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ASTR101: Introduction to Astronomy

Unit 13: Biological Evolution   In this unit, you will be introduced to the concept that species arise through the modification of earlier forms of life.  Particular emphasis will be placed on the line of descent of human beings through vertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, primates, and eventually, us.

Unit 13 Time Advisory
This unit should take approximately 9 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 13.1: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 13.2: 4 hours

☐    Subunit 13.3: 3 hours

☐    Assignment: 1 hour

Unit13 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to: - Produce a timeline for the evolution of life from its earliest existence to our species, Homo sapiens. - Identify the defining difference between fish and earlier forms of life. - Identify the defining difference between amphibians and fish. - Identify the defining difference between reptiles and amphibians. - Identify the defining difference between mammals and reptiles. - Identify the defining difference between primates and mammals. - List at least five species on the hominid line of descent.

13.1 Chemical Evolution   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 13: Biological Evolution” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 13: Biological Evolution” (PDF)

 Instructions: This article provides an overview of the material we
will cover in Unit 13.  Read it carefully, but please don’t think
that you have to fix every single fact into your memory.  What you
should strive for is to be sure that it makes sense to you as you
are reading it and that when you are finished you can briefly
summarize the main points of the reading.  You should read this both
as you start and after you have finished working your way through
the unit.  

 Reading this article should take approximately 45 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Robert A. Freitas, Jr.’s Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization: “Early Chemical Evolution on Earth” Link: Robert A. Freitas, Jr.’s Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization: “Early Chemical Evolution on Earth” (HTML)

    Instructions: This excerpt discusses the nature of chemical evolution in the early history of the earth.

    Reading this excerpt should take approximately 10 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Evogeneao: Leonard Eisenberg’s “Evolution: All in the Family” Link: Evogeneao: Leonard Eisenberg’s “Evolution: All in the Family” (HTML)

    Instructions: This article starts with a discussion of evolution, and goes on to talk about Darwin and the criteria for what constitutes a scientific theory.

    Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

13.2 Biological Evolution   - Reading: The Earth Life Web: Gordon Ramel’s “The Evolution of Mammals” Link: The Earth Life Web: Gordon Ramel’s “The Evolution of Mammals” (HTML)

 Instructions: This article discusses biological evolution from
fish, the first vertebrates, but focuses on the evolution of
mammals.  

 Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Evogeneao: Leonard Eisenberg’s “Evolution: All in the Family” Link: Evogeneao: Leonard Eisenberg’s “Evolution: All in the Family” (HTML)

    Instructions: This article starts with a discussion of evolution, and goes on to talk about Darwin and the criteria for what constitutes a scientific theory.

    Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Palaeos’ “Amphibians, Systematics, and Cladistics” Link: Palaeos’ “Amphibians, Systematics, and Cladistics” (HTML)

    Instructions: This article covers biological evolution from 410 million years ago to 180 million years ago – the Paleozoic Era plus some of the Mesozoic Era. This period specifically includes lungfish and amphibians. As you read, follow some of the links to anything that seems interesting.

    Reading this article should take about 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Palomar College: Dennis O’Neal’s “The First Primates” Link: Palomar College: Dennis O’Neal’s “The First Primates” (HTML)

    Instructions: This article covers primate evolution from the proto-primates up to about 5 million years ago, which is about the time of the last common ancestor for chimps and humans.

    Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

13.3 Human Evolution   - Reading: Becoming Human Link: Becoming Human (HTML)

 Instructions: This is an interactive site with lots of information
on human evolution.  Browse the site to see if there is something of
particular interest to you.  

 Studying this site should take approximately 10 minutes.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History: “What Does It Mean to Be Human?” Link: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History: “What Does It Mean to Be Human?” (HTML)

    Instructions: This article is intended primarily for educators.  You should read the first part, “Introduction to Human Evolution,” which includes a video on some of the evidence, and the second part, “How Do We Know?”

    Reading this article and watching the short video should take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 13 Assessment” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 13 Assessment” (PDF)

    Instructions: When you have finished the entire unit, please complete this assessment without referring to the readings.  When you are finished with the assessment, you can check your answers against the Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 13 Assessment – Answer Key” (PDF).

    Completing this assessment should take approximately 1 hour.