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Paleontology

Course Description

From Godzilla to Jurassic Park, dinosaurs continue to captivate us. In this course, students will learn about the fascinating creatures both large and small that roamed the earth before modern man. Watch interesting videos from experts at The Royal Tyrrell Museum, a leading Paleontology research facility, and discover how the field of paleontology continues to provide amazing insight into early life on earth.

Unit 1: The Foundation in Geology

This unit will lay the foundation for the rest of the course. In Unit 1, we will define paleontology and provide a brief overview of the various fields and sub-disciplines within the subject area. From there, the course will focus on geology, including its three main principles, geological cycles, and geological processes. We will conclude by exploring the way geology and paleontology intersect within the fossil record.

Unit 2: Life and Adaptation

If you recall, paleontology sits at the crossroads between geology and biology. In Unit 1, we discussed some key concepts of geology, specifically geological cycles and geological processes. In unit 2, we begin by exploring some founding principles of biology, specifically the characteristics of living things. From there, we will examine origin of life theories, biodiversity, ecosystems, and adaptations. We will continue by looking at key theorists and early theories of adaptation. The unit will conclude with an introduction to Charles Darwin and his theory of natural selection.

Unit 3: Natural Selection and Evolution

Picking up from Unit 2, Unit 3 will take a closer look at the theory of natural selection and the beginnings of evolutionary theory. In this lesson, we will begin by distinguishing between evolution and evolutionary theory. This will allow us to take a look at how Darwin’s theory of natural selection has changed over time. We will also address the way variation causes new species to form. The lesson will conclude by looking at some examples of speciation today.

Unit 4: Extinction and Fossils

In Units 2 and 3, we discussed the way organisms evolve and adapt to their environments in order to survive. As we’ve learned, sometimes those adaptations result in new species. But what happens when an animal or organism cannot adapt? In this unit, we will discuss the role extinction plays in paleontology. We will begin by discussing both what it means for an animal or organism to go extinct as well as exploring how extinction occurs. We will then take a look at the major extinction events that have struck our planet. From there, we will review fossil records, fossilization, and dating methods, terms that have already been introduced in this course, but require a more thorough exploration.

Unit 5: Taxonomy

Unit 5 begins by defining taxonomy and answering three important questions: Why classify? Why name? And what’s in a name? In this unit, you will learn about Carl Linnaeus, the father of taxonomy, and the seven levels of classification. We will also explore how taxonomy changed post-Linnaeus. From there, we will explore systematics, paying particular attention to phenetic systematics, evolutionary systematics, and cladistic analysis. We’ll conclude the unit by taking a glance at taxonomy in the news today.

Unit 6: The Dinosaurs

This unit will focus on the most famous prehistoric animals, the dinosaurs. We will define dinosaurs and discuss their major characteristics. We will learn about the two orders of dinosaurs, Ornithischians and Saurischians, and the six suborders of animals (4 Ornithischian and 2 Saurischian) that make up these orders. We will also discuss some specific species as examples of the various types of dinosaurs.

Unit 7: Prehistoric Creatures

In unit 6, we learned about the dinosaurs, the most famous prehistoric creatures to walk our planet. Yet the dinosaurs are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to prehistoric creatures. There are many other species worth mentioning, ranging from Cephalopods to the Agnatha, to the Wooly Mammoth and the Australopithecines, of which humans descended. In this unit, we’ll trace the evolution of prehistoric vertebrates and invertebrates, introduce you to some monstrous predators, trace the evolution of humans, and explore mosasaurs and pterodons, the sea and air cousins to the dinosaurs.

Unit 8: Paleontology: Past, Present, and Future

This unit will provide an overview of paleontology as a field of study. The unit begins with a look at early paleontologists and continues onward by noting some key North American paleontologists. From there, we will explore the process in which a fossil is collected, prepared, and then presented in a museum. We will also look at the role technology plays in paleontology today. Finally, the unit ends by discussing the potential professions within paleontology.

Course Details

  • Date January 24, 2013
  • Tags High School Electives, STEM
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