Friday, November 6, 2009

Three Strikes Wiped out Woolly Mammoths

This article particularly caught my attention because students are so fascinated by any prehistoric animal, but specifically of late, the woolly mammoth. A great deal of this animals popularity can be contributed to movies such as ICE AGE and ICE AGE 2. These blockbusters have once again spawned the imaginations of both students and scientists. Scientists are still wondering why the mammoths disappeared. It is believed that these giant mammals went extinct thanks to combination of factors: people, climate and comet.

Archaeologists have discovered that people used mammoth bones to makes tools, their ribs to build houses, wore mammoth skins and ate mammoth meat. As humans numbers began to increase and spread across Europe and Asia and hunting skills were honed the mammoth population began to decline.

Scientist also believe that significant climates changes contributed to the extinct of the woolly mammoth. By researching minerals, gases, pollen and plants, they can tell what the climate was like in the past. The steppe-tundra favored by the mammoths doens't exist today. As the weather patterns changes the mammoths began to die.

Richard Firestone, a scientist and chemist, hypothesizes that a comet could have killed the mammals. A possible scenario includes a comet exploding in the air over the Great Lakes. This explosion generate a great wind of dust and debris that choked the animals. Firestone and his team looked for evidence of a comet and believe they found nanodiamonds that could be credited to such an inpact.

Lesson Uses: At the end of last school year I found several activities related to the woolly mammoth that my 4th grade students enjoyed.

Activity #1 Ice Age – The Hook
If available, show Scenes 3 and 4 from the original “ICE AGE” animated movie.
In those two scenes we find Sid the Sloth running for his life from two very perturbed rhinos. Sid is rescued by Manny the Mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano of Everybody Loves Raymond) who hoists up and heaves the two Rhinos over the edge of the cliff with his trunk and his tusks. This is an entertaining way to show students the size of the tusks and how they may have
been put to good use. In the Bonus features on Disc 2, Ray is the subject of the special feature, “Behind the Scenes” and the students can learn even more about the animated creature
Manny in the Ice Age Movie.

Activity #2 Land of the Mammoth Interactive
• A mere 11,000 years ago, Earth still supported many mammoth sized mammals
that thrived for millions of years. Then, most of them quickly died away. What
happened? This online interactive allows students to click on the icons to meet
the ice age giants that made it the doorstep of modern times.
• Go to the Discovery Channel’s online site to experience it excellent interactive
titled “The Land of the Mammoth: Ice Age Giants”
• Students can also discover information about the Saber Toothed Tiger and the
Sloth who were two of the Main Characters in Ice Age Part 1.

Activity #3 Seven Steppes to a Woollier Mammoth
• Your mission: To help woolly mammoth evolve from the small, pig-like animal of
the Eocene epoch into the furry elephant that roamed the Asian steppes during
the Pleistocene epoch! Play a game to help the woolly mammoth evolve through
the steps of evolution.
• Also while at that site you can see a Woolly migration map as well as access
additional Woolly Web links. You can also learn about their migration patterns or
join the expedition as they unearth the woolly mammoth in Siberia.

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