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Complex Traits

Author(s): Nancy Moreno, PhD.

Characteristics: Wolf vs. Dog

As part of this activity, students examine a diagram that shows the relationships among species in the dog family (Canidae) based on molecular genetic information. It is important to note that diagrams of this type are not family trees or genealogies. Instead, they represent similarities or differences among living (extant) groups based on their genetic information. Groups that are found on the same branches (or clades) of the tree share unique genetic information and are descendants of the same founding or ancestral population.

Note: A phenotypic character is a feature (or trait) that can vary from one individual to another. Characters that differ between these two individuals include height, fur pattern and speed. 

Procedure (cont.)

4. Create a table at the front of the class or show this slide, which provides samples of characters and traits of the wolf and dog shown in the previous slides. Have students work in groups of two or four to create similar charts that list characters that differ between the wolf and dog shown. Have each group find at least five characters that are different for the wolf and the dog. OR conduct a discussion and create a class chart. 

Note: You may want to clarify for students that “character” refers to a feature that can vary from one individual or group to another. “Trait” refers to a specific variation or form of a given feature. For example, hair texture is a character. Curly hair and straight hair are two different traits. 

Funded by the following grant(s)

Science Education Partnership Award, NIH

Gene U: Inquiry-based Genomics Learning Experiences for Teachers and Students
Grant Number: 5R25OD011134

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Using Learning Technology to Build Human Capital
Grant Number: 57363