Weighing the Evidence for a Mass Extinction: In the Ocean
This activity supports concepts covered in the short film The Day the Mesozoic Died by replicating observations and measurements made by researchers of fossilized protists, called foraminifera (or forams), below and above the K-T boundary.
Students will use photomicrographs of foram research samples to note the differences in the fossils, mirroring those made by researchers documenting a mass extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous period about 66 million years ago.
This activity has three parts which complement Act 1 of the short film The Day the Mesozoic Died. Part 1 is a foram-sorting activity using the Foraminifera cards that students complete before watching the film. In Part 2, students analyze the data on forams found near the K-T boundary, and in Part 3, students compare data related to the size of the forams.
Student Learning Targets
- Measure and compare irregularly shaped objects to identify patterns in rock layers above and below the K-T boundary that can be correlated to a dependent variable.
- Collect and categorize objects from multiple observations, converting scaled images and making direct size comparisons between specimens.
- Analyze information contained in graphs.
Cretaceous period, foraminifera, fossil, marine biology, oceanography, Paleogene period, sediment, Tertiary period
Alvarez, Luis W., Walter Alvarez, Frank Asaro, and Helen V. Michel. “Extraterrestrial cause for the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction.” Science 208, 4448 (1980): 1095–1108. https//:doi.org/10.1126/science.208.4448.1095.
Huber, Brian T., Kenneth G. MacLeod, and Richard D. Norris. “Abrupt extinction and subsequent reworking of Cretaceous planktonic foraminifera across the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary: Evidence from the subtropical North Atlantic.” Geological Society of America. Special report 356 (2002): 277–289.
HS-LS4-4, HS-LS4-5; SEP4
AP Biology (2019)
EVO-1.M, EVO-1.N, EVO-3.E, EVO-3.G, EVO-3.H, EVO-3.J, ENE-4.B, ENE-4.C, SYI-2.C, SYI-3.G; SP3, SP4, SP5, SP6
IB Biology (2016)
IB Environmental Systems and Societies (2017)
Common Core (2010)
Math.N-Q.1, Math.A-CED.1; MP2
Vision and Change (2009)
CC5; DP2, DP4