Paleobiology: Evolution and Extinction

Carrie Schweitzer, Kent State University-Stark Campus
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This activity introduces students to the impact of population size, population distribution, and environmental events on extinction processes.

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I use this course in the lab section of an introductory geology course on historical geology (Earth and Life through Time).

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students must have basic knowledge of evolution and species concepts.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is a lab activity occurring late in the semester after students have completed labs on invertebrate paleontology, vertebrate paleontology, adaptations, and evolution.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Students learn how population growth and environmental change help control extinction events.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students evaluate data and probability. They must formulate hypotheses and support their assertions with evidence.

Other skills goals for this activity

Students work in lab groups of 3 to 4 people.

Description and Teaching Materials

Students need a world map, dice, and plastic animals. I use farm animal counters but any plastic animal type will work. Students follow the directions to populate their continents, evaluate evolution and extinction probabilities, grow their populations, and cause extinction events.
Evolution and Extinction Lab (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 16kB Apr12 17)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Students sometimes get confused on the fact that the animal they roll is different than the animals in the plastic counters. You could minimize this by getting different dinosaurs or dinosaurs and mammals and having the animal be the same as the plastic counters.
Student often forget to replace the animals lost in the first extinction event before they move on to the second extinction event.


Students answer questions as they move through the various lab activities. I monitor them and walk around among the groups, posing questions and making sure they are on the right track.

References and Resources

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