a look at these beautifully diverse insects and spiders.
These images are printed on the United States postal stamp Classic
Collection. There are twenty different species presented in
this stamp collection - a great offering for the biodiversity
activity below.These images can also be found online:
activity page will offer:
of human hand structure and function
of the complexity and range of hand motions
in which to apply critical observation skills
1 - GROUPING
- print out of Insect & Spider stamp block page
- Work with a partner to examine a printout of this page
of insects and spiders.
- Use your scissors to carefully cut out and separate each
of the twenty animals.
- Divide these images into two groups, A & B. Write
down the characteristic upon which an animal is placed into
- Select a different characteristic to divide group A into
two sub-groups. Write down this characteristic. Pick another
characteristic (or the same one you used for A) to divide
group B into two sub-groups. Write down this characteristic.
- Continue dividing the groups using identified features
until every insect or spider is sorted into its own unique
- What was the first characteristic you used to divide
the group? Why did you pick this one?
- What characteristics did you use to continue dividing
the groups up? Why?
- How many features did you need to separate all twenty
organisms into their own distinct group?
- What class do and flies belong to?
- What class do spiders and ticks below to?
2 - MAKE A KEY
- Both partners select any four of the insects and spiders.
- Divide them into two groups (each containing two animals),
similar to what you did in the first part of this activity.
Record the features that you selected to define your groups.
- Take a look below. This is a taxonomic key that can be
used to distinguish between the black widow, yellow garden
spider, monarch butterfly, and monarch caterpillar
Animal has 4 pairs of legs
go to II
has 3 pairs of legs
go to III
l has a hourglass marking
has light pattern on
yellow garden spider
has bright orange wings
has a long worm-like
- Now create your own taxonomic key to distinguish between
the four animals you selected and described in steps one
- Trade your four stamps and your key with your partner
and examine each other's work. Does the key work?
- How many characteristics are used to differentiate organisms
in each step of this key?
- What are the two possible outcomes associated with each
statement within a key?
- How many statement pairs are needed to distinguish between
- Did your key work for your partner? If not, what might
have been done to improve it?
with a partner, create a large format key that differentiates
between all of the invertebrates illustrated on the page of
stamps. Paste the picture of each insect or spider along side
of its name when it is identified in the key.
you aware of the different types of animals and plants that
live in your surroundings? What are the most common organisms?
Which are the largest? Which ones are affected by seasonal
changes? In order to best quantify and qualify the types of
organisms that inhabit a specific area, scientists use a technique
called a transect study. During this type of investigation,
a representative region is examined for organisms. Within
the bounds of the transect, species are collected, identified,
and counted. The results of this small collection are then
used to help make a "best guess" about the biodiversity
of the entire region. One common type of transect uses a square
frame (1 ft by 1 ft) to set the boundaries of the study. The
frame is placed at given intervals along a transect route.
The organisms that fall within the open frame are included
in the study. With your instructor's approval, perform a transect
study of a neighborhood field or school playing ground.
TRANSECTING THE LIMIT
a transect is a valuable tool in generating a list of representative
species, it may have limited application in projecting species
numbers for a given ecosystem. Due to the spotty and sometimes
random scattering of organisms, the sample may be skewed.
Think about it.
How would you design a sampling technique to insure that you
have a fair census of species in a 1,000 square meter field.
Assume that the field has similar characteristics throughout.
How many 1-square meter transects would you need to insure
a representative sample that can be used to project realistic
How would you locate these samples?
How might the number of samples affect the reliability of
characteristics set the "tradeoff" between too few
and too many samples?
DIVERSE ARE YOUR SURROUNDINGS?
a class compile a list of the animals and plants that are
found within a mile of your school. You may need to use field
guides, local resources, taxonomic keys, and species lists
to help identify these organisms. Once you've compiled your
list, organize the species into the taxonomic groups you have
studied in school. When the list is complete, have your instructor
email it to us. We'll post your diversity list with the other
lists we receive from schools around the world.
a montage of images that illustrate the concept of biodiversity.
You can collect these pictures from old magazines, print outs,
or discarded books. In addition to this colorful display,
create a separate key that identifies each organism. To produce
the key, make a reduced outline drawing of your poster. Position
the name of each organism over the appropriate outline.
You can find examples of this type of identification scheme
in field guides, natural history books, and selected ecosystem
illustrations in issues of National Geographic.
and Biological Collections Web Server
This site has links to several areas of biodiversity and biological
An interactive and friendly database on biodiversity that
offers a rich library of species photos
Digital Collections Program
A virtual exhibit on the biodiversity of insects
of Entomology;Texas A&M University
Texas A&M lesson plans on biodiversity and more
activities in this guide were contributed by Michael DiSpezio,
a Massachusetts-based science writer and author of "Critical
Thinking Puzzles" and "Awesome Experiments in Light & Sound"
(Sterling Publishing Co., NY).
Advisors for this Guide:
Corrine Lowen, Science Department, Wayland Public Schools,
Suzanne Panico, Science Department, Fenway High School, Boston,
Anne E. Jones, Science Department, Wayland Middle School,