The Right Tool for the Job

In this lesson, students will use observational evidence to make a claim about how the external features of each animal's teeth would help them eat their food.

Family admiring direwolf skull with gallery interpreter at La Brea Tar Pits
profile of dire wolf skull

Profile of Dire Wolf skull

View of the underside of antique bison skull

View of the underside of antique bison skull.

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Profile of Dire Wolf skull

View of the underside of antique bison skull.


In this lesson plan, students will observe and compare the teeth of two fossil skulls from Ice Age Los Angeles: the dire wolf and the antique bison to further determine how an animal's teeth can tell us more about what and how that animal ate.

Learning objective

Students will compare two different animals to determine what they ate and how the structure and shape of their teeth helped them eat their food. 


5 minutes to introduce the activity 

5-10 minutes for student observations

10-20 minutes for student sketching

5 minutes to share evidence and support student claims

  • Paper, journal, or notebook
  • Drawing/writing utensil

carnivore, herbivore, skull, mandible


Use the 3D and 2D images on this site, or view them in Google Slides. 


  1. Observe & Sketch
    Take 2-5 minutes to look closely at the dire wolf mandible and sketch its teeth. Repeat with the mandible of the antique bison. 
    Remind students that scientific drawings do not need to be beautiful or perfect representations, but are sketches that communicate what we notice about something we're observing. Students should note the shape, size, and texture of the teeth of both animals. If they want to, they can also label the different parts of their drawings. 
  2. The Right Tool for the Job
    Teeth are crucial to surviving because they allow animals to bite and chew their food. The dire wolf, a carnivore, needs to use its teeth to ear meat, which the antique bison, an herbivore, needs to grind up lots of grass to survive. Ask students to use the evidence from their observations to respond to the following prompts:
  • Describe the difference in the two kinds of teeth you observed.
  • How would the shape of a dire wolf's teeth help it shear meat and crush bone?
  • How would an antique bison's teeth help it grind up its food?


Common Core State Standards

ELA.W.2.7, ELA.W.2.8


NGSS Tie-Ins

Disciplinary Core Ideas:

K-LS-1-1, K-ESS2-2, K-ESS3-1, K-2-ETS1-2

Science & Engineering Practices:

Asking questions

Developing and using models

Planning and carrying out investigations

Analyzing and interpreting data

Cross-Cutting Concepts:


Scale, Proportion & Quantity

Stucture & Function