Surveying animal weaponry

This exercise is a part of Educator Guide: Fight Like an Animal / View Guide

1. Find and summarize an article about another animal with weaponry that the animal might use on rivals of the same species.

Possible student response: The Science News article “Hummingbirds take stab at rivals with dagger-tipped bills,” published 11/3/2014, explores how some male hummingbirds may use their beaks as a weapon. Scientists showed that male hummingbirds grow sharp points on their bills, which not only boosts the birds’ piercing power, but also may be used to fend off rivals for mates. Other scientists argue that male and female hummingbirds of this species could have different beak shapes because males and females feed from different types of flowers.

2. Search for and summarize an article about reproductive weaponry in plants.

Possible student response: The Science News article “Milkweed ‘horns’ may equal wins in reproduction battle,” published 3/20/2014, describes how some plants have developed weapons to improve their chances of reproduction. One plant’s pollen or pollen sacs are picked up by insects, birds or other animals and spread to other plants of the same species to fertilize the plants. South American milkweed has evolved large pointed hornlike structures on its pollen sacs. The hornlike structures prevent the pollen sacs of a plant’s neighbor from hitching a ride. This type of “weaponry” could improve the odds that a plant will successfully spread its pollen and discourage the spread of pollen from rival plants.

3. Find and summarize an article about an extinct animal that may have had a weapon.

Possible student response: The Science News article “Saber-toothed salmon teeth more like tusks than fangs,” published 1/7/2016, describes an extinct species of salmon. Fossils from central Oregon that are at least 5 million years old suggest that the teeth of this species stuck out from the side of the face, somewhat like warthog tusks. Scientists speculate that the teeth could have been used as weapons and to shape nests for spawning.