Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Paleobiology - Unearthing Fossil Whales

Description

Dr. Nick Pyenson is a paleontologist at the National Museum of Natural History. Join him in uncovering fossil whales in Panama, Canada, and Chile and probing their evolutionary mysteries using 3D laser scanning technology. Consider what whale remains can tell you about past environments. Find out how paleontologists deal with large fossils. See how modern digitization techniques can be used to study a paleontological site. Learn how Nick and his team are analyzing fossil whales in conjunction with other data to enhance our understanding of whale paleontology.

This program originally aired January 16, 2014, as part of the Smithsonian Science How webcast series, which is designed to bring natural history science and research to upper-elementary and middle-school students.

Teaching Resources

Fossil Whales and Whale Evolution

National Middle School Standards

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

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
Videos
Grade Level
6-8
Topics
Life Science