Key Idea: Similarities and differences in inherited characteristics of organisms alive today or in the past can be used to infer the relatedness of any two species, changes in species over time, and lines of evolutionary descent.

Students are expected to know that:

  1. The similarities among living things suggest relatedness.
  2. The fact that organisms retain some of the inherited characteristics and DNA of their ancestors from many generations ago makes it possible for scientists to identify both recent and past ancestors of those organisms.
  3. Inherited characteristics (both internal and external) of species alive today, including their DNA and the proteins needed to carry out basic life functions, can be compared to determine how similar the species are. Organisms with more similarities are usually more closely related to each other than organisms with fewer similarities, i.e., organisms that have more similarities tend to have a more recent common ancestor than those with fewer similarities.
  4. Inherited characteristics (both internal and external) of species alive today can be compared to the characteristics of species that lived in the past, including their DNA if available and , to determine how similar they are. Organisms with more similarities are usually more closely related to each other than organisms with fewer similarities, i.e., organisms that have more similarities tend to have a more recent common ancestor than those with fewer similarities.
  5. Some structures that do not seem similar in gross structure and function (e.g. the hand of a human and the front flipper of a whale) may after closer analysis of the detailed anatomy and their DNA sequences be shown to have the same origin. A comparison of these homologous structures and the embryonic structures from which they arise can help to infer lines of evolutionary descent.
  6. Many of the same genes code for homologous structures across different species.
  7. The relative ages of fossils can be used to help infer lines of evolutionary descent. Relative ages of fossils are determined by their relative positions in the earth's rock layers.
  8. Fossils, anatomy, and embryos provide corroborative lines of evidence for common ancestry. DNA underlies the similarities and differences in fossils, anatomy, and embryos.
  9. Cladograms and tree diagrams can be used to represent lines of evolutionary descent and to organize hypotheses about the relationships among living things.
  10. Evidence for common ancestry across a wide variety of species provides support for the idea that all multi-cellular organisms (including humans) share a common ancestor. Evidence also indicates that life began as single-celled organisms and that complex multi-cellular organisms evolved from them.
  11. The similarities and differences in all living organisms are explained by their evolution from common ancestors.
  12. Because all organisms share an ancient common ancestor, all organisms, no matter how different they appear to be, have some features in common.

Boundaries:

  1. Students are not expected to know about convergent evolution.
  2. Students are not expected to know about Archae bacteria and the possible multiple origins of life.
  3. Students are not expected to know methods of dating.
  4. Students are not expected to know the approximate date of the origin of life or when any particular species or type of organism originated.
Percent of students answering correctly (click on the item ID number to view the item and additional data)
Item ID
Number
Knowledge Being Assessed Grades
6–8
Grades
9–12
Select This Item for My Item Bank

CA043005

Write an argument using correct evidence and sound reasoning to support a claim that chimpanzees and gorillas have a more recent common ancestry than chimpanzees and orangutans because their average genetic similarity is greater.

N/A

N/A

CA017003

Organisms that have more traits in common are also more genetically similar.

See the Evolution Project

CA034002

Organisms whose DNA sequences for a certain gene are more similar than those of another organism, are also more closely related.

See the Evolution Project

EN050005

All plants and all animals have a common ancestor with each other.

See the Evolution Project

CA040003

Scientists can use similarities in the embryos of two animal species to help determine how closely they are related.

See the Evolution Project

CA011002

If the DNA of Species X and Species Y is more similar than the DNA of Species X and Species Z, then Species X and Species Y have a more recent common ancestor than Species X and Species Z.

See the Evolution Project

CA016003

Organisms that have more traits in common share a more recent common ancestor than organisms with fewer traits in common.

See the Evolution Project

CA012001

Identify the diagram that most likely depicts the ancestry of lizards, toads, and dogs if the DNA of lizards and dogs is more similar than the DNA of lizards and toads.

See the Evolution Project

CA009004

If the DNA of lizards and dogs is more similar than the DNA of lizards and toads, lizards and dogs share a more recent common ancestor than lizards and toads.

See the Evolution Project

CA045002

Recognize evidence and reasoning statements to support the claim that sharks and dolphins share a common ancestor.

See the Evolution Project

CA010002

If the DNA of jellyfish and insects is more similar than the DNA of jellyfish and plants, then jellyfish and insects share a more recent common ancestor than jellyfish and insects.

See the Evolution Project

CA024003

Many of the same genes code for homologous traits (forelimbs) across different species.

See the Evolution Project

EN047005

Living species can share ancestors with other living species, and they can share ancestors with extinct species.

See the Original Project

EN054002

There are both similarities and differences between maple trees and lizards.

See the Original Project

CA043004

Recognize a valid argument that supports the claim that chimpanzees and gorillas have a more recent common ancestry than chimpanzees and orangutans because their average genetic similarity is greater.

See the Evolution Project

CA023003

Many of the same genes code for homologous traits (forelimbs) across different species.

See the Evolution Project

CA047002

The fact that fish cells and algae both have DNA can be used as evidence that they share a common ancestor. (Identify valid evidence and sound reasoning to support a claim.)

See the Evolution Project

CA032003

Different species can have similar genes for similar traits because they inherit them from a common ancestor.

See the Evolution Project

EN049005

All dogs and cats share a common ancestor.

See the Evolution Project

EN047003

A species living today and an extinct species could share a common ancestor that lived a very long time ago, even if the two species have few similarities.

See the Original Project

CA026004

Many of the same genes code for homologous traits (forelimbs) across different species.

See the Evolution Project

CA015003

Organisms that have more traits in common are probably more closely related than organisms with fewer traits in common.

See the Evolution Project

CA025002

Many of the same genes code for homologous traits (forelimbs) across different species.

See the Evolution Project

CA014003

Organisms that have fewer traits in common are probably more distantly related than organisms with more traits in common.

See the Evolution Project

CA041002

Similar skeletal features in organisms (chimpanzees and gorillas) indicate a common ancestor.

See the Evolution Project

CA020003

Organisms that have more traits in common share a more recent common ancestor than organisms with fewer traits in common. (Tree diagram)

See the Evolution Project

CA042002

Similar skeletal features (in dogs and fish) indicate a common ancestor. (Identify claim, evidence, and reasoning.)

See the Evolution Project

EN046010

Cats, dogs, fish, and birds all share an ancient common ancestor.

See the Evolution Project

CA006002

Comparing DNA sequences of new strains of the Chikungunya virus to the original strain can be used to determine the DNA sequence of their most recent common ancestor.

See the Evolution Project

EN046012

Chimpanzees, humans, zebras, and worms all share an ancient common ancestor.

See the Evolution Project

EN046011

Chimpanzees, humans, chickens, and oak trees all share an ancient common ancestor.

See the Evolution Project

CA022003

Fossils can be used to determine how closely organisms are related.

See the Evolution Project

EN050002

All plants and all animals have a common ancestor with each other.

See the Original Project

CA031003

Organisms can decode the information in each other's genes to build similar structures (wrists and fingers in mice; bones in the fins of fish).

See the Evolution Project

EN049002

All dogs and cats share a common ancestor.

See the Original Project

EN048003

All plants and animals -- including humans -- came from a common ancestor.

See the Original Project

EN046003

Cats, dogs, fish, and birds all share an ancient common ancestor.

See the Original Project

EN046004

Chimpanzees, humans, zebras, and worms all share an ancient common ancestor.

See the Original Project

EN046007

Chimpanzees, humans, chickens, and oak trees all share an ancient common ancestor.

See the Original Project

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Frequency of selecting a misconception

Misconception
ID Number

Student Misconception

Grades
6–8

Grades
9–12

ENM061

Completely different genes code for homologous traits across different species. For example, the genes that code for hind legs in cats are in no way similar to the genes that code for hind legs in dogs. (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.)

See the Original Project

ENM058

Some species do not share a common ancestor.

See the Original Project

ENM059

Similarities in DNA do not provide information about whether different types of organisms share a common ancestor (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

See the Original Project

ENM054

Members of different species do not share a common ancestor (Poling & Evans, 2004; Shtulman, 2006).

See the Original Project

ENM051

Species that have no apparent, obvious, or superficial similarities have no similarities at all (see Shtulman, 2006).

See the Original Project

ENM041

Species that are similar can share a common ancestor, but species that have no apparent, obvious, or superficial similarities cannot share a common ancestor (Poling & Evans, 2004; Stern & Hagay, 2005).

See the Original Project

ENM039

Plants and animals cannot share a common ancestor (Bizzo, 1994; Ha & Cha, 2008).

See the Original Project

ENM038

Humans do not share a common ancestor with other living organisms (Ha & Cha, 2008; Stern & Hagay, 2005).

See the Original Project

Frequency of selecting a misconception was calculated by dividing the total number of times a misconception was chosen by the number of times it could have been chosen, averaged over the number of students answering the questions within this particular idea.

NGSS Statements

Code

Statement

LS4.A HS

Genetic information, like the fossil record, provides evidence of evolution. DNA sequences vary among species, but there are many overlaps; in fact, the ongoing branching that produces multiple lines of descent can be inferred by comparing the DNA sequences of different organisms. Such information is also derivable from the similarities and differences in amino acid sequences and from anatomical and embryological evidence.

LS4.A HS

Genetic information, like the fossil record, provides evidence of evolution. DNA sequences vary among species, but there are many overlaps; in fact, the ongoing branching that produces multiple lines of descent can be inferred by comparing the DNA sequences of different organisms. Such information is also derivable from the similarities and differences in amino acid sequences and from anatomical and embryological evidence.

LS4.A HS

Genetic information, like the fossil record, provides evidence of evolution. DNA sequences vary among species, but there are many overlaps; in fact, the ongoing branching that produces multiple lines of descent can be inferred by comparing the DNA sequences of different organisms. Such information is also derivable from the similarities and differences in amino acid sequences and from anatomical and embryological evidence.

LS4.A MS

Anatomical similarities and differences between various organisms living today and between them and organisms in the fossil record, enable the reconstruction of evolutionary history and the inference of lines of evolutionary descent.

LS4.A MS

Anatomical similarities and differences between various organisms living today and between them and organisms in the fossil record, enable the reconstruction of evolutionary history and the inference of lines of evolutionary descent.

LS4.A HS

Genetic information, like the fossil record, provides evidence of evolution. DNA sequences vary among species, but there are many overlaps; in fact, the ongoing branching that produces multiple lines of descent can be inferred by comparing the DNA sequences of different organisms. Such information is also derivable from the similarities and differences in amino acid sequences and from anatomical and embryological evidence.

SEP7 HS

Evaluate the claims, evidence, and/or reasoning behind currently accepted explanations or solutions to determine the merits of arguments.

SEP7 HS

Evaluate the claims, evidence, and/or reasoning behind currently accepted explanations or solutions to determine the merits of arguments.

SEP7 HS

Evaluate the claims, evidence, and/or reasoning behind currently accepted explanations or solutions to determine the merits of arguments.

LS4.A HS

Genetic information, like the fossil record, provides evidence of evolution. DNA sequences vary among species, but there are many overlaps; in fact, the ongoing branching that produces multiple lines of descent can be inferred by comparing the DNA sequences of different organisms. Such information is also derivable from the similarities and differences in amino acid sequences and from anatomical and embryological evidence.

LS4.A HS

Genetic information, like the fossil record, provides evidence of evolution. DNA sequences vary among species, but there are many overlaps; in fact, the ongoing branching that produces multiple lines of descent can be inferred by comparing the DNA sequences of different organisms. Such information is also derivable from the similarities and differences in amino acid sequences and from anatomical and embryological evidence.

LS4.A HS

Genetic information, like the fossil record, provides evidence of evolution. DNA sequences vary among species, but there are many overlaps; in fact, the ongoing branching that produces multiple lines of descent can be inferred by comparing the DNA sequences of different organisms. Such information is also derivable from the similarities and differences in amino acid sequences and from anatomical and embryological evidence.

LS4.A HS

Genetic information, like the fossil record, provides evidence of evolution. DNA sequences vary among species, but there are many overlaps; in fact, the ongoing branching that produces multiple lines of descent can be inferred by comparing the DNA sequences of different organisms. Such information is also derivable from the similarities and differences in amino acid sequences and from anatomical and embryological evidence.

LS4.A HS

Genetic information, like the fossil record, provides evidence of evolution. DNA sequences vary among species, but there are many overlaps; in fact, the ongoing branching that produces multiple lines of descent can be inferred by comparing the DNA sequences of different organisms. Such information is also derivable from the similarities and differences in amino acid sequences and from anatomical and embryological evidence.

LS4.A HS

Genetic information, like the fossil record, provides evidence of evolution. DNA sequences vary among species, but there are many overlaps; in fact, the ongoing branching that produces multiple lines of descent can be inferred by comparing the DNA sequences of different organisms. Such information is also derivable from the similarities and differences in amino acid sequences and from anatomical and embryological evidence.

LS4.A MS

Anatomical similarities and differences between various organisms living today and between them and organisms in the fossil record, enable the reconstruction of evolutionary history and the inference of lines of evolutionary descent.

LS4.A HS

Genetic information, like the fossil record, provides evidence of evolution. DNA sequences vary among species, but there are many overlaps; in fact, the ongoing branching that produces multiple lines of descent can be inferred by comparing the DNA sequences of different organisms. Such information is also derivable from the similarities and differences in amino acid sequences and from anatomical and embryological evidence.

LS4.A MS

Anatomical similarities and differences between various organisms living today and between them and organisms in the fossil record, enable the reconstruction of evolutionary history and the inference of lines of evolutionary descent.

LS4.A MS

Anatomical similarities and differences between various organisms living today and between them and organisms in the fossil record, enable the reconstruction of evolutionary history and the inference of lines of evolutionary descent.

LS4.A HS

Genetic information, like the fossil record, provides evidence of evolution. DNA sequences vary among species, but there are many overlaps; in fact, the ongoing branching that produces multiple lines of descent can be inferred by comparing the DNA sequences of different organisms. Such information is also derivable from the similarities and differences in amino acid sequences and from anatomical and embryological evidence.