Teach the Earth > Paleontology > Teaching Activities > Laboratory Exercise on Bivalve Functional Morphology

Laboratory Exercise on Bivalve Functional Morphology

Steven M. Stanley
University of Hawaii
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the 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: Jun 4, 2009


This exercise shows students how to infer modes of life of bivalve mollusks from their shell form. In the process, they will learn how to employ deductive reasoning in this sort of activity

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This can be used in either an undergraduate or graduate course in Invertebrate Paleontology or Paleobiology

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

They simply need logic.

How the activity is situated in the course

It is a stand-alone laboratory


Content/concepts goals for this activity

They will learn how to undertake functional morphologic analyses.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

They will learn to apply deductive reasoning two answer questions.

Other skills goals for this activity

They can work singly or, if desirable, in groups.

Description of the activity/assignment

Students are confronted with a variety of bivalves and questions about the meaning of shell form for each. Some specimens will be accompanied by pictures providing background material. This is an interactive exercise, with the instructor providing assistance with hints and helpful questions. Answers are provided on the powerpoint slides. Instructors will have somewhat different specimens than are employed here and may not be able to duplicate all parts of the exercise.

At the start of the activity, the instructor will explain that studies of functional morphology, leading to reconstruction of life habits, is essential to paleoecological research and to interpretation of the biological significance of evolutionary trends. An example of each is to be provided.

Students will explain the logic by which, with or without the aid of the instructor, they have arrived at their conclusions, .

Determining whether students have met the goals

There will be similar questions on exams -- with the use of specimens.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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