notes, reproducible student handouts and a list of suggested genes students could explore. A computer with Internet access is required.
Note: This activity cannot be completed as written at this time. Due to lack of funding, the biology workbench website required for this activity is currently unavailable. We apologize for any inconvenience.