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An Internet WebQuest

HOMINID FOSSILS

Introduction

In this WebQuest, students do some Internet research on hominid fossils. They learn what a hominid is, and how humans and other hominids are related. Students find out about the most important hominid fossils, and what these fossils tell us about human evolution. They compile the information gathered in a table, then answer several questions about hominid fossils and human evolution.

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Task

Students will complete a table that lists the most important hominid species as they explore the Internet sites given. Each web site has some of the information they will need to complete the table. Students should be able to fill in the information requested for the species listed in the table. From their Internet research, students should also be able to answer the questions given.

Objectives

  • Define the word hominid and explain the relationship of hominids to hominoids.
  • Identify the hominid fossils that provide insight into human evolution.
  • Discuss how environmental changes influenced hominid evolution.

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Resources

Students will use the Internet links given to find out about hominid fossils and what they tell scientists about human evolution. They will learn why each of the fossils is important and how they are related. Students will find out whether the story of human evolution is complete, and learn why there is such a controversy around this topic. Finally, students will complete a table and answer a set of questions to demonstrate what they have learned about hominid fossils and human evolution.

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Time

2 class periods for research, filling in the table, and answering a few questions

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Process

As students progress through the list of web sites, you may help them to focus on what they need to know to fill in the table and answer the questions. Several of the web sites have links to other web sites with relevant information. If time allows, you may want to allow students to explore this subject further. Student tables may look different from the table given here; check on student work to make sure they have listed the correct locations and ages for each hominid species. Some students may add several hominid species to the table; accept any additions that students can justify through their Internet research.

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Evaluation
Click Here
for Rubric

Evaluation

For your evaluation of student work, consult the table below.

Table 1. Hominid Fossils

Genus and species Location of Fossil Estimated Age of Fossil

Ardipithecus ramidus

Ethiopia 4.4 million years old
Australopithecus anamensis Kenya 4.0 million years old
Australopithecus afarensis Ethiopia 3.4 million years old
Australopithecus africanus South Africa 3 2 million years old
Australopithecus aethiopicus Kenya 3.5 3.2 million years old
Australopithecus robustus South Africa 2.0 1.5 million years old
Australopithecus boisei Tanzania 1.8 million years old
Homo habilis Tanzania 1.8 1.7 million years old
Homo erectus Indonesia (Java) 700,000 years old
Homo ergaster Kenya 1.7 million years old
Homo heidelbergensis Germany 700,000 400,000 years old
Homo neanderthalensis Germany 60,000 50,000 years old
Homo sapiens France 28,000 years old

Questions about Hominid Fossils

  1. Students should say they would place it between Australopithecus afarensis and A. africanus because its estimated age is 3.5 to 3.2 million years old.
  2. Australopithecus garhi; it would be placed between A. africanus and A. aethiopicus because it is about the same age as A. aethiopicus.
  3. The other clear trends are: increasing body size, increasing use and sophistication of tools, decreasing tooth size, and decreasing skeletal robustness.
  4. All early hominids have bone structures that suggest they were able to walk upright, at least for part of the time, before there was an increase in brain size. The placement of the head on the neck also provides a clue as to which came first. In early hominids, the spine enters the head toward the back of the head; in humans, it enters at the center of the head, which is more consistent with an upright posture.
  5. About 8 to 5 million years ago, there was a drying period in equatorial Africa. The forests shrank and grasslands grew. At that time most hominids lived in trees. Those that were able to adapt to the grassland environment evolved into humans.
  6. because some scientists think Neanderthals were in the direct line of human evolution
  7. New fossil hominids are being discovered every year. Each discovery provides more information about the evolution of humans. Some of these fossils challenge the present thoughts about human evolution.

Once students have completed the table and answered the questions, you may wish to use the rubric below for scoring. The rubric is based on the thirteen fossils in the table and the seven questions given.

Scoring Table 1. Hominid Fossils

Table Presentation Rubric Possible Points Self-Assessment Teacher Assessmnet
Each hominid species has a location identified 13    
Each hominid species has an estimated age listed 13    
Information correct for each species location 13    
Information correct for each estimated age 13    
Answer to question 1 correct 6    
Answer to question 2 correct 7    
Answer to question 3 correct 7    
Answer to question 4 correct 7    
Answer to question 5 correct 7    
Answer to question 6 correct 7    
Answer to question 7 correct 7    
Total Possible Points: 100    

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Conclusion

Students should be able to fill in the table and answer the questions given. Students should also be able to answer the question about whether scientists have enough information to draw a timeline that depicts the steps in human evolution. Students should be able to support the data in their tables and their answers to the questions with information gathered in their Internet research.

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