These explorations are intended to expand your understanding of the nature of the fossil record and the methods by which paleoanthropologists determine their age. Use your favorite Internet search programs to roam around the World Wide Web and discover what other people who have interest in these subjects have said to explain and support their views. Seek out reliable, factual sources. Do not stop at just two or three. It is worth the extra time to thoroughly research these questions and get views on all sides of the issues.
Questions to Explore
Search the Internet for data concerning the number of total species in the world today. Roughly how many of them are mammals, amphibians, birds, and reptiles? Give separate counts for each of these types of animals. Do scientists say that the number of species in the world is increasing or decreasing? Are large species more endangered than small ones? Why? Have there ever been fewer species on our planet? How do you account for this? (HINT: in answering the last question, do not limit your thinking to increasing diversity over time resulting from evolution.)
Look on the Internet for information about medical pathologies found in fossil animal bones. What kinds of pathologies are they? Were they common? What are the implications for the species that had them?
Search the Internet for explanations of why the Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian calendar in Western Europe. When did this occur? Why isn't the Gregorian calendar 100% accurate?
Look on the Internet for information about the use of paleoecology and/or palynology (i.e., pollen analysis) to date fossils and to reconstruct ancient environments. Where is this being done? What are the time periods for which these data sources have been used?
Look on the Internet for information about amino acid racemization dating. Where has it been used? What are some of the criticisms of this dating technique? Why do you suppose it is not used regularly to date the bones of the earliest humans?
6. Look on the Internet for information about uranium series dating. What is it? Where has it been used? What kinds of materials are dated with it? What are the time periods it can cover?
Help Getting Started
If you have not been satisfied with the search programs that you have used in the past, try one of the following. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, none of them can link you to everything available on the Web today because of the rapid growth of sites and the way search engines selectively exclude certain kinds of sites.
Old Standby General
If you don't have success searching with these programs, take a look at the Related Internet Links section of this tutorial.
CAUTION: In doing your searches, keep in mind that not everything on the Web is accurate, current, or true. To help discover which sites can be trusted and which ones cannot, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Who are the authors of the site? What are their credentials? Are they experts? 2. Is the information current? When was the website created and last updated? 3. Do the facts presented in the site seem correct? 4. Is the purpose of the site to objectively inform and explain or to persuade and sell a particular perspective?
Copyright © 2000-2012 by Dennis O'Neil. All rights reserved.