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Classification: A beginner's guide to some of the systems of biological classification in use today

Jones, S. & A. Gray (1983). Classification: A beginner's guide to some of the systems of biological classification in use today. London: British Museum (Natural History).

Unfortunately, this useful introductory volume is out of print. However you can sometimes find it used from online retailers.

Quote from source: This booklet is based on Classification - a permanent exhibition at the Natural History Museum. It has been written by Dr. Susan Jones and Mrs. Anne Gray of the Department of Public Services, in collaboration with their colleagues throughout the Museum.

The classification & evolution of caminalcules

Gendron, R. P. (2000). The classification & evolution of caminalcules. The American Biology Teacher 62(8):570-576

This article provides a nice introduction to the Caminicules as a resource for teaching evolution. The collection of 77 imaginary organisms was invented by Joseph Camin and this article describes several exercises using them that engage students in realistic evolutionary inquiry.

Quote from source: For the purpose of teaching evolution to college and high school students, the Caminalcules offer several important advantages (McComas & Alters 1994). First, because Caminalcules are artificial organisms, students have no preconceived ideas about how they should be classified or how they are related. This means that students have to concentrate on principles rather than prior knowledge when constructing a phylogenetic tree or classification. Second, unlike everyday objects such as fasteners, the Caminalcules have a ‘‘real’’ evolutionary history, complete with a detailed fossil record.

Climbing the Tree of Life: Taxonomy and Phylogeny

This CD-ROM based resource was developed by the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) and contains a variety of exercises that engage students in exploring the relationships between species.

Quote from source: Climbing the Tree of Life: Taxonomy and Phylogeny for High School biology takes advantage of student' interest in biodiversity and concern about its decline to introduce concepts of taxonomy and phylogeny, the nature and methods of science, and the personal and social relevance of science. Features include interactive, inquiry-oriented activities with videos, animations, simulations, and printable documents; off-computer research; individual and collaborative learning; and a teacher's implementation guide.

The comparative method, hypothesis testing and phylogenetic analysis

Singer, F., J. B. Hagen, et al. (2001). The comparative method, hypothesis testing and phylogenetic analysis. The American Biology Teacher 63(7): 518-523.

This introductory article explores the relationships between comparative approaches in biology and assumptions about evolutionary relationships. It contains several classroom activities.

Quote from Source: Textbook discussions of scientific methodology often focus almost exclusively upon controlled experiments, but biologists also use many non-experimental techniques for testing hypotheses. Particularly important are the comparative methods developed for phylogenetic analysis by biologists who study systematics. Today, these comparative methods can be applied at multiple levels of organization from behavior and ecology, to more traditional levels of gross anatomy and development, and downward to information carrying macromolecules (DNA, RNA and proteins).

Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution

Dobzhansky, T. (1973). Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. The American BiologyTeacher 35(March): 125-129.

This oft cited American Biology Teacher article is still an important resource for biology educators.

Quote from source: Seen in the light of evolution, biology is, perhaps, intellectually the most satisfying and inspiring science. Without that light it becomes a pile of sundry facts some of them interesting or curious but making no meaningful picture as a whole.

Order and diversity in the living world: Teaching taxonomy and systematics in schools

Crisci, J. V., J. D. McInerney, et al. (1993). Order and diversity in the living world: Teaching taxonomy and systematics in schools. Reston, VA, National Association of Biology Teachers.

Quote from source: Recommended grade level: 1-8+. Order and Diversity in the Living World is a small book that presents a rationale for classroom study of biological diversity and the relationships between different organisms. It also offers a brief review of the current state of diversity and rate of species extinction, identifies standards that should encourage changes in the way systematics is taught in the classroom, and gives directions for 10 sample activities that involve students in "doing" systematics in the classroom rather than simply reading about the nature of this subdiscipline. -- Quoted from

Phylogeny Wing of University of California Berkeley, Museum of Paleontology

This rich collection of resources from the University of California - Berkeley, Museum of Paleontology (UCMP) is a great place for students to orient to the importance of phylogeny for understanding the unity and diversity of life on earth. The major exibits include a "Phylogeny of Life" section that can be accessed by taxon or geological period, and an introduction to cladistics called, "Journey Into Phylogenetic Systematics".

Quote from source: The Phylogeny Wing is the largest of our museum's on-line exhibit halls, with more than 235 individual exhibits, many with multiple pages. The wing provides a survey of biodiversity, focusing on major lineages of organisms. Many of these lineages have gone extinct or currently exist at a much lower diversity than in the past, so there may be large exhibits on groups of organisms that are unfamiliar to you. They are featured because they play an important role in the history of life on earth.

What, if anything, is a zebra?

Gould, S. J. (1983). What, if anything, is a zebra? Hen's teeth and horse's toes: Further refections in natural history. New York, W. W. Norton & Co.

In this short essay Gould uses cladistics to examine the appropriateness of the classificatory category zebra. There is a nice study guide developed by Craig Nelson with suggestions for how to engage students as they read this essay. ENSI reading guide

Quote from source:The potential dilemma for zebras is simply stated: they exist as three species, all with black-and-white stripes to be sure, but differing notably in both numbers of stripes and their patterns. ... Do these three species a single evolutionary unit? Do they share a common ancestor that gave rise to them alone and to no other species of horse? Or are some zebras more closely related by descent to true horses or to asses than they are to other zebras? If this second possibility is an actuality, ... there is, in an important evolutionary sense, no such thing as a zebra.


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