Preparation Questions

Before each class lecture I will post here a list of preparation questions. These questions are designed to prepare you for each new topic. If we have a pop quiz on the listed day, it may include these questions AND at least one surprise question from previous lectures to encourage  review. I recommend you thus have answers for them — at least in your head! — before each class meeting. You will have twelve pop quizzes by the end of the course, with the lowest two grades dropped. They count for a total of 25% of your final grade. If you are absent for any reason when a quiz is given (other than a scheduled college event you told me about in advance), your grade will be recorded as a zero. You may use any source to answer these questions before class. For a quiz, of course, you’re on your own. Since we don’t have a traditional textbook, you’ll find most of the answers by searching online.

December 8 (Friday) —

1. There is a complex relationship in human evolution between increasing brain size, the size of the birth canal, and bipedalism. Be ready to discuss it!


December 6 (Wednesday) —

1. Be ready to describe for me the mysterious Denisova hominins (“Denisovans”). What evidence do we have for them? Where did they live? What is their genetic contribution to modern people?


December 4 (Monday) —

1. What features distinguish humans from the other primates?


December 1 (Friday) —

1. We discussed on Wednesday the evolutionary trends in horse evolution. What are the selective pressures that led to these changes in horse bodies over time?


November 29 (Wednesday) —

1. Until about three million years ago, South America was an isolated continent not linked to North America. What can you predict about the mammals that lived on this continent?


November 27 (Monday) —

1. A primary feature of mammalian evolution will be specialization of the limbs for particular functions. Be ready with examples from living mammals. These are all homologous structures, of course.


November 20 (Monday) —

1. The Deccan Traps are part of the Cretaceous extinctions story. Please be ready to tell me what these are, where they are, and how they might have had a role in the extinctions.


November 17 (Friday) —

1. Let’s stay with this question: What is iridium and how is it part of the Cretaceous extinction story?

Start studying for your first superquiz!


November 15 (Wednesday) —

1. What is iridium and how is it part of the Cretaceous extinction story?


November 13 (Monday) —

1. The Ginkgo Tree is a so-called “living fossil“. (I’m not a fan of the term.) Find a Ginkgo on campus and then be prepared to tell me about their leaves, biology and fossil record.


November 10 (Friday) —

1. We ended class on Wednesday: How do vascular land plants transport nutrient-bearing fluids through their bodies? We know they have elaborate tube systems, but what causes fluid movement within them?


November 8 (Wednesday) —

1. Mammals are characterized by having hair. The primary function of hair was no doubt to insulate these highly endothermic animals. What are some secondary functions of hair on mammals today?


November 6 (Monday) —

1. Pterosaurs on Monday! Be prepared to tell me basic facts about pterosaurs, including when they lived, life habits, etc.


November 1 (Wednesday) —

1. What can dinosaur trackways tell us about dinosaur biology?


October 30 (Monday) —

1. You’re getting very good with these questions, so I can give you increasingly sophisticated problems. When we discuss the evolution of dinosaurs we will talk about the idea that they have physiologically overcome Carrier’s Constraint. What is this constraint and how did dinosaurs avoid it?


October 27 (Friday) —

1. Before we get to dinosaurs we have the synapsid reptiles. You did well with this kind of question last time, so we’ll do one again: Please be prepared to describe the synapsid reptile known as Dimetrodon. Sort out its appearance, life habits and diversity. When did it live?


October 20 (Friday) —

1. Please be prepared to describe the ultimate aquatic reptiles: ichthyosaurs. Sort out their appearance, life habits and diversity, please. A fantastic group.

Don’t forget: No classes on October 23 and 27. I’ll be at a meeting in Seattle giving this presentation. Many other Wooster faculty and students also participating.


October 18 (Wednesday) —

1. A review question of sorts: What are the ways by which volcanic eruptions can affect the history of life?


October 16 (Monday) —

1. Your day will start with Quiz #7!

2. Please be ready to draw a cross-section of a spreading center as part of our Plate Tectonics material.

3. Where can you visit a modern spreading center today?


October 6 (Friday) —

1. Meet your new friend Tiktaalik. Tell me its age, where it was found, and what we know about its body.


October 4 (Wednesday) —

1. Prepare to sort out the differences between “ray-finned” bony fishes and “lobe-finned” bony fishes. Which group do you think contains our ancestors?


October 2 (Monday) —

1. The first fish will be in the Class Agnatha. Tell me the features and life habits of living agnathans. You may not like what you learn!


September 29 (Friday) —

1. What features define the Phylum Chordata?


September 27 (Wednesday) —

1. A critical concept everyone needs to know: the Greenhouse Effect. We’ll see on Wednesday how it is a critical factor in life’s history. Be ready to explain what the Greenhouse Effect is with our atmosphere and its gasses.


September 25 (Monday) —

1. A featured fossil today: Be ready to tell me everything you can about trilobites (in the Phylum Arthropoda). How did they move and eat? When did they go extinct?


September 20 (Wednesday) —

1. Be ready to tell me everything you can about humble sponges (Phylum Porifera). How are they organized? How do they eat?

2. Now do the same thing for a sea anemone (Phylum Cnidaria). These are the simplest of animal groups today.


September 18 (Monday) —

1. Your first fossil in this course! Please be ready to tell me what a stromatolite is and how they form.


September 15 (Friday) —

1. Lipids are almost magical in their ability to form organized sheets (lipid bilayers). How do such lipid bilayers form? What do they have to do with cells?


September 13 (Wednesday) —

1. We’re almost ready to start on life’s history, but we have one more physical event to add: the origin of our Moon. Please read up on the standard scientific account of how Earth got a moon. A nice Moon it is, too.


September 11 (Monday) —

1. Don’t go too far into the astrophysics, but be ready to describe a supernova and why supernovae are critical to the origin of the Earth as we know it. (Hint: heaviest elements.)


September 8 (Friday) —

1. Understanding Red Shift is the key to understanding the structure, size and history of the Universe. Make me proud by being able on Friday to tell me what Red Shift is and why it is important.


September 6 (Wednesday) —

1. Let’s simply reinforce what we discussed on Monday: Please come to class with a coherent sentence explaining how a protein is made using these terms: DNA, RNA, ribosome, amino acids. We’ll review these concepts, answer your questions, and add more explanatory detail.


September 4 (Monday) —

1. More evolutionary theory on Monday. Please be prepared to define genetic drift.

2. Next be prepared to give an example of sexual selection.


September 1 (Friday) —

1. Vestigial structures! For humans we identified in class the eye membranes, appendix, and wisdom teeth. What other vestigial structures do humans possess?

2. Now please come to class with at least one example of a vestigial structure in a non-human animal.


August 30 (Wednesday) —

1. If a bone is found with 25% of its original carbon-14 remaining, how old is it? The half-life of 14C is 5730 years.

2. Everyone should know their place in the classification of life. Please fill in the blanks for humans

Domain: __________________________

Kingdom: __________________________

Phylum: __________________________

Class: __________________________

Order: __________________________

Family: __________________________

Genus: __________________________

Species: __________________________


August 28 (Monday) —

1. Geologists classify rocks into three basic categories. Please name them and give brief definitions.

2. Radiocarbon dating (using the decay of 14C, sometimes called carbon-14) has a limit. It is only useful for a certain time interval. How far back can we go with radiocarbon dating? Can we date trilobites with it?


August 25 (Friday) —

1. What is the Law of Superposition in geology? (A simple scientific concept if there ever was one!)

2. What is the difference between relative time and absolute time? Please give a simple example of each.

3. Be prepared to answer questions about the Geologic Time Scale. Memorize our required-time-scale, in fact.

[I’ve helped you this time with a link. Note that I am Wikipedia-friendly.]

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