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In advance of this assignment, students will hear a lecture discussing the major events throughout the history of life, including but not limited to: the Cambrian Explosion, the Ordovician Radiation, the "Big Five" mass extinctions and they will be shown the Sepkoski Curve. Additionally students will be introduced to major groups of organisms, mostly at the class and order level. Students will be divided into groups of 4-5 students and each are assigned a major group of marine organisms with an extensive fossil record (e.g., Bivalves, Brachiopods, Arthropods, Cnidarians). Students will compile a list of 30-40 age ranges for genera within that group by conducting searches on the Paleobiology Database. Using these ranges, students will construct a range-through chart by hand on paper scaled to a geologic time scale, generating a visual representation of the originations, persistence and extinction of these groups. Upon construction of the range through chart, students will tally up the number of organisms present in each time period (either originating or persisting or going extinct during that time period). Using these counts, students will make a diversity curve in Microsoft Excel that should depict a rough approximation of the paleontological record of the group. Students will answer a series of questions related to the interpretation of the range through chart and diversity curve, and devise hypotheses that explain the shape of the trajectory of the curve. After generating the diversity curve in separate groups, the class will reassemble and combine data for the construction of a synoptic diversity curve. Students will examine this curve and compare it to that of the Sepkoski curve for the purposes of analysis and hypothesis formation.
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