Teach the Earth > Paleontology > Teaching Activities > Creature Features - Showcase of Living Fossils

Creature Features - Showcase of Living Fossils

David Sunderlin
Lafayette College
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection

Resources in this top level collection a) must have scored Exemplary or Very Good in all five review categories, and must also rate as “Exemplary” in at least three of the five categories. The five categories included in the peer review process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

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: May 25, 2009


This activity connects the fossil record to biodiversity in the Recent by having students present on a "living fossil" group. The exercise is useful in demonstrating evolutionary stasis, reminding students of the differential preservation of soft and hard parts, and developing presentation skills.

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undergraduate upper-level elective in geology or biology major programs

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

How the activity is situated in the course

As a side project that is incorporated into the discussion of fossil groups


Content/concepts goals for this activity

  • anatomy of fossil & modern groups of organisms
  • evolutionary trends/stasis

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

  • synthesis of research

Other skills goals for this activity

  • oral presentation
  • written presentation
  • teaching the class

Description of the activity/assignment

This activity is a side project that students work on through the organismal portion of a course in paleobiology/paleontology. Students present on the lifestyle, habitat, and behavior of "living fossil" groups. The activity ties the fossil record to the modern living world and allows students to engage with ideas of evolutionary stasis, taphonomy, and functional morphology.

Determining whether students have met the goals

I use a rubric assessment system and peer evaluations. The rubric is provided to the students at the time the assignment is given and serves as a guide for the students as well as a grading tool.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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