Activity 6: Do at the Museum!

The Tooth Tells a Tale


Animal teeth are different shapes for eating different kinds of foods.

Draw a line between the picture of the fossil tooth and the food that animal might have eaten.

[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.

Run your hand over the top of the mammoth and mastodon teeth. Look and feel the shape of the tooth and all the bumps and ridges.

What do you think these fossil elephants liked to eat?

What do elephants like to eat today?

How do the mammoth and mastodon teeth look different?

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!

Touch the saber-tooth cat's tooth. How does this tooth feel different than the other teeth?

What do cats like to eat today?

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

Extension: Think of a type of food you like and draw a picture of a tooth that would be a good shape for eating that kind of 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
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Ithaca, NY 14850 phone: 607-273-6623 fax: 607-273-6620
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