Quaternary Faunal Environments

Christopher L. Hill
Boise State University
Author Profile


This project uses the online database FAUNMAP to compare the spatial distribution of mammals during the late Quaternary. Comparisons are made with the spatial distribution of a variety of extinct and extant taxa. Inferences about past environmental conditions are made by comparing the distribution patterns of large and small mammals over time.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications



This was designed for an upper-division undergraduate course in Quaternary paleontology. It is a required course for majors in geoarchaeology and an optional required course for majors in anthropology and environmental studies.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Student's are already familiar with the basic environmental events associated with the Quaternary. To use FAUNMAP students need to have a very basic understanding of how to use online resources.

How the activity is situated in the course

This project is near the end of the course. It can be a stand alone project or can be connected with background readings in taxonomy, biogeography, an paleoecology.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

In this exercise students become familiar with the different patterns of spatial distributions for North American mammals during the late Pleistocene and Holocene.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

This exercise involves the use of online data sets--pattern recognition and the development of inferences.

Other skills goals for this activity

A summary report is required as part of this exercise. Student's obtain the data from an online internet source. This exercise could be adapted for working in groups--team members could make a list of the maps required and assign each member a set which would be contributed to the group.

Description of the activity/assignment

Students collect information the environments associated with a list of presently living mammals. Students use FAUNMAP to explore the spatial patterns associated with these living mammals during the late Quaternary. They compare these distributions for living mammals to the distribution patterns for a set of extinct mammals. Students answer a set of questions that provide a basis for a summary report.

Determining whether students have met the goals

The answers to the questions and the summary report are graded.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Download teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

New TTE Logo Small

Paleontology resources from across Teach the Earth »

Key Resources:

Join the Community:

or Search