Bone Detective Stage 3 Teacher Notes

Students are given a mammal jawbone and asked to identify the animal it comes from. This Museum educator-led session illustrates some of the processes scientists use and provides students with an opportunity to employ these techniques.

Skeletons Exhibition

Carl Bento © Australian Museum

Before your visit

Mammals generally have a similar variety of bones in their skeletons (although some bones may be greatly reduced or even absent in certain species such as leg bones in whales). These bones often have enough similarity between species to be easily identified. For example, a femur is easily identified whether it comes from a mouse or a giraffe. Jawbones can be just as easy. Some useful clues are:

  • the size of the jawbone,
  • the number and shape of the teeth,
  • the weight of the jawbone which can indicate the diet of the animal,
  • the presence of a shelf or inflection angle on the lower jaw which indicates whether it is a marsupial or a placental mammal,
  • wear and tear on the teeth, which indicates advanced age.

Pre-visit activities

To make the most of your visit to the exhibition we recommend that you prepare your students beforehand by:

  • ensuring they have a basic understanding of the difference between vertebrates and invertebrates, how vertebrate animals are grouped (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals).
  • providing a context for the excursion to the Museum including the reasons for visiting the Museum, the tasks to be completed and the expected outcomes.

Please photocopy the following materials for each group of three students:

The following materials should be photocopied for each supervising adult:

Ms Helen Wheeler , Education Project Officer
Last Updated:

Tags educator-led, student, program, education,