# Looking a fossil horse in the mouth! Using teeth to examine fossil horses!

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1 Looking a fossil horse in the mouth Using teeth to examine fossil horses Virginia Museum of Natural History Paleontology Department Fossil Teaching Kit 1 Teacher s Guide In this activity students will compare casts of teeth of two fossil horses from Virginia. There are two parts, which should be done in order. In Part 1, the students will determine the age of one of the fossil horses when it died. In Part 2, the students will estimate the height of each fossil horse based on the length of their teeth. Some of the discussion questions in Part 2 require the students to have access to the internet or to other resources. As written, the exercise will require the students to take some measurements with a pair of calipers (included) or a ruler, and to solve some basic math problems. While they will not have to calculate any ratios, an understanding of them is helpful. Each kit includes two casts, a handout that includes instructions and a labeled photo of the casts, and a pair of calipers. Cast 1: Upper molar from Equus scotti Age: 14,000 years Locality: Saltville, Smythe County, Virginia Notes: Equus scotti is an extinct horse that was a close relative of modern horses. In fact, it s in the same genus as zebras and domestic horses, and it s about the same size. Horses originally evolved in North America and later spread to most other continents. At the end of the Ice Age all of the New World horses went extinct, including E. scotti, which was one of the last species in North America. Modern horses in North America are descended from domesticated European horses that were introduced to this continent in the last 400 years. This cast is a replica of a specimen from Saltville, Virginia. This is a famous fossil locality that was mentioned by Thomas Jefferson in some of his writings. Many other Ice Age animals have been collected there, including mammoths, mastodons, musk ox and caribou. Cast 2: Palate from Calippus regulus, including several teeth Age: 14 million years Locality: Carmel Church Fossil Site, Caroline County, Virginia Notes: Horses were very diverse during the Miocene Epoch (25-5 million years ago), with a large number of species on different branches of the horse family tree. Almost all of these branches are now extinct, even though they were very successful in the Miocene. Calippus is from one of branches that is now extinct, and was not ancestral to the living horses.

2 Calippus and its relatives were small, antelope-like horses that were only about 4 feet tall as adults. Like modern horses of the genus Equus they had grinding teeth that were well suited to eating grasses, but the teeth had a different enamel pattern than Equus (and, of course, Calippus teeth are much smaller than those of Equus). This particular example of Calippus was not fully grown when it died. This is clear from the teeth; the 2nd and 3rd deciduous premolars (baby teeth) are still in place, and the 3rd molar had not yet erupted. Assuming Calippus grew at the same rate as Equus, this means it was about 2.5 years old when it died. Note that this is not the reason Calippus is so small; a 2.5-year-old horse has generally already reached its maximum adult size. This cast is a replica of a specimen collected in 2001 from the Carmel Church Fossil Site. This site is mostly known for marine animals such as whales, sharks, and fish, but there have been several land animals found there as well. Middle School LS4.A: Evidence of Common Ancestry and Diversity Science and Engineering Practices Analyzing and Interpreting Data Correlations to Next Generation Science Standards Analyze and interpret data to determine similarities and differences in findings. (MS-LS4-1) Using Mathematics and Computations Thinking Use mathematical representations to support scientific conclusions and design solutions. (MS- LS4-6) Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions Construct an explanation that includes qualitative or quantitative relationships between variables that describe phenomena. (MS-LS4-4) Science Knowledge is Based on Empirical Evidence Science knowledge is based upon logical and conceptual connections between evidence and explanations. (MS-LS4-1) Disciplinary Core Ideas LS4.A: Evidence of Common Ancestry and Diversity The collection of fossils and their placement in chronological order (e.g., through the location of the sedimentary layers in which they are found or through radioactive dating) is known as the fossil record. It documents the existence, diversity, extinction, and change of many life forms throughout the history of life on Earth. (MS-LS4-1) Anatomical similarities and differences between various organisms living today and between them and organisms in the fossil record, enable the reconstruction of evolutionary history and the inference of lines of evolutionary descent. (MS-LS4-2) Crosscutting Concepts Patterns Patterns can be used to identify cause and effect relationships. (MS-LS4-2) MS.History of Earth Science and Engineering Practices

3 Analyzing and Interpreting Data Analyze and interpret data to determine similarities and differences in findings. (MS-LS4-1) Using Mathematics and Computations Thinking Use mathematical representations to support scientific conclusions and design solutions. (MS- LS4-6) Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions Construct an explanation that includes qualitative or quantitative relationships between variables that describe phenomena. (MS-LS4-4) Science Knowledge is Based on Empirical Evidence Science knowledge is based upon logical and conceptual connections between evidence and explanations. (MS-LS4-1) Disciplinary Core Ideas ESS1.C: The History of Planet Earth The geologic time scale interpreted from rock strata provides a way to organize Earth s history. Analyses of rock strata and the fossil record provide only relative dates, not an absolute scale. (MS-ESS1-4) Crosscutting Concepts Patterns Patterns can be used to identify cause and effect relationships. (MS-LS4-2) High School HS.Inheritance and Variation of Traits Science and Engineering Practices Asking Questions and Defining Problems Ask questions that arise from examining models or a theory to clarify relationships. (HS-LS3-1) Analyzing and Interpreting Data Apply concepts of statistics and probability (including determining function fits to data, slope, intercept, and correlation coefficient for linear fits) to scientific and engineering questions and problems, using digital tools when feasible. (HS-LS3-3) Engaging in Argument from Evidence Make and defend a claim based on evidence about the natural world that reflects scientific knowledge, and student-generated evidence. (HS-LS3-2) Disciplinary Core Ideas LS3.B: Variation of Traits Environmental factors also affect expression of traits, and hence affect the probability of occurrences of traits in a population. Thus the variation and distribution of traits observed depends on both genetic and environmental factors. (HS-LS3-2),(HS-LS3-3) Crosscutting Concepts Scale, Proportion, and Probability Algebraic thinking is used to examine scientific data and predict the effect of a change in one variable on another (e.g., linear growth vs. exponential growth). (HS-LS3-3)

4 Looking a fossil horse in the mouth Using teeth to examine fossil horses Teacher s sample In this lesson you will examine cast replicas of two fossil horses from Virginia. Your kit includes two casts replicas of fossils, a labeled photograph of your two casts that will help you identify each tooth and determine what measurements you need to take, and a pair of calipers. Cast 1: Upper molar from Equus scotti Age: 14,000 years Locality: Saltville, Smythe County, Virginia Notes: Equus scotti is an extinct horse that was a close relative of modern horses. In fact, it s in the same genus as zebras and domestic horses, and it s about the same size. Horses originally evolved in North America and later spread to most other continents. At the end of the Ice Age most of the New World horses went extinct, including E. scotti, which was one of the last species in North America. Modern horses in North America are descended from domesticated European horses that were introduced to this continent in the last 400 years. This cast is a replica of a specimen from Saltville, Virginia. This is a famous fossil locality that was mentioned by Thomas Jefferson in some of his writings. Many other Ice Age animals have been collected there, including mammoths, mastodons, musk ox and caribou. Cast 2: Palate (upper jaws) from Calippus regulus, including several teeth Age: 14 million years Locality: Carmel Church Fossil Site, Caroline County, Virginia Notes: Horses were very diverse during the Miocene Epoch (25-5 million years ago), with a large number of species on different branches of the horse family tree. Almost all of these branches are now extinct, even though they were very successful in the Miocene. Calippus is from one of branches that is now extinct, and was not ancestral to the living horses. This cast is a replica of a specimen collected in 2001 from the Carmel Church Fossil Site. This site is mostly known for marine animals such as whales, sharks, and fish, but there have been several land animals found there as well.

6 years old, but the 2nd molar was only lightly worn. Therefore, the horse was probably between 2 and 3 years old when it died. Part 2: How big were fossil horses? It can be difficult to determine the size of fossil organisms, especially if they re only known from incomplete remains. Even so, if a fossil organism has living relatives, it s sometimes possible to make a very rough estimate of body size. With modern horses, a common measurement is the height of the horse at the shoulder. Like most domestic animals, domestic horses show a larger range of sizes than in most wild animals. The largest domestic horses, such as shire horses, can be over 200 cm tall, while the smallest domestic miniature horses are only about 85 cm tall. Unfortunately, in order to measure height directly, we need a complete skeleton, and we very rarely find those as fossils. But if we take measurements of different body parts, we can set up ratios of one body part to another, which can allow us to make a rough estimate of the body size of our fossil animals. For example, a modern horse breed called a percheron is approximately 174 cm tall, and the upper first molar has a length of approximately 28 mm. So we can set up the following ratio: For high school and college students, you may want to only supply them with the percheron height and molar length measurements, and have them generate this equation themselves. This allows us to set up the following equation: where H = horse shoulder height in cm, and L = length of the upper its molar in mm. Again, older students should be able to generate this equation themselves. Using your calipers, measure the length of the first molar in Calippus and in Equus. Use the included photograph to help you take the correct measurement. Length of Equus scotti first molar: Approximately mm. Length of Calippus regulus first molar: Approximately 18 mm. Length measurements may vary by several tenths of a millimeter, or only be to the nearest millimeter if using rulers or the included plastic calipers.

8 Students should notice that, in addition to the size difference, Calippus and Equus have different patterns of enamel ridges on the molars. In particular, there is a loop of enamel on the inside of the tooth (called a protocone) that is much larger in Equus, and Equus has many small loops and turns in the enamel ridges that are not present in Calippus.

9 Looking a fossil horse in the mouth Using teeth to examine fossil horses In this lesson you will examine cast replicas of two fossil horses from Virginia. Your kit includes two casts replicas of fossils, a labeled photograph of your two casts that will help you identify each tooth and determine what measurements you need to take, and a pair of calipers. Cast 1: Upper molar from Equus scotti Age: 14,000 years Locality: Saltville, Smythe County, Virginia Notes: Equus scotti is an extinct horse that was a close relative of modern horses. In fact, it s in the same genus as zebras and domestic horses, and it s about the same size. Horses originally evolved in North America and later spread to most other continents. At the end of the Ice Age most of the New World horses went extinct, including E. scotti, which was one of the last species in North America. Modern horses in North America are descended from domesticated European horses that were introduced to this continent in the last 400 years. This cast is a replica of a specimen from Saltville, Virginia. This is a famous fossil locality that was mentioned by Thomas Jefferson in some of his writings. Many other Ice Age animals have been collected there, including mammoths, mastodons, musk ox and caribou. Cast 2: Palate (upper jaws) from Calippus regulus, including several teeth Age: 14 million years Locality: Carmel Church Fossil Site, Caroline County, Virginia Notes: Horses were very diverse during the Miocene Epoch (25-5 million years ago), with a large number of species on different branches of the horse family tree. Almost all of these branches are now extinct, even though they were very successful in the Miocene. Calippus is from one of branches that is now extinct, and was not ancestral to the living horses. This cast is a replica of a specimen collected in 2001 from the Carmel Church Fossil Site. This site is mostly known for marine animals such as whales, sharks, and fish, but there have been several land animals found there as well.

10 Part 1: How old was Calippus when it died? Most mammals, including horses and people, have two sets of teeth. The first set, which grow in shortly after birth, are called deciduous teeth (sometimes, baby teeth or milk teeth). Eventually the deciduous teeth fall out and are replaced by the permanent teeth. In most animals there are more permanent teeth than deciduous teeth. For example, there are no deciduous molars. When a tooth finally grows to the point that it extends beyond the gum line, it is said to have erupted. Only erupted teeth are involved in chewing food. An erupted tooth gets gradually ground down through chewing. In horses, an unerupted tooth has sharp points. After the tooth erupts the points start to grind down, and after enough time passes the surface of the tooth is almost flat. Determine which teeth in Calippus have erupted, and which ones haven t. Use the diagram to help you identify each tooth. 3rd molar Assuming Calippus grew at the same rate as modern horses, use the chart below to help you determine how old Calippus was when it died. 3rd deciduous premolar 4th deciduous premolar 1st molar 2nd molar Heavy wear, light wear, or no wear? Approximate age when tooth erupts Erupted? (Y/N) Deciduous tooth Permanent tooth 3rd molar 3-4 years How old was Calippus when it died? Explain your answer. 3rd premolar 2 weeks 2-3 years 4th premolar 2 weeks years 1st molar 1 year 2nd molar 2 years

11 Part 2: How big were fossil horses? It can be difficult to determine the size of fossil organisms, especially if they re only known from incomplete remains. Even so, if a fossil organism has living relatives, it s sometimes possible to make a very rough estimate of body size. With modern horses, a common measurement is the height of the horse at the shoulder. Like most domestic animals, domestic horses show a larger range of sizes than in most wild animals. The largest domestic horses, such as shire horses, can be over 200 cm tall, while the smallest domestic miniature horses are only about 85 cm tall. Unfortunately, in order to measure height directly, we need a complete skeleton, and we very rarely find those as fossils. But if we take measurements of different body parts, we can set up ratios of one body part to another, which can allow us to make a rough estimate of the body size of our fossil animals. For example, a modern horse breed called a percheron is approximately 174 cm tall, and the upper first molar has a length of approximately 28 mm. So we can set up the following ratio: This allows us to set up the following equation: where H = horse shoulder height in cm, and L = length of the upper its molar in mm. Using your calipers, measure the length of the first molar in Calippus and in Equus. Use the included photograph to help you take the correct measurement. Length of Equus scotti first molar: Length of Calippus regulus first molar: Then use the height equation above to estimate the height of Calippus regulus and Equus scotti. Shoulder height of Equus scotti: Shoulder height of Calippus regulus:

12 Discussion: 1) Do you think your height estimates for each horse are very precise (do you think each horse was almost exactly as tall as your estimate)? What are some variables that might affect the height calculation? 2) Even if there is some uncertainty about the size of your fossil horses, can you say that Equus was definitely a much bigger horse than Calippus? 3) How do the sizes of your two horses compare to breeds of horses that are alive today? 4) Is it possible that Calippus was only small because it was a baby, and that when full grown it would have been as large as Equus? Explain your answer. (Hint: consider what you learned about Calippus in Part 1). 5) Among modern domestic horse breeds, Clydesdales are much bigger than Shetland ponies, but they belong to the same species. Is it likely that Calippus and Equus belong to the same species? Explain your answer. (Hint: look closely at the patterns of ridges on the worn surfaces of the molars. Are they identical, or are there differences?)

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