Today we begin our final project. This is both our last (final) project, AND our final (exam).
You will have two class periods, and time in between, to develop a well-researched answer to the prompt: “If I were a paleontologist…”
The assignment sheet includes all you need to know to do this well, so read it closely, and then read it again and again.
We will begin class by completing the end of course survey, below:
Paleontology, TTH p4
This week, Sean will be leading us in an investigation into the giant extinct snake, Titanoboa. Similar to Megalodon, we find very little of this monster fossilized into the fossil record; just vertebra and a few ribs. We will use 3D printed fossil replicas to interpret what these fossils can tell us about this fascinating creature.
Paleontologist John Bloch shows a comparison of the vertebra of Titanoboa to that of a modern Anaconda. If the Anaconda was 20 feet or so, then….
Similar to our Megalodon investigation, we will measure the Titanoboa vertebra and compare those to measurements taken from modern Anaconda, and since we know the actual length of the Anacondas, we can infer the size of Titanoboa.
Once we have predicted a size from these measurements, we will apply what we know about the correlation between snakes and temperatures to infer what the climate was like 60 million years ago when Titanoboa was lurking in what must have been some very tall grass. See, the warmer the temperatures, the larger cold-blooded organisms – like snakes – can become. Knowing the size of the snake will give us a range of possible average temperatures for the area the fossils were found 60 million years ago.
On Day 2 of this week, we will watch the Smithsonian documentary about this amazing snake. Titanoboa: Monster Snake is free to watch on Netflix.
Megalodon teeth are big, so megalodon was big, right? But how big? And, how do we know, if all we find of the ancient shark is teeth?
Today, we conduct the real science behind the answers to these questions, using 3D prints of a complete set of megalodon teeth.
We will use the 3D printed teeth to gather some measurements, most important of them the crown height. Knowing that measurement, and the position of the tooth within the jaw, can allow us to perform some calculations to infer the total length of the individual the teeth belonged to. Was it bigger or smaller than our 39 foot classroom??
Homework: Complete the “Analysis and Conclusions” questions that are on the second page of the handouts from today’s class. This is due 5/18-19. (ABSENT? You can make up the classwork in DS. I have traced the teeth and drawn the triangles you need to measure on the handouts in the binder. Complete the measurements, plug the numbers in to the data table, and record your results. Then, complete the homework.)
Today I would like you to meet Victor Perez. Victor is a PhD student from University of Florida, and he will be here each day this week. Today, he will share with you the path that brought him into the sciences, and into paleontology.
Victor brought with him 46 3D printed megalodon teeth, which represent EVERY TOOTH in a megalodon’s mouth. This is called an “associated set” of teeth, which means that it is believed that they all came from the same individual, which is extremely rare. So rare is this set of teeth, it is valued at one million dollars! Cha-ching!
Vocab for today is on this powerpoint. Put it in your INB on page 43.
HW: Write a 1/2 page reflection about Victor’s talk, and the value of having these student-scientists visit our class every once in a while to talk to us about their path, their interests and their lives as young scientists. Due 5/13-14 (IF YOU WERE ABSENT: You can make up this classwork by reading THIS ARTICLE and submitting the xtra credit submission form on the “Submit Extra Credit” tab of this blog.
Today we are exploring the geometry of megalodon teeth.
Scientists have used modern sharks, like the mako and great white, to develop hypotheses about the relationship between a shark’s teeth and it’s overall size. This is necessary, especially since shark teeth are abundant (remember that a shark that lives 20 years will shed tens of thousands of teeth!) and other remains are not often fossilized because they are made of soft cartilage.
I will lead you through the activity of taking measurements from digital models of meg teeth in order to calculate the size of the individual from which they came. Follow along!
Below are digital files of the now famous “complete set” of teeth that Dr. Hubbell used in his early research on megalodon. We are fortunate that the University of Florida has made these scans available to us! Pick a tooth to use for today’s activity.
(Digital files of Hubbell’s associated Meg teeth can be found at http://www.morphosource.org)
Download a tooth to the computer’s desktop.
Open SketchUp, select the “3D printing – Millimeters” template
From the File menu, select “Import…”
Select the tooth file (*.stl)
Click “Import”Be patient, it may take time but it will work.
Follow my instructions to measure the tooth.