Human Ancestry/Evolution/Genetic Differences Between Races

Problems/Case Studies
"As the Worm Turns: Speciation and the Apple Maggot Fly" Martin Kelly, D'Youville College. State University of New York at Buffalo's National Center for Case Study Teaching.
At what point in evolutionary development does a group of individuals become two distinct species? This case addresses that fundamental question by asking students to decide whether apple maggot flies are distinct as a species from hawthorn maggot flies. In making their decision, students examine the different models of speciation and consider the primary forces that effect evolutionary change.
Developed for an advanced undergraduate course in evolutionary biology, it would be appropriate for any biology course in which students are taught about the models of speciation. It could also be used in a general ecology course in which students consider the distribution and use of resources leading to niche specialization or in a genetics course if restrictions in gene flow are taught in the context of speciation.

"The Dating Game: A Case Study in Human Evolution" Shoshana Tobias, University at Buffalo. State University of New York at Buffalo’s National Center for Case Study Teaching.
In this role-playing case study, students attempt to determine the identity of a variety of human fossils based on characteristics described during a "quiz show."
The case was designed to be used in a general biology class for freshman students where the focus is on evolution. It could also be used in an anthropology or paleontology course.

"The Case of Desiree's Baby: The Genetics and Evolution of Human Skin Color" Patricia Schneider, Queensborough Community College. State University of New York at Buffalo’s National Center for Case Study Teaching.
This case is based on Kate Chopin's short story "Desiree's Baby," a tragic tale of race and gender in antebellum Louisiana first published in 1893. Students read the story and then answer a series of questions about the genetics and evolution of skin color.
The case was developed for a general biology course organized around the general theme of evolution. It could also be used in anthropology and biology courses for non-majors.

"The Evolutionary Genetics of Sickle Cell Anemia: A Case Study in Human Evolution".  Peters, John, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC.  This case study explores the relationship between sickle cell anemia and malaria.  It allow students to explore the effect that the presence/absence of the malaria parasite on the frequency of the sickle cell allele in various populations.  The case was developed for a majors or non-majors introductory biology course.  During the case students watch an excerpt from the PBS special, The Secret of Life, and use a Sickle Cell Population Genetics file which allows students to explore how different survival probabilities for each sickle cell genotype affect their relative frequencies over time. 

Radio Broadcasts/Podcasts

NPR's Talk of the Nation: Discovery casts doubt on "Hobbit" Theory The discovery of unusual skeletal remains on the islands of Palau suggests that the so-called "hobbits" found several years ago in Indonesia may have been dwarf humans, not a separate species.

CNN Video Clips

Topic: "Mystery Ape": Biology 6th Ed. CNN Ed 2002 (3:07)

In North Central Congo there is evidence of an ape unlike any described species.  Mitochondrial DNA evidence suggests that the animal is a chimpanzee. It is, however, larger than a typical chimpanzee, In addition, it displays different behavior and has a gorilla-like bony crest on its skull. One theory is that it is a hybrid between a male gorilla and a female chimpanzee. (Student worksheet provided on CD)

Topic: "Human Ancestor": Biology 6th Ed. CNN Ed 2002 (2:00)

The discovery of a one million-year-old skull in Ethiopia is the first evidence that Homo erectus was still living in Africa at the time that modern humans arose there. That means this species could be our direct ancestor. Anthropologist Henry Gilbert believes that Homo erectus gave rise to Homo sapiens in Africa, lending support to the African emergence model of human evolution. (Student worksheet provided on CD)

Topic: "Earliest Homo sapiens": Biology 8th Ed. CNN Ed 2004 (1:42)
A 160,000-year-old fossil skull discovered in Ethiopia provides a new glimpse at our early ancestors. The skull appears to be from a 20- to 30-year-old man. A second skull found nearby is of a child. Tim White of the University of California (UC) at Berkeley classifies the fossils as members of a new subspecies that he calls Homo sapiens idaltu. Compared to modern humans, these ancestors had a slightly larger skull and brain case, and a slightly longer face. Tools found in the same area as the fossils were probably used to hunt game. The worksheet provides the URL for an interview with Professor White on the Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley website. (Student worksheet provided on CD)

Topic:  "Biggest mass extinction":  Biology 6th Ed. CNN Ed 2002 (1:40)
Animation recreates the asteroid impact that occurred about 250 million years ago at the Permian-Triassic boundary. The impact caused volcanic eruptions and darkened the skies with ash. The result was the greatest known mass extinction. A trilobite fossil is shown as an example of one of the many groups that disappeared at this time. Evidence of the asteroid impact comes from examination of cores from deep within the earth. These cores revealed carbon buckyballs that contained gases normally found only in deep space. The gases were presumably carried in on the asteroid. The possibility of another asteroid impact is discussed.


"Does Race Exist". Bamshad, Michael J. and Olsen, Steve E. Current Issues in Biology. Scientific American, Inc. December 2003. 22-31.
Physical characteristics are often used to group people into races. This article describes molecular techniques that are used to classify humans. It also  explains that physical characteristics resulting from natural selection do not necessarily reflect genetic differences. These genetic differences can be used to group humans and this grouping can be important in the way that we diagnose and treat many diseases. The article is followed by a short comprehension quiz and some critical thinking questions.

“Some striking similarities” From Egg to Adult.  1992.  Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Similarities are discussed that give evidence for a common evolutionary ancestor.  The use of model systems to learn about developmental biology is also an important facet of the article. 

"Teams rebuild portion of Neanderthal gene code".  Weiss, Rick.  Post and Courier.  November 16, 2006.
Using a new kind of DNA analyzer, scientists were able to partially decode a 38,000 year old bone fragment.  This can lead scientists to information about hair, skin, and capacity for language.  Scientists can also depict the one half percent gene code difference from Neanderthals. 

"The Littlest Human".  Wong, Kate.  Scientific American.  pp.  20-31.
There is a lore that exists on the island of Flores, Indonesia of the "grandmother who eats anything".  Once thought to be inspired by a macaque monkey, October 2004 gave scientists an alternative to the monkey hypothesis.  A lilliputian human skeleton was found, having lived 13,000 years ago.  The skull size was like a grapefruit with cognitive ability like modern humans.  This find goes along with the stone artifacts found in 1998 on the island which made scientists previously believe that H. erectus had cross deep waters to get to the island.  The article depicts the finds and classification of H. floresiensis.

Interviews:  Mapping the human race's journey.  April 13, 2005,  NPR.
"On Wednesday, the National Geographic Society in partnership with IBM is launching the "Genographic Project" -- a five-year effort to collect and analyze more than 100,000 DNA samples in order to trace the origins and movement of the human race. Dr. Spencer Wells, the program's director and a Society "explorer-in-residence," tells NPR's Alex Chadwick the Genographic Project will be the largest and most comprehensive public database of anthropological genetic information ever compiled. He calls the DNA molecule a "time machine" that can answer the most basic questions of human history: Where did I come from, and how did I get here?"

"Chimps Champs of Memory". Malcolm Ritter: Post and Courier (Dec. 4, 2007) -Available in PBL resources library in SCIC outside of room 207
Japanese researchers conduct memory-based testing between chimpanzees and humans.