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Brilliant barnacles

In this module students will study barnacle morphology, life histories and life styles as Darwin did. He based his classification and search for a common ancestor upon his studies. Recent work using genetic and molecular evidence and scanning electron microscopy shows how some of the key difficulties in drawing the phylogenetic tree of barnacles have been resolved very recently by systematists and how some new questions have been raised.

Artemia, the brine shrimp, is used to explore the body plan of arthropod crustaceans and to understand how the taxonomic hierarchy is worked out through simple microscope work.

This resources allows students to:

  • Develop an understanding of the relationship of taxonomy to phylogeny.
  • Understand that phylogenetic relationships are based on theories and depend on the data sources used and that new phylogenies develop as new sources of evidence and analysis are available.
  • Apply practical skills to use a light microscope and prepare slides.
  • Interpret scanning electron micrographs and know their limitations.
  • Develop an appreciation of how scientists have built on Darwin’s work using DNA evidence.
  • Appreciate the significance of Darwin’s work on barnacles and how it affected his theory of evolution.
  • Observe Artemia, the brine shrimp, and understand the arthropod body plan, structure and life history.
  • Understand how Artemia is similar to the barnacle.
  • Develop confidence in naming organisms and familiarise themselves with binomial nomenclature.

Darwin's research and classification of barnacles

Do we need to keep Darwin's barnacle collection if all the data is stored digitally?

How do you look after Darwin's barnacle collection?

How do you use Darwin's barnacle specimens in your work?

What does your work as a scientist at the Natural History Museum involve?

Why is it important to study barnacles today?

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