Remarkable Creatures

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IB Biology II First Semester Extra Credit Assignment


  • Read “Remarkable Creatures” by Sean Carroll, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009 (ISBN 978-0151014859).

  • Answer the discussion questions listed below in complete sentences.

  • Assignment must be typed (12 pt font) and answers should be clearly labeled & numbered for each chapter.

  • Answers must be submitted to The class ID number is 4455868 and the password is “innerfish”

  • Use good grammar and spelling but be clear and concise; discussion should be in your own words even if page numbers are referenced.

  • Assignment will be due on the last day of the semester. There may be a class discussion about the book during which you will be expected to participate.

  • Completion of the assignment will add up to 2% to your semester grade.


Chapter 1 – Humboldt’s Gifts

  1. Why was Humboldt interested in meeting with President Jefferson?

  2. What was Humboldt’s influence on the study of the natural world?

Chapter 2 – Reverend Darwin’s Detour

  1. What experiences of his youth helped to prepare Darwin for the voyage on The Beagle?

  2. What geological phenomena and formations did Darwin witness? How did these shape his thinking about the age of the earth or how life changed?

  3. What zoological evidence led Darwin to think that species evolved?

  4. What were Thomas Malthus’ ideas, and how did Darwin react to them?

  5. Why did Darwin delay publishing his species theory?

Chapter 3 - Drawing a Line between Monkeys and Kangaroos

  1. Why did Wallace choose to go to the Malay Archipelago?

  2. Compare and contrast the animals on Bali, Borneo and the western islands of the archipelago with those on Lombok, New Guinea and the eastern islands. What are the differences and why are they important?

  3. What observations led Wallace to the idea of a “struggle for exisitance?” How were Wallace’s observations similar or different from those driving Darwin’s ideas about natural selection?

  4. What role did knowledge of domestication play in both Darwin and Wallace’s thinking?

  5. In comparing Wallace and Darwin, whom do you think deserves credit for the idea of natural selection?

Chapter 4 – Life Imitates Life

  1. What was the “glimpse” that Bates had on “hoe nature manufactures her species?”

  2. What evidence did Bates assemble to argue that mimicry was due to natural selection and not mere coincidence?

  3. Why was Darwin so delighted by Bate’s discovery of mimicry?

  4. With reference to the example of Batesian mimicry in snakes, what is the importance of having "the real thing" in the population?

Chapter 5 – Java Man

  1. What influence did Thomas Huxley have on Eugene Dubois?

  2. Why did Dubois choose to search in the Dutch East Indies for the missing link and not Africa?

  3. What evidence did Dubois offer that the skull cap and femur were from the same individual?

  4. What evidence did Dubois assemble to support his claim that Pithecanthropus was an intermediate between apes and modern humans?

  5. What is the significance of cranial volume to the identification of hominid fossils? How is this measured? What other anatomical features are diagnostic of hominid versus transitional versus ape fossils?

Chapter 6 – To the Big Bang, on Horseback

  1. What was Walcott’s impact on preservation of natural spaces around the United States?

  2. Describe Walcott’s work and discoveries about the natural history of the Grand Canyon.

  3. Why was the absence of fossils below the Cambrian layer of strata a dilemma for Darwin? How was that dilemma resolved?

  4. What is unique about the blocks of shale located at Burgess Pass?

  5. What was the Cambrian Explosion? What changes in the earth’s atmosphere are thought to have triggered the explosion?

Chapter 7 – Where the Dragon Laid Her Eggs

  1. What characteristics made Roy Chapman Andrews particularly adept at exploration?

  2. Why were experts in different disciplines vital to the expedition and its success?

  3. What was the significance of the discovery of dinosaur eggs?

  4. How was Oviraptor named?

  5. Paleontologists now believe Oviraptor did not steal eggs. What alternative explanation can you offer for the specimen discovered over a nest of eggs?

  6. Why did the American Museum of Natural History scientists consider the mammal fossil so important?

Chapter 8 – The Day the Mesozoic Died

  1. The extinction of the dinosaurs, ammonites and other creatures at the end of the Cretaceous was well known for the many decades prior to the Alvarezes’ discovery. Why did Walter Alvarez, a geologist, and Luis Alvarez, a nuclear physicist, crack a mystery that paleontologists and biologists had not?

  2. What were the pieces of evidence that led to the identification of Chicxulub as the asteroid impact site?

  3. What might be the local and global effects of future smaller or similar sized asteroid impacts?

  4. What is the evidence for an extraterrestrial source rather than a crustal source of the abundance of iridium in Gubbio rock sections?

  5. What would be the effect of blocking out the sun for a few years or decades?

  6. Why did "ancestral mammals" make it through the K-T period while the dinosaurs did not?

  7. What is the importance of pelagic sedimentary rocks for the analysis of earth's history?

Chapter 9 – Dinosaurs of a Feather

  1. What characteristics does Archaeopteryx share with modern birds?

  2. What role did the Archaeopteryx fossil play in the evolution debates of the 1800’s?

  3. What evidence is there that modern birds evolved from dinosaur ancestors?

  4. How did the wrist bones of Deinonychus and Archaeopteryx solidify their close evolutionary relationship?

  5. Which came first, the bird or the feather? What evidence is there to support the conclusion?

Chapter 10 – It’s a Fishapod!

  1. Why did Neil Shubin and Ted Daeschler want to hunt for Devonian rock?

  2. What led them to the Canadian Arctic Islands for their search?

  3. Describe how Tiktallik was discovered.

  4. Why was Tiktallik a major fossil discovery?

Chapter 11 – Journey to the Stone Age

  1. Why did few scientists in the early 1900’s believe humans had evolved in Africa?

  2. What was the first evidence that Louis found of early man in Africa?

  3. Why was the discovery of Proconsul important for the Leakey’s?

  4. Why did the dating of Dear Boy change the course of Paleoanthropology?

Chapter 12 – Clocks, Trees, and H-Bombs

  1. Why did the FBI keep close tabs on Pauling?

  2. Explain how the study of hemoglobins led to the idea of the molecular clock.

  3. In what way did the application of the molecular clock to primate evolution “shake the tree?”

Chapter 13 – CSI: Neander Valley

  1. Contrast the two hypotheses of human origins.

  2. Why is mitochondrial DNA used to study human evolution?

  3. Why was the invention of the PCR machine a revolution in molecular evolutionary biology?

  4. What were the results of the Neanderthal mtDNA analysis?

  5. For what reasons are Neanderthals thought to have gone extinct?

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