Study Guide

Animal Evolution and Diversity

Animal Evolution and Diversity Introduction

Animal diversity is so much more than dogs and cats and humans. It is a lot more than what is in the zoo or even on The Discovery Channel. Movies only show the big, impressive ones like man-eating tigers and man-eating sharks. This is too bad, because movie monsters don't come close to the things that are real.

It took hundreds of millions of years to get here, and "here" is a very complex place. There aren't just plenty more fish in the sea; there are thousands of kinds of fish in the sea. That's just fish. We are just beginning to understand how this happened and what is out there. Scientists say there are animals we haven't even found yet. (Okay, we are pretty sure we have found all the big ones.) And, as you read this, species are disappearing.

This kingdom is ours. We are animals. We also eat animals, live and work with animals, and we are part of the web of life that includes all animals. We depend on other animals to handle their end of the bargain when it comes to things like recycling nutrients and keeping ecosystems working.

It's time to meet the neighbors. First we'll take a quick look at the history of animals on earth and get into what an animal really is. Then we'll explore our family tree.

Animal Evolution and Diversity Resources

Websites

The Shape of Life
Meet the scientists who are figuring out where it all started. Plus, who can resist video on flatworm…fencing?

What Lovely Rocks You Have
Check out the eyes made of rock in some chitons. Nature comes up with another way to sense light.

Videos

Sloths!
David Attenborough calls this one a walking compost pile. It's a sloth and it should be the picture beside the word "mellow" in the dictionary.

World War Snail
Zombies are real. Just ask these snails.

Bizarre Dinos
Dinosaur evolution: sex, violence and bizarre costumes—what more could we ask?

The Secret Life of Bees
Bees really are busy. Scientists spent a year following the life of one hive and give the highlights in just under an hour.

Scream or I'll Eat You
Witness the blood-curdling screams of baby frogs.

Bonobos On Two Feet
Check out our more gentle cousins.

Disappearing Frogs
No more Kermit. Are we facing the extinction of amphibians?

Jellyfish Fossils in Wales (Not Whales)
Fossil jellyfish, but how?