Activity for Out of the Ashes
This activity explores the concepts and research presented in the short film Out of the Ashes: Dawn of the Age of Mammals, which explores how life on Earth recovered after a major asteroid impact.
The Cretaceous-Paleogene (K–Pg) asteroid impact led to the mass extinction of 60%–80% of all species on Earth, including all non-avian dinosaurs. As Earth recovered, plants and animals coevolved in ecosystems once occupied by dinosaurs, leading to the current diversity of species on Earth. The fossil record can be used to reconstruct the past and better understand the evolution and diversity of life on our planet.
The “Student Handout” probes students’ understanding of the key concepts addressed in the film. The “Educator Materials” document provides suggested pause points in the film with questions for students, background information, and detailed discussion points; a list of related resources and references; and an answer key for the “Student Handout.”
Student Learning Targets
- Describe evidence for how the K¬–Pg asteroid impact led to widespread ecosystem changes that resulted in the extinction of many species, including all the non-avian dinosaurs.
- Describe how after the asteroid impact, plant and animal species (especially mammals) evolved and diversified.
- Interpret graphs and data from the fossil record to explain the ecological changes and diversification that occurred after the K–Pg mass extinction.
- Use knowledge of the ecological roles of organisms (such as decomposers, protein-rich plants, or generalist feeders) to infer past evolutionary processes.
asteroid, dinosaur, concretion, fern, fossil, legume, mass extinction, paleontology, recovery, succession
Grossnickle, David M., Stephanie M. Smith, and Gregory P. Wilson. “Untangling the multiple ecological radiations of early mammals.” Trends in Ecology & Evolution 34, 10 (2019): 936–949. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2019.05.008.
Lyson, Tyler R., I. M. Miller, A. D. Bercovici, K. Weissenburger, A. J. Fuentes, W. C. Clyde, J. W. Hagadorn, et al. “Exceptional continental record of biotic recovery after the Cretaceous–Paleogene mass extinction.” Science 336, 6468 (2019): 977–983. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aay2268.
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HS-LS2-6, HS-LS4-4, HS-LS4-5, HS-ESS2-7
EVO-1.M, EVO-3.G, EVO-3.H, EVO-3.J, SYI-2.C
Topic(s): 2.5, 2.6, 2.7
Learning Objectives & Practices: ERT-2.G.5, ERT-2.H.2, ERT-2.J.1, EIN-4.B.2