Classification - hippo case study (KS5)

In Classification - hippo case study, KS5 students investigate and compare different methods of classification that are used. Students will determine the lineage of a range of species using a classification toolkit and explore how the zoo uses classification and phylogenetic trees to help make conservation decisions.Common Hippopotamus and baby at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Age group:  Post 16

Duration: 60 minutes

Capacity: 35


National Curriculum / Specification Links (from September 2015):

AQA AS/A2 Biology

3.4.1 DNA, genes and chromosomes.

  • In eukaryotes, much of the nuclear DNA does not code for polypeptides. There are, for example, non-coding multiple repeats of base sequences between genes. Even within a gene only some sequences, called exons, code for amino acid sequences. Within the gene, these exons are separated by one or more non-coding sequences, called introns.

3.4.2 DNA and protein synthesis

  • Students should be able to: relate the base sequence of nucleic acids to the amino acid sequence of polypeptides

3.4.5 Species and taxonomy.

  • A phylogenetic classification system attempts to arrange species into groups based on their evolutionary origins and relationships. It was a hierarchy in which smaller groups are placed within larger groups, with no overlap between groups. Each group is called a taxon (pleural taxa).
  • One hierarchy comprises the taxa: domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species.
  • Each species is universally identified by a binomial consisting of the name of its genus and species.
  • Students should be able to appreciate that advances in immunology and genome sequencing help to clarify evolutionary relationships between organisms.

Edexcel Biology A

Topic 2: Genes and health

  • 2.6 i) Understand the process of protein synthesis (transcription)
  • 2.9 ii) Understand the formation of polypeptides and proteins (amino acid monomers linked by peptide bonds in condensation reactions).
  • 2.13 (i) Know the meaning of the terms: gene, allele, genotype and phenotype.

Topic 4: Biodiversity and natural resources

  • 4.4 - Understand how natural selection can lead to adaptation and evolution.
  • 4.6 (i) - Understand that classification is a means of organising the variety of life based on relationships between organisms using differences and similarities in phenotypes and in genotypes, and is built around the species concept.
  • 4.6 (ii) - Understand the process and importance of critical evaluation of new data by the scientific community, which leads to new taxonomic groupings, including the three domains of life based on molecular phylogeny, which are Bacteria, Archaea, Eukaryota.
  • 4.16 - Be able to evaluate the methods used by zoos and seed banks in the conservation of endangered species and their genetic diversity, including scientific research, captive breeding programmes, reintroduction programmes and education

Topic 5 On the wild side.

  • 5.17 - Understand how evolution (a change in the allele frequency) can come about through gene mutation and natural selection.
  • 5.19 - Understand how isolation reduces gene flow between populations, leading to allopatric or sympatric speciation.

OCR Biology A

4.2.2 Classification and evolution.

  • the biological classification of species.
  • the binomial system of naming species and the advantage of such a system.
  • the relationship between classification and phylogeny.
  • the evidence for the theory of evolution by natural selection.

6.1.3 Manipulating genomes

  • how gene sequencing has allowed for genome-wide comparisons between individuals and between species

Intended learning outcomes:

Students will be able to:

  • List and compare the strengths and weaknesses of the different approaches that have been used to classify species
  • Work in groups to determine the lineage of a range of species using a classification toolkit
  • Describe how species evolve into the species we see today
  • Describe how the zoo uses classification and phylogenetic trees to help in making conservation decisions.


For this session


Before your visit:


While at the Zoo:


Link to session


Pygmy Hippo

Evolution of Hippos


Common Hippo

Evolution of Hippos



Natural Selection


Sea lion

Phenotypic classification

Sea Lion splash – Base Camp


Post-visit resources:

  • Talk about all of the different species that you saw on your zoo visit, in groups, classify all of the different species using the systems discussed in your zoo session.
  • Each group can be given a different species and can present their findings to the rest of the class.


Prepare for your classification - hippo case study session with our information pack.

PDF icon Pre-visit sheet - Classification - Hippo Case Study (559.34 KB)