Introduction to Evolution
Archaeopteryx lithographica
A reconstruction of Archaeopteryx lithographica and the Berlin specimen, found near Solnhofen, Germany, that inspired it. Painting by S. P. Glaser (Hartman); photograph by John H. Ostrom

Grade Level: Middle and High School
Next Generation Science Standards:

MS-LS4 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

  • MS-LS4-1. Analyze and interpret data for patterns in the fossil record that document the existence, diversity, extinction, and change of life forms throughout the history of life on Earth under the assumption that natural laws operate today as in the past.
  • MS-LS4-2. Apply scientific ideas to construct an explanation for the anatomical similarities and differences among modern organisms and between modern and fossil organisms to infer evolutionary relationships.

HS.Natural Selection and Evolution

  • HS-LS4-2. Construct an explanation based on evidence that the process of evolution primarily results from four factors: (1) the potential for a species to increase in number, (2) the heritable genetic variation of individuals in a species due to mutation and sexual reproduction, (3) competition for limited resources, and (4) the proliferation of those organisms that are better able to survive and reproduce in the environment.
  • HS-LS4-4. Construct an explanation based on evidence for how natural selection leads to adaptations of populations.

Description: Outstanding specimens of prehistoric animal and plant fossils are used to illustrate current theories on the mechanisms of biological change that are evolution.  These specimens provide evidence for the process of evolution through natural selection and genetic mutation.  Evolution has been a primary research subject at the Peabody Museum for more than 100 years and many of the Museum's exhibits were produced to promote the understanding of evolution.  Specimens will highlight current research on the close relationship between birds and dinosaurs, horse evolution, mass extinctions and a brief look at human origins.

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