Other Topics


  • The Shape of Life | Arthropod Locomotion: Engineering

    Arthropods move low to the ground using their legs in a tripod fashion, which is inherently stable. Their skeleton provides local control over movement. But the secret to their success is their jointed legs, which act as struts and shock absorbers. At The University of California at Berkeley, Professor Robert Full studies arthropod locomotion to unlock the secrets of their success. Students see two different robots in action, each using jointed legs patterned after arthropods.

    Grades: 6-12
  • The Shape of Life | Taxonomy

    For centuries, taxonomists have been organizing the diversity of life. Aristotle was the first to attempt to do this. Then, in the 1700s, Carolus Linnaeus introduced the idea of genus and species. Later, Charles Darwin revolutionized science with the idea that species can change over time and that all animals may have a common ancestor.

    Grades: 6-12
  • The Shape of Life | Bilateral Body Plan

    Most active animals have a bilaterally symmetrical body plan. This means that if you draw a line down the middle of the body, both sides are mirror images of each other. With a head and stereo senses leading the way, this body plan is ideal for active hunters.

    Grades: 6-12
  • The Shape of Life | Ultimate Animal

    We think that humans are at the top of the evolutionary ladder. But is being big, brainy, and fast the best design? Evolution has produced many animals with different approaches to life, and every animal is uniquely adapted to win at the game of survival.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Cambrian Explosion

    In this video, Des Collins studies the fossils of the Burgess Shale that represent the Cambrian Explosion of animal life. An animation of this event shows the transition from the simple animals that existed before the explosion to the many complex, weird forms that evolved in a geological blink of the eye.


    Rudy Raff presents several theories to explain what caused the explosion. By the end of the explosion, all 35 of the present groups or phyla of animals existed and no new ones have evolved since. Nature had evolved life’s essential designs in a single evolutionary leap. Every new shape of life that has followed has been a variation on one of these themes or phyla.

    Grades: 6-12