Animal Encounters

This unit accompanies the reading lessons with Houghton Mifflin Theme 6.
Identifies the general purpose of selected animal systems and explains how they work together.
Explains that the traits of an individual are influenced by both environment and genetics.
Explains how behavioral and physical characteristics of organisms help them to survive.
Describes how fossils provide evidence about how living things and environmental conditions have changed.
Analyzes the relationship of environmental change and catastrophic events to species extinction.
Relates degree of similarity in anatomical features to the classification of contemporary organisms.

Way Cool Science - BioTrackers: What Is A Habitat?

Writing an Animal Report

Getting Started:
First, get to know about your animal. Read as much information about the animal as you can find. Try both the Internet and the library; try a good search engine, an encyclopedia, and individual books on animals.
As you're reading about your animal, take notes on key information, such as where your animal lives (its range), what type of biome it lives in (its habitat), how big your animal gets, what it looks like, what it eats, what eats it, how long it lives (if this is known), etc.

The Structure of the Animal Report:

Start your report with an introductory paragraph that states the main ideas that you will be writing about. Then write at least four to five paragraphs that clearly describe your animal and how it lives. Each paragraph should cover one topic (for example, you should have one paragraph that covers the animal's anatomy). End the report with a closing paragraph that summarizes what you wrote and learned.

Cite your references

Check that your grammar, spelling, and punctuation are correct. Make sure to use complete sentences and write neatly! Define any technical terms that you use. Proofread your report for errors before you hand it in -- do not hand in a rough draft.

Topics to Research and Include in Your Report:
When you write your report, try to answer as many of the following questions as you can (unfortunately, not all of these things are known for all animals):

  • The Animal's Name: What does its name mean? Sometimes this will tell you something important or interesting about the animal. For example, platypus means "flat-footed." For some animals, there are special names for a baby, a male, a female, or a group. Also, list your animal's scientific name; this should consist of a capitalized genus name and a lower-case species name. For example, the platypus is Ornithorhynchus anatinus.
  • Anatomy/Appearance: What does your animal look like? How big is it? What shape is its body? What does an average one weigh? Does it have horns, antlers, fur, crests or claws? Describe the teeth, head, neck, tail, etc. How many legs does it have? Are its legs long or short? How many eyes and how many body parts does it have? Does it molt as it grows? Draw a picture if you can.
  • Locomotion: Can your animal move? If so, how does your animal move (does it walk, fly, jump, burrow, etc.)? Is it slow-moving or fast-moving? Why is this important to its survival? For example, most fast-moving animals are fast so that they can catch dinner (like the cheetah) or avoid becoming dinner (like the deer).
  • Diet: What does your animal eat and how does it get its food? Is it an herbivore (plant eater), carnivore (meat eater), omnivore (eating meat and plants), or something else? Is there something unusual in the way your animal eats? (For example, the flamingo sieves its food from mud while its head is upside down under the water.) Where is your animal in the food web (is it a top predator, like the grizzly bear, is it at the base of the food web, like krill, or is it somewhere in the middle)?
  • Habitat and Range: What type of biome does this animal prefer (does it live in the desert, swamp, tundra, deep sea, coral reef, tropical rainforest, pond, or other habitat)? Where in the world does it live? List the continent(s), country/countries, and/or smaller areas that it lives in.
  • Adaptations: What are the obvious adaptations of your animal to its environment? For example, the giraffe's neck is an adaptation for obtaining leaves that are high off the ground. It also has tough lips to avoid thorns on its main food source.
  • Life Cycle/Reproduction: Give information on the animal's life cycle and reproduction. For example, in the case of insects, list and describe each stage in the process of their metamorphosis. For a species of shark, describe whether it bears live young or lays eggs.
  • Behavior: Describe interesting features of your animal's behavior. For example: Is there evidence of herding or is it a solitary animal? Does it burrow underground? Does it hibernate, estivate, or migrate in cold weather? Is it nocturnal (most active at night)?
  • Defense/Offense: How does it defend itself (and/or attack other animals)? Does it use teeth, fangs, claws, armor, horns, antlers, pincers, poison, a stinger, muscles, a strong smell, and/or something else?
  • Enemies: What animals eat or otherwise kill your animal? For example, for caterpillars, birds eat caterpillars, but wasps also lay their eggs in the caterpillars (and this eventually kills the wasp's unwilling host).
  • Species Survival Status: Is this animal species in danger of extinction? If so, why? Has it lost habitat, lost a food source, or has it been over-hunted?
  • Something Special: Is there anything special about this animal? This can often be the best part of the report, taking you off on interesting topics. For example, are there legends about the animal?
  • Classification: How is this animal classified and what animals is it closely related to? In the Linnean system of classification, organisms are classified into a Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and species. For example, elk are classified as follows: Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chordata, Class Mammalia (mammals), Order Artiodactyla, Suborder Ruminantia (ruminants), Family Cervidae (the deer family), Genus Cervus, species C. elaphus (species names are often italicized and written in lower-case; the C. here refers to the genus Cervus).

Citing Your References:
When you write your bibliography, list all of your references. Formats for each type of publication follows (there are different formats for different media):
  • Web Site: Author(s) if appropriate. Title of Site or web page. URL of site, date of publication (the earliest copyright year listed).
  • Book: Author(s). Title of book. Edition. Location of publisher: Name of Publisher, year of publication.
  • Encyclopedia: Title of encyclopedia, volume of encyclopedia used. Location of publisher: Name of Publisher, year of publication, pages where the article is located.
  • Magazine or Journal: Author(s). "Title of article." Name of magazine, Volume.issue (date): pages where the article is located.

For example: would be cited as follows:

Col, Jeananda. 1999.

Another format for Internet sources is as follows:
Last name, First name of author. Title of Page. Name of the publisher, Date the page was created, Date of revision
Some teachers also request that you include the date of access; this is the date (or dates) that you went to the web page (or pages).

The Following is a Rubric For Assessing each Part of Your Research Report:




Disorganized, no information on what is to come
Gives too little information.
Summarizes report
Concise, well-written introduction
Research Part 1 (name, anatomy, locomotion, diet, habitat, range, adaptations)
Does not cover all appropriate topics
Covers some of the appropriate topics.
Covers most of the appropriate topics.
All appropriate topics covered well. Also includes interesting facts.
Research Part 2 (life cycle/reproduction, behavior, defense/offense, enemies, species survival status, classification, etc.)
Does not cover all appropriate topics
Covers some of the appropriate topics.
Covers most of the appropriate topics.
All appropriate topics covered well. Also includes interesting facts.
Many spelling and grammatical errors
A few errors
Only one or two errors
Spelling and grammar perfect
Illegible, messy
Almost illegible
Legible writing, accompanying illustrations
Well organized presentation, typed or written using a word processor, accompanying illustrations
No references
A single reference, incomplete citation
Several references with incomplete citations
Many references, listed in appropriate format
Over a week late
A week late
A day or two late
Handed in on time

Map of North America
Map of Alaska
World Map

Bald Eagle, (Jeremy),
Gaviel, (Camille),
Giraffe, (Caven),
Kangaroo, (Lakhaila),
Lion, (Tyler),
Owl, (alexm),
Panda (Claribell),
Polar Bear (Jacorey),
Porcupine, (Shakera),
Prairie Dog (Kinsey),
Puma, Mountian Lion and Jaguar,
Rattlesnake, (Sheriah),
Sea Turtle, (Xavier),
Tiger Indochinese, (Barry),
Wolf, (alext),
Wolverine, (Diego),
Zebra, (Gabrielle),

National Park Reports

Denali National Park, (Marcus),
Grand Canyon National Park, (Zandiyah),
Yellow Stone National Park, (Christian),