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As you learned in your Explorations reading this week, fossils are historically the most important line of evidence about our distant past, but they can be extremely difficult to find.  Important fossil discoveries like Ida still make headlines in magazines and newspapers for good reason. As the fossil record grows, so too does our understanding of the past and important new discoveries can rewrite our understanding of the evolutionary past. 

For this assignment, you are to find an important fossil discovery that paleontologists or paleoanthropologists have made after the year 2000. Your fossil must be a hominin or an ancient primate.  You can think of the story of Darwinius massilae above as a model for your assignment, though I was also trying to illustrate some important concepts for this module, so you do not need to be quite as thorough as I was. 

Start by googling important fossil discoveries and find one you think is interesting and important.  Remember, your fossil must be either a hominin or an ancient primate and it must have been discovered since 2000.  After you have chosen a fossil discovery, cover the following in a minimum of 800 words:

  • The fossil's scientific name and popular name (if it has one)
  • A short account of the discovery (when, where, by whom, etc)
  • A description of the fossil remains, including the techniques used to date it
  • A photo of the fossil specimen(s)
  • A description of the important traits the fossil shows and their relationship to the fossil record and living species
  • An assessment of the impact of the discovery on our knowledge of evolution (including debate about the fossil's taxonomic place)
  • An image of a phylogeny/family tree showing where (at least some) scholars have placed your fossil discovery
  • A list of your sources

Your assignment must be written by you, in your own words. This doesn't mean you can't borrow terminology or even phrases from your sources-- that's fine.  Like my Darwinius description, your source list should include both popular science sources and scientific articles. My main popular science article was from National Geographic and was written for 6-12th graders.  National Geographic is a trustworthy internet source, but I still double-checked my facts against the much more thorough Wikipedia page on Darwinius. This assignment is designed for you to learn about new discoveries through popular media, including the internet, so in this case using Wiki for this assignment is fine.  While Wikipedia pages vary in quality and detail, they are often useful and for fossil discoveries can help lead you to additional sources, including academic ones.  Your assignment should utilize at least 3 sources, but more is fine.

Please type up your assignment, double space the document and submit it as a PDF or Word document with a total word count at the bottom of your post that looks like this:

[891 Words]

Note that this assignment is due by Thursday, September 17 by 11 pm.  Good luck, enjoy the assignment, and let me know if you have any questions.


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