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School activities: Evolutionary tree of mammals
This introduction to the evolution of mammals considers Darwin’s observations on...
This introduction to the evolution of mammals considers Darwin’s observations on mammals, and how he noticed that species fell into natural groups. The unit looks at evidence from fossils and DNA to examine which mammals are most closely related to whales.
By the end of this unit you should be able to:
- develop an appreciation of the huge variety of different mammals that exist on Earth today;
- see how fossil evidence can help us to understand evolutionary history;
- understand how the structure of DNA can help us to detect differences between different species;
- apply the techniques of DNA analysis to work out which mammals are most closely related to each other;
- appreciate the importance of bringing together evidence from different sources.
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School activities: Evolutionary tree of mammals
This unit provides an introduction to the evolution of mammals.
We will be considering Darwin's observations on a great many mammals, and how he noticed that species fell into natural groups. We take as an example the evolution of one particularly interesting mammal, the whale, and look at evidence both from fossils and from DNA to see which other mammals are most closely related to whales. We see how the evidence from these two very different sources points to the same relationship and that this therefore provides overwhelming evidence that the conclusions must be correct.
This material is from our archive and is an adapted extract from Darwin and evolution (S170) which is no longer taught by The Open University. If you want to study formally with us, you may wish to explore other courses we offer in this.
This is an extract from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free Natural History courses or view the range of currently available OU Natural History courses.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Monday, 23rd July 2012
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements section.
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