Evolution explored through the speciation of lemur populations on Madagascar

Program Overview

Students use real field data to investigate the relatedness of eight individual lemurs to discover whether or not a particular species previously thought extinct is actually still alive. They will analyse morphological data and use gel electrophoresis to decide if the extinct species is actually extant, including preparing the DNA samples for PCR to amplify the DNA prior to running the gels.

Students will use their results to create a phylogenetic tree of the lemur populations. There is an optional add-on bioinformatics activity where students use DNA sequence alignment data to confirm or modify their tree.

The program includes real data provided by the Duke Lemur Center. Students are taken through how to use a micropipette and run gel electrophoresis.

Curriculum Focus

VCE Biology Unit 4 – AOS 2: Outcome 2: How are species related over time?

The program address the following Evolution study design dot points:

  • Genetic changes in a population over time
    • causes of changing allele frequencies in a population’s gene pool, including environmental selection pressures, genetic drift and gene flow; and mutations as the source of new alleles
    • biological consequences of changing allele frequencies in terms of increased and decreased genetic diversity
    • consequences of bacterial resistance and viral antigenic drift and shift in terms of ongoing challenges for treatment strategies and vaccination against pathogens
  • Determining the relatedness of species
    • evidence of relatedness between species: structural morphology – homologous and vestigial structures; and molecular homology – DNA and amino acid sequences
    • the use and interpretation of phylogenetic trees as evidence for the relatedness between species

It will also re-visit some genetic tools content with regards to gel electrophoresis and PCR.

  • amplification of DNA using polymerase chain reaction and the use of gel electrophoresis in sorting DNA fragments, including the interpretation of gel runs for DNA profiling

Students will be added to KIOSC’s Learning Management System for their coursework, which includes a pre-work activity and post-work discussion questions.