Giant Turtle Fossil Bones Reunited After 163 Years

Learning Objectives

Students will read a recent science news article and discuss the content.
Depending the on the article, students may be asked to draw connections to current events or other classroom exercises.

Standards Addressed

Depending on the article, one of these standards may be most appropriate:

Subject Area - 1: Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening

     Standard Area - 1.3: Reading, Analyzing, and Interpreting Literature - Fiction and Non-Fiction

          Grade Level - 1.3.6: GRADE 6

               Standard - 1.3.6.A: Read, understand, and respond to works from various genres of literature

                    Assessment Anchor - R6.A.2: Understand nonfiction appropriate to grade level.

Preparation Time Needed

<30 minutes, enough time to read the article and associated questions, answer the questions, and possibly come up with more that are relevant to recent class exercises. 

Activity Description

(Part of the PAESTA In The News - Current Events in Earth and Space Science Series. This series compiles current resources and background materials for recent scientific events in the news. Questions are provided with each topic, written across Bloom's Taxonomic Scale, and can be used for classroom discussion and/or as a writing prompt at the beginning/middle/end of an instructional unit.)

The two partial limb fossils from an ancient sea turtle fit together perfectly, despite each bone being collected 163 years apart. This discovery surprised paleontologists, as it is believed that most fossils break down after weeks or months of surface exposure.

Articles to Share with Students

General Information

Questions for Classroom Discussion

  • Who found the first piece of the turtle bone?  When and where did he find it?  Who found the second piece of the turtle bone?  When and where did he find it?
  • What proof is there that these two bone fragments are parts of the same humerus?
  • Do you think more bones from this same turtle could be found?  Why/why not?
  • Which modern-day turtle are scientists stating this specimen most closely represents?  Do some searching to learn about this modern-day sea turtle.  Do you agree with the scientists?  Why/why not?
  • Why do you think turtles as large as the Atlantochelys mortoni went extinct?
  • Why do you think this turtle species has gone extinct?  Explain why.
  • Why is it important for museums to store fossil specimens?
  • Did all turtles go extinct at the end of the Cretaceous Period, the same time all dinosaurs went extinct?  If not, why do you think some turtles were able to survive?

Compiled March 29, 2014, by L. Guertin. Teachers are encouraged to search for more recent articles and related discoveries.

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