What is a paleontological species?
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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
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Download teaching materials and tips
- Activity Description/Assignment: What is a paleontological species student handout (Microsoft Word 31kB Aug2 09)
- Instructors Notes:
Enough clay for students to work individually or in groups of three to make the molar model.
A model to follow (I use large casts of rodent molars) for the clay modeling part.
Fossils and/or casts
Hand lenses or microscopes
Access to a computer and Minitab or other graphical software, possibly graph paper.
Other taxa: I recommend using a taxonomic group that you are most comfortable with and one that you have ample fossils and/or casts for the exercise.
Basic statistics: The statistics can be as simple or involved as you choose. I include the mean, standard deviation, standard error, range and CV.
Common pitfalls: Be prepared for some students to work more quickly than others. Extensions of the exercise, such as creating more graphs or looking at more specimens to increase sample size will keep these students busy.
Add time as another part of the data set.
Incorporate an investigation of intraspecific and interspecific variability.
Suggested opening to lab (one possibility):
Yesterday, we discussed several species concepts. We focused on the morphological species concept because it is often the one followed in taxonomic identification. While each of the species concepts have their merits, there are many challenges when it comes to a practical application of the definitions.
In today's lab, you will experience some of those challenges firsthand.
As a result of participating in this laboratory activity, you will be able to . . .
1. Describe the species concept as it applies to fossil specimens.
2. Use common morphological features (e.g. cusps and cingula) and metric elements (e.g. length and width of molars) to differentiate among taxa. (Interchange features to fit the type of fossil specimens you are using in the exercise.)
3. Use Minitab for basic statistical analyses and graphing.
- Solution Set: