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Insect Phylogenetics

Activity Summary
This exercise utilizes local insects to show how the differences among species culminate in the identifying features of families and genera. Students are given the opportunity to find insects (potentially for extra credit) for this activity. On day one, students are given a collection of 8 insects and asked to come up with distinguishing features (one pair of wings, two pairs of
wings, feathery antennae, etc.). Students catalogue the number of specimens that have each feature, and fill out a chart to record the number of shared physical characteristics. One day 2, students use the number of shared characteristics to build a phylogenetic tree and answer discussion questions. Students are encouraged to use magnifying glasses and/or microscopes to
assist them in identifying features of insects.

Grade Levels

Learning Objectives
1. Identify key characteristics that distinguish individuals of different families from each other
2. Construct a phylogenetic tree based on the number of shared physical characteristics

Lesson Materials (view or download)
Lesson Plan

classification, phylogeny, phylogenetic tree, synapomorphy, taxonomy

Last updated: 3/5/2015