Vertebrate animals like fish, frogs, reptiles, birds, and mammals all have skulls. These bony structures in the heads of vertebrates support and protect softer tissues and organs of the face and the brain. Even though all vertebrates have skulls, the skulls of different species can be very different from one another. Looking at these differences (and also at similarities) can tell us a lot about an animal’s lifestyle. Studying the skulls, scientists also can identify the major events and traumas in an animal’s life. In this activity, you will learn about similarities and differences found in the skulls and also about the different types of things we can learn by studying and collecting skulls.
Look at the different skulls on the What is a Skull? page. Can you guess the animals whose skulls are displayed?
Now visit Animal Match to look at a variety of skulls and the animals to which they belong. Scrolling over the skull shows you an image of the corresponding animal. Try guessing the animal first and then check to see if you're correct.
Explore the resources below to find out more about animal skulls. As you do so, make sure to jot down notes about some of the things that researchers can learn from studying skulls.
After you have explored these resources, answer these questions in your science notebook or on a separate piece of paper:
- What is the basic function of a skull?
- How is a skull like a football helmet?
- How does studying skulls help scientists to determine which animal species are closely related to others?
Read Academy Mission. Write a paragraph explaining what can be learned from studying skulls. List at least three examples from the Web resources of how skulls are similar and three examples of how they differ.
If you're interested in learn ing more about skulls, you could check out these resources:
This esheet is a part of the Skull Diversity lesson.