Prior Knowledge Recommended:

The Scientific Method

The general principals of Linnaean Taxonomy

How to read and interpret phylogeny trees

Basic evolutionary theory

Strands Addressed:

Biodiversity Unit:

  • B2. investigate, through laboratory and/or field activities or through simulations, the principles of scientific classification, using appropriate sampling and classification techniques;
  • B3. demonstrate an understanding of the diversity of living organisms in terms of the principles of taxonomy and phylogeny.
  • B3.1 explain the fundamental principles of taxonomy and phylogeny by defining concepts of taxonomic rank and relationship, such as genus, species, and taxon

Scientific Investigation Skills:

  • Gather, organize, and record relevant information from research
  • Think critically and logically
  • Process and synthesize data
  • Interpret data/information to identify patterns and relationships
  • Solve problems
  • Draw conclusions
  • Use appropriate formats to communicate results (e.g. written paragraphs, data tables)
  • Express results accurately and precisely

Description of Activity:

Students research the taxonomic breakdown of a variety of organisms.  Based on the taxonomic breakdown of each organism, students will determine whether a number of morphological traits are present or absent in each of the organisms.


Students will then propose a plausible evolutionary history for the organisms based on their morphological similarities.


This activity is a redesigned version of “Making Cladograms” from ENSI’s resource site at: