Learn more about Earth history!

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EarthViewer

This interactive module allows students to explore the science of Earth's deep history, from its formation 4.5 billion years ago to modern times.

EarthViewer dynamically shows how continents grow and shift as students scroll through billions of years. Additional layers let students explore changes in atmospheric composition, temperature, biodiversity, day length, and solar luminosity over geologic time.

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Ashley Bryant explains how she uses EarthViewer to explain plate tectonics, continental drift, and other Earth changes to her 8th graders.

Click on image to launch the EarthView web app or click on this link to visit the EarthViewer page for more details.

The Making of Mass Extinctions

This interactive module explores the environmental factors and species involved in five major mass extinctions.

Extinction is a normal part of the evolutionary process. But during five periods in Earth’s history, extinction rates greatly exceeded normal levels.

 

This Click & Learn allows students to compare these five major mass extinction events, examine each of their causes, and determine whether a sixth mass extinction is likely in the future.

The “Poster” PDF provides an accessible version of the content in this Click & Learn.

Deep History of Life

This interactive module explores key events in the record of life on Earth, which stretches over three billion years.

In this Click & Learn, students visit different times in Earth’s history to learn what life was like at that time, based on scientific evidence. Such evidence ranges from chemical signatures in rocks and ancient biological molecules, to fossils of colossal dinosaurs and early humans.

 

The Click & Learn also includes a simplified tree of life that illustrates the major taxa and their evolutionary relationships.

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Click on image to launch the Deep History web app or click on this link to visit the EarthViewer page for more details.

Animated Life: The Living Fossil Fish

The story of the Coelocanth

This animated short video tells the story of the discovery of the coelacanth, a species that belongs to a group of lobe-finned fish that existed 400 million years ago.

The video uses animated paper puppets and narration by experts in the field to illustrate how the coelacanth was discovered and what its unique features reveal about its evolutionary history. In 1938, South African museum curator Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer came across a strange blue fin poking out of a pile of fish. With its fleshy, lobed fins and its tough armored scales, the coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) did not look like any other fish that exists today.

 

Scientists later discovered that this fish belongs to a lineage that has remained virtually unchanged for hundreds of millions of years, earning it the description of a "living fossil."