Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Fossil Whales and Whale Evolution


National Middle School Science Standards

Life Science, Earth Science

Key Terms

paleontology, fossil record, evolution, extinction, natural selection, 3D digitization

Key Concepts

  • Evolution of marine mammals
  • Interpreting ecosystem changes through fossils
  • How plate tectonics shape the fossil record
  • 3D Digitization as a scientific tool 
  • Technology used by paleontologists

Resource Types

Paleontology Subject Guide Smithsonian Libraries

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

The Fossil Whale and Whale Evolution teaching resources support students in meeting the following middle school NGSS Performance Expectations.

Life Science

MS-LS4 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

  • MS-LS4-1 Analyze and interpret data for patterns in the fossil record that document the existence, diversity, extinction, and change of life forms throughout the history of life on Earth under the assumption that natural laws operate today as in the past.
  • MS-LS4-2 Apply scientific ideas to construct an explanation for the anatomical similarities and differences among modern organisms and between modern and fossil organisms to infer evolutionary relationships.

  • MS-LS4-4 Construct an explanation based on evidence that describes how genetic variations of traits in a population increase some individuals' probability of surviving and reproducing in a specific environment.

  • MS-LS4-6 Use mathematical representations to support explanations of how natural selection may lead to increases and decreases of specific traits in populations over time

Earth Science

MS-ESS2 Earth's Systems

  • MS-ESS2-3 Analyze and interpret data on the distribution of fossils and rocks, continental shapes, and seafloor structures to provide evidence of the past plate motions.

Resource Type
Subject Guides
Grade Level
Learning Standards
Next Generation Science Standards
Earth Science, Life Science, Paleontology