Straight from the Mouths of Horses and Tapirs: Using Fossil Teeth to Clarify How Ancient Environments Have Changed Over Time by: Larisa DeSantis

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Clarifying ancient environments millions of years ago is necessary to better understand how ecosystems change over time, providing insight as to the potential impacts of current global warming. This module engages middle school students in the scientific process, asking them to use tooth measurement to test the null hypothesis that horse and tapir diets have not changed over time. Based on their tooth study, students are then asked to make a new hypothesis regarding the diets of these animals, testing their second hypothesis with dental microwear data. Students utilize multiple learning styles during their paleontology research projects, ultimately making scientific illustrations based on their analysis of the quantitative data.

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Reviews (2)
  • on Mon Oct 28, 2013 5:50 PM

This is a very nice set of activities that allow students to examine fossilized teeth using the same types of tests researchers in the field would use. While recommended for a middle school class, these activities would be excellent for a high school earth science or biology course as well. This has a great mathematics connection and would be further enhanced if the teacher could procure real fossilized teeth.

Ruth Hutson  (Westmoreland, KS)
Ruth Hutson (Westmoreland, KS)

  • on Wed May 04, 2011 9:19 AM

This article describes using tooth morphology to determine ancient diets. Middle school students use images of fossil teeth to test a null hypothesis about the diets of horses and tapirs past and present. Using the explanations and activity sheets provided in this article allows the reader to reproduce this activity in their classroom. This is an interesting activity that allows students to replicate the processes of doing science and testing a null hypothesis.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

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