Seven Skeletons and a Mystery
Department of Biological Sciences
University at Buffalo
This problem-based learning case uses Archaeopteryx, the most famous fossil in the world, to show the vital role that fossils play in understanding evolutionary history and to explore the different theories for the origin of flight and the debate over a bird-dinosaur connection. The case was designed for an introductory biology course where the focus is on evolution. It would also be appropriate for classes in geology.
- To show the vital role that fossils play in understanding evolutionary history.
- To highlight the evolution vs. creationist controversy over "transitional species."
- To consider how fossils are formed, discovered, and dated.
- To understand some of the difficulties in interpreting a phylogeny with major gaps in the fossil record.
- To learn some vertebrate anatomy and understand its role in determining function.
- To examine the evidence for the evolution of flight.
- To examine the evidence for the relationship between reptiles and birds, especially the hypotheses that dinosaurs are ancestral to birds.
- To consider the possible consequences of an ethical dilemma.
KeywordsArchaeopteryx; evolution; fossil; flight; transitional species; birds; dinosaurs; John Ostrom; Teyler Museum
Topical AreasEthics, History of science
Educational LevelHigh school, Undergraduate lower division
Type / MethodsDilemma/Decision, Problem-Based Learning
Subject HeadingsEvolutionary Biology | Geology | Paleontology |