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Classroom Resource
Diet and the Evolution of Salivary Amylase


Students explore the effects of different diets on the evolution of an enzyme that breaks down starch.

In this classroom activity, students analyze data obtained from a research study to draw conclusions about the relationship between the number of copies of the salivary amylase (AMY1) gene and production of salivary amylase, which is the enzyme in saliva that digests starch. They also analyze the relationship between AMY1 gene copy number and dietary starch consumption among different populations. 

This activity involves analyzing research data and graphing, using scientific reasoning to make claims, and using statistics to support these claims. It is intended for an advanced high school course (AP or IB) or undergraduate biology.

Curriculum Connections:

NGSS (April 2013)
HS-LS1-3, HS-LS3-1, HS-LS3-3, HS-LS4-2, HS-LS4-3, HS-LS4-4, HS-LS1.A, HS-LS.2A, HS-LS.3A, HS-LS.3B, HS-LS.4B, HS-LS.4C

Common Core (2010)
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.11-12.3, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.11-12.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.11-12.8, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.6, CCSS.Math.Content.HSS-MP.2, CCSS.Math.Content.HSS-MP.3, CCSS.Math.Content.HSS-MP.4, CCSS.Math.Content.HSS-ID.A.1, CCSS.Math.Content.HSS-ID.A.2, CCSS.Math.Content.HSS-ID.A.4, CCSS.Math.Content.HSS-ID.B.6, CCSS.Math.Content.HSS-IC.A.1, CCSS.Math.Content.HSS-IC.B.4, CCSS.Math.Content.HSF-IF.C.7

AP Biology (201213)
1.A.1, 1.A.2, 3.A.1, 3.C.1, 4.A.1, 4.C.1, SP1–6

IB Biology (2009)
Topic 1, 3.2, 3.5, 5.4, D.3

Supporting Materials (6)

Classroom Resource
Students explore the genetic changes associated with lactose tolerance/intolerance and how the trait is inherited in families.
Classroom Resource
Students evaluate and discuss several statements about lactose intolerance and evolution before and after watching the film.
Classroom Resource
Students simulate a lactose tolerance test.
Classroom Resource
Students interpret the results of two different tests for lactase persistence.
Short Film
Follow human geneticist Spencer Wells, Director of the Genographic Project of the National Geographic Society, as he tracks down the genetic changes associated with the ability to digest lactose as adults, tracing the origin of the trait to less than 10,000 years ago, a time when some human populations started domesticating animals.
Film Guides
The following classroom-ready resources complement Got Lactase? The Co-evolution of Genes and Culture, which tells the story of the evolution of the ability to digest lactose, a genetic trait that arose in humans within the last 10,000 years in some pastoralist cultures.

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