Biological evolution is driven by genes adapting animals to changing environments. Both paleontology and genetics help us understand the evolution of the animal kingdom and the explosion of animal diversity during the Cambrian.
Lesson PlanWho Was "Hunter Eve?"The paleontological evidence of the first animal to hunt is tiny trails that have been fossilized in rocks. To start this lesson, students will consider the tracks and traces left by modern animals and what they can learn about an animal from its tracks. They then think about which animal might have been the first hunter. The class considers what it takes to be a hunter and what kind of evidence…
Lesson PlanA Pipe Cleaner Model of Animal EvolutionThe evolutionary tree shown here was drawn by Charles Darwin, a scientist who lived more than 150 years ago. It was Darwin, and another man named Alfred Russel Wallace that came up with the idea of natural selection, which is one of the ways that life evolves. Darwin wasn’t the first person to suggest that life evolves, the idea had been around for a while, but he was one of the first to use…
Lesson PlanCambrian ExplosionIn this lesson, students will watch a short film about the Cambrian Explosion and the extraordinary fossils of the Burgess Shale. Students will address preconceptions and misconceptions about early Cambrian life, and complete a timeline activity that will enable them to better appreciate just how recently—relatively speaking—multicellular life evolved on Earth.
Lesson PlanAges Of RockThis collection consists of six lesson plans designed to help students construct an explanation of the geologic time scale based on personal connections, science concepts and nature of science ideas.
Cambrian Explosion Readings
ReadingCambrian Explosion: A BIG BANG in the Evolution of AnimalsFor most of Earth's early history, there simply was no fossil record. Only recently have we come to discover otherwise: Life is virtually as old as the planet itself, and even the most ancient sedimentary rocks have yielded fossilized remains of primitive forms of life.
A Cool Summer Adventure: BURGESS SHALE!
By Nancy Burnett, Founder of Shape of LifeWhile working on the original PBS Shape of Life series, I learned about the discovery of fossil animals that first appeared during the Cambrian Explosion. When I realized that the most famous Cambrian site is in the Burgess Shale of British Columbia, I knew I had to visit it.
Geerat Vermeij UC Davis, Distinguished Professor, Earth and Planetary Sciences
The Whole World at his FingertipsWhen we filmed Evolutionary Biologist Geerat (Gary) Vermeij for Shape of Life we were awed by how he could tell us so much about a shell by feeling the shape, the texture, the bumps and even the repairs. Blind since age three, Gary studies the form and function of molluscs in a completely unique way – using his figertips. He says his parents encouraged him to…
Imagine the oceans 530 million years ago, during the Cambrian Explosion, filled with creatures alien to us today. Anomalocaris (ah-NOM-ah-LAH-kariss), from the Greek meaning “unusual shrimp”, was a major predator of those ancient seas. Fossils from the Cambrian in the Burgess Shale in Canada, and formations in China, Greenland, Australia, and Utah show that this large, ancient shrimp was…