Key Idea: There are similarities and differences between organisms living today, and between organisms living today and those that lived in the past, both within the same species and between species.

Students are expected to know that:

  1. Although many species have undergone little change for many millions of years, and a few appear to have changed very little since the early history of life, most species living today did not exist when life first began on earth.
  2. Extinctions have occurred throughout the history of life and continue to occur.
  3. Fossils can be used to study the anatomical features of extinct species, and to compare their features with those of existing species.
  4. Fossils include the remains of, or impressions left by, organisms that lived in the past and that have been preserved in rock or gradually replaced by rock.
  5. If available, DNA can be analyzed to learn about species from the past.
  6. Scientists have found similarities and differences among existing species, among extinct species, and between existing and extinct species.
  7. Traits can vary between different species and between organisms of the same species.

Students should be able to:

  1. Read a bar graph that shows variation in a trait within a population.

Boundaries:

  1. Students are not expected to know the different kinds of fossils.
  2. Students are not expected to know the fossilization process.
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
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EN015002

Scientists can use both fossils and DNA to study organisms that lived in the past.

58%

60%

EN053001

There are both similarities and differences between extinct and existing species.

74%

71%

EN051001

Fossils can be used to study the anatomical features of extinct species and to compare the features of extinct species with those of existing species.

68%

75%

EN054002

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

33%

40%

EN099002

There can be similarities in traits within a population and when comparing different species.

See the Evolution Project

EN052001

A scientist studying the fossils of an extinct species of fish could discover what anatomical features the extinct species had, and he could discover similarities and differences between the features of the extinct fish and those of currently existing fish.

51%

60%

EN014002

Many species have become extinct throughout the history of life on earth.

48%

58%

EN013002

The term 'fossil' can refer to both a bone in which the original matter has been replaced by rock and an impression left by a bone in rock.

48%

55%

EN054003

There are both similarities and differences between a cow and a Tyrannosaurus rex.

43%

55%

EN055001

Most species living today did not exist at the time life began.

46%

52%

EN054001

There are both similarities and differences between cats and worms.

37%

48%