In this activity, students discover how the structure of an animal's mouthparts and digestive system gives clues to what the animal eats. Working in pairs, they begin by exploring how the shape of a bird's beak relates to its diet. Then students explore the relationship between the mouthparts and diets of a variety of animals. Next, they compare the eating structures and behavior of humans and snakes, and compare the skulls of venomous and constrictor snakes, to show adaptations to different diets. They then compare diagrams of the jaws and teeth of different mammals to describe how human teeth are adapted for an omnivorous diet. Students also watch a video that explains differences in digestion between cows and humans Finally, students explore in depth the eating adaptations of different carnivores. In teams, they create a model of a carnivore's mouth that shows how mouth structure and shape are adapted to its particular prey.
- Explore the relationship between structure and function in the mouthparts of different animals
- Examine how human teeth are adapted to an omnivorous diet
- Compare the digestive tracts of humans and ruminants
- Create models of the mouth structures of carnivores and understand their adaptations to a particular prey
- Two to four class periods
- Bird Beak Gallery Flash Imagei
- Animal Mouths JPEG Image
- Anglerfish QuickTime Video
- Deep-Sea Bestiary HTML Document
- Unhinged! QuickTime Video
- Jaws and Teeth of Mammals JPEG Image
- Ruminants QuickTime Video
- The King of Carnivores Lesson Plan HTML Document
- Copies of the Jaws and Teeth of Mammals diagram for each student
- Copies of the The King of Carnivores Lesson Plan activity sheet for each student
- Soft modeling clay for each team
Before the Lesson
- Make a copy of the Jaws and Teeth of Mammals diagram and the The King of Carnivores Lesson Plan activity sheet for each student
After the Lesson
- Display students' carnivore mouthparts models.
1. Ask students:
- How does the structure of an animal's mouthparts give clues to what kind of food the animal eats?
- What do birds eat?
2. Working in pairs, have students explore the Bird Beak Gallery stills and guess the diet of each bird based on the shape of its beak. Discuss students' answers and have them read the accompanying background information. Ask them to compare what they read with their guesses.
3. Have student pairs explore the relationship between mouthparts and diet, using the Animal Mouths stills, the Anglerfish video , and the Deep-Sea Bestiary document. Ask students to cite specific examples from each media resource.
4. Ask students to consider this question as they watch the Unhinged! video:
- How are the mouthparts of snakes and humans suited to their particular diets and eating behaviors?
After students have watched the video, discuss the following:
- How are the mouthparts and eating habits of humans similar to those of snakes? How are they different?
- How does the skull of a constrictor snake differ from that of a venomous snake? How do these differences relate to the way the snakes eat?
- How is the digestive system of a snake different from that of a human? How are they alike?
5. Have students examine the Jaws and Teeth of Mammals diagram and describe how the jaws and teeth of humans are adapted for an omnivorous diet.
6. Show the Ruminants video and then discuss the following:
- How do human and cow stomachs digest food differently?
- How does the second stomach in a ruminant work?
- What role did genes play in the development of the second stomach in ruminants?
7. Have teams of students complete the The King of Carnivores Lesson Plan activity sheet and present their animal adaptation analysis and their mouth model to the class.
8. Ask students to describe in detail:
- How does the structure of an animal's mouthparts give clues to what kind of food an animal eats?