Using Range Through Charts: Constructing a Diversity Curve
This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process.
This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.
This page first made public: Jun 4, 2009
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
How the activity is situated in the course
Content/concepts goals for this activity
Plot and interpret diversity curve based on range-through data
Groups of students will compare the diversity curves of different groups of organisms.
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
- evaluate data in the context of major events and trends throughout the history of life
- construct a diversity curve and generate hypotheses that explain their trajectories
- estimate the approximate age of an assemblage of fossils using a range through chart
Other skills goals for this activity
Students will be able to use Microsoft Excel to generate a diversity curve.
Description of the activity/assignment
Students will be divided into groups of 4-5 students and each are assigned a major group of marine organisms with an extensive fossil record (e.g., Bivalves, Brachiopods, Arthropods, Cnidarians). Students will compile a list of 30-40 age ranges for genera within that group by conducting searches on the Paleobiology Database.
Using these ranges, students will construct a range-through chart by hand on paper scaled to a geologic time scale, generating a visual representation of the originations, persistence and extinction of these groups.
Upon construction of the range through chart, students will tally up the number of organisms present in each time period (either originating or persisting or going extinct during that time period). Using these counts, students will make a diversity curve in Microsoft Excel that should depict a rough approximation of the paleontological record of the group.
Students will answer a series of questions related to the interpretation of the range through chart and diversity curve, and devise hypotheses that explain the shape of the trajectory of the curve.
After generating the diversity curve in separate groups, the class will reassemble and combine data for the construction of a synoptic diversity curve.
Students will examine this curve and compare it to that of the Sepkoski curve for the purposes of analysis and hypothesis formation.
Determining whether students have met the goals
Download teaching materials and tips
- Activity Description/Assignment:Range Through Chart and Diversity Curve Lab (Microsoft Word 63kB Aug19 09)
- Instructors Notes:
- Solution Set:Solution Set for Range Through and Diversity Curve Lab (Microsoft Word 72kB Aug19 09)
- Diversity Curve Excel Sheet (Excel 26kB Aug19 09)