Activity 6: Do at the Museum!

The Tooth Tells a Tale

Match the fossil tooth with the food!

Parent instructions:

  1. Animal teeth are different shapes for eating different kinds of foods.
  2. Draw a line between the picture of the fossil tooth and the food an animal might have eaten with it.
[Teeth of extinct mammals and their food]

You will need:

  • wooly mammoth tooth
  • mastodon tooth
  • saber-tooth cat tooth

These are available at PRI in the exhibit area, and, through collaboration, at Syracuse MOST and Utica Children's Museum.

Touch each tooth.
What is the shape of the tooth?
What do you think this animal liked to eat?
What do elephants like to eat today?
What do cats like to eat today?

Fact: Hairy elephants (mastodons and mammoths) used to live in New York during the Ice Age. Sometimes their teeth and bones are found in people's backyards!

Fact: The saber-tooth cat is often called a saber-tooth "tiger," but is not actually a kind of tiger.

Extension: Draw a tooth that would be a good shape for eating your favorite food!

Main Message: In this exercise students learn how the diet and lifestyle of ancient animals can be read from skeletal clues such as fossil teeth.

Connections: Activity 7 reveals clues for learning about the environments of Ice Age mammals.


The Paleontological Research Institution
1259 Trumansburg Road
Ithaca, NY 14850 phone: 607-273-6623 fax: 607-273-6620
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