vendredi 6 octobre 2017

Here Be Dragons: Using Dragons as Models for Phylogenetic Analysis [peer reviewed article]

Cruz, Ronald Allan L. “Here Be Dragons: Using Dragons as Models for Phylogenetic Analysis.” The American Biology Teacher 79, no. 7 (2017): 544–51. doi:10.1525/abt.2017.79.7.544.


The students are building character matrices (with Mesquite 3.04) and cladograms based on the characterics of the D&D 3.5 dragons. Then, they generate a phylogenetic tree based on their analysis (with PHYLIP 3.6). The character choices/states are based on breath weapon, number of limbs, wing shape, alar phalanges,... but not on color, alignment and religion.

Fictional dragons in teaching activities present some weakness :
  • difficulty to determine which characters are important ;
  • some characters are vague ;
but they also present strenghs :
  • fun ;
  • lack of established/accepted "best" estimate: practice problem solving and critical thinking ;
  • no pre-existing phylogenetic: no cheating.

Ronal Allan L. Cruz, the ressourceful professor who designed the activity, comments « this activity reinforces the usefulness of fictional organisms in understanding the biology of real ones. »

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