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The first seven labs in this course are simply a survey of skeletal morphology in vertebrate animals; this is the first lab of the course that actually applies this understanding to solving a scientific problem. Students measure isolated skeletal elements of vertebrates in order to quantify the differences among members of different locomotor groups. They're asked to formulate hypotheses based on an understanding of physics for the differences among the locomotor categories they're examining, and then they compare their data to those expectations. The activity allows students to understand how paleontologists interpret skeletal morphology to make inferences about the ecology of extinct organisms. This will enable the students to apply their knowledge of skeletal morphology to answering a scientific question. The experience also gives them an opportunity to practice the process of paleontological science, including hypothesis testing and data interpretation.
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