Classify organisms, using similarities and differences in physical and functional characteristics.
In prior grades students learned how the traits of organisms are passed on through the transfer of genetic information during reproduction. In grades 9-11 students learn about the factors that underlie biological evolution: variability of offspring, population growth, a finite supply of resources, and natural selection. Both the fossil record and analyses of DNA have made it possible to better understand the causes of variability and to determine how the many species alive today are related. Evolution is the major framework that explains the amazing diversity of life on our planet and guides the work of the life sciences.
Biological classifications are based on how organisms are related, reflecting their evolutionary history. Scientists infer relationships from physiological traits, genetic information, and the ability of two organisms to produce fertile offspring.