Anolis Lizards of the Greater Antilles:
Using Phylogeny to Test Hypotheses

Author: Jennifer (Johnson) Collins


STUDENTS “TAKE A TRIP” to the Greater Antilles to figure out how the Anolis lizards on the islands might have evolved. They begin by observing the body structures and habitat of different species, then plot this data on a map of the islands to look for patterns in their distribution. From the patterns they observe, students develop alternative hypotheses about how these lizards colonized the islands and evolved. To test their hypotheses, they are given a phylogeny which they color code according to their previous data. By combining both types of data, students make a final hypothesis about how they think the lizards colonized the islands.

The objectives of this lesson are to teach students how to:
1) Identify patterns in biological data, such as morphological characters (physical features), habitat, and geographical distribution.
2) Form multiple evolutionary hypotheses to explain the patterns they observe.
3) Test their hypotheses using a provided phylogenetic tree/cladogram.

Terms: distribution, speciation, phylogenetic tree, evolution

Prerequisites: Before beginning this lesson, students should:
— Understand that phylogenetic trees (cladograms) are hypotheses of how a set of organisms are related.
— Be able to read a phylogenetic tree (cladogram).
— Understand that evolution is change through time. Changes occur through the inheritance of features over many generations.

Time: 70–90 minutes
Grouping: Groups of 2–4 students
Background information: Under development

Directions and Handouts:
[viewing PDF files requires free Acrobat Reader software]
For Grades 7–13:
Teacher Directions
Student Directions
Student Questions
Question Answer Key
Student Map of the Greater Antilles [pdf]
Map Key [pdf]
Anolis Lizard Icons: color or black & white (for students) [both pdf]
Anolis Lizard Data Table
Anolis Lizard Phylogenetic Tree [pdf]
Anolis Lizard Phylogenetic Tree Key [pdf]
Possible Phylogenetic Tree Hypotheses [pdf]

Updated February 14, 2011

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