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The Case of Desiree's Baby

The Genetics and Evolution of Skin Color


Author(s)

Patricia Schneider
Biological Sciences and Geology
Queensborough Community College / City University of New York
pschneider@qcc.cuny.edu

Abstract

This case is based on Kate Chopin’s short story “Desiree’s Baby,” a tragic tale of race and gender in antebellum Louisiana first published in 1893. Students read the story and then answer a series of questions about the genetics and evolution of skin color. The case was developed for a general biology course organized around the general theme of evolution. It could also be used in anthropology and biology courses for non-majors.


Objectives

  • Explain polygenetic inheritance.
  • Describe the inheritance of skin color.
  • Discuss the “sunscreen” and “vitamin” hypotheses of skin color evolution.
  • Write a short essay summarizing the key points in a popular science article.

Keywords

Skin color; skin pigmentation; polygenetic inheritance; allele; genotype; Mendelian genetics; Punnett square; evolution; racism; race; racial; Kate Chopin; Desiree's Baby

Topical Areas

Social issues, Social justice issues

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division

Format

PDF

Type / Methods

Interrupted

Language

English

Subject Headings

Genetics / Heredity  |   Evolutionary Biology  |   Biology (General)  |   Anthropology  |   Sociology  |  


Date Posted

05/21/03

Teaching Notes

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Answer Key

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Videos

The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.

  • The Biology of Skin Color hhmi/
    In this short video, Penn State University anthropologist Dr. Nina Jablonski walks us through the evidence that the different shades of skin color among human populations arose as adaptations to the intensity of ultraviolet radiation in different parts of the world. Running time: 18:58 min. Produced by: HHMI BioInteractive.

Comments


Beth Strasser
strasser@csus.edu
Anthropology
Cal State Univ Sacramento
Sacramento, CA
02/15/2011
Wonderful case - Use it every term and students love it and, I think, come away with a better understanding of genetics. Thanks!

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