When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth

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1 Buffalo Geosciences Program: Lesson Plan #2 When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth Objectives: By the end of the program, the participants should be able to understand the earth and its creatures during the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous and be able to answer the following questions. Presentation: Question and Answers format. Q: What does the word Dinosaur mean? A: Dinosaur means fearfully great lizard. It comes from the Greek words Deinos (fearfully great) and sauros (lizard). It usually refers to land reptiles of the Mesozoic. Q: What was life like in the Triassic, and what was the climate like? A: The Triassic was the beginning of the dinosaur s reign on Earth. It began with all the land pushed together into the mega continent, Pangea. During the Triassic, the climate was hot and dry. Much of the middle of Pangea was a

2 dessert. Plant life included green ferns, evergreens and tree that resemble today s palm trees. At the end of the Triassic, the continents began to move apart which would allow for more diversity of the animals yet to come. Q: What was life like and how was the climate in the Jurassic Period? A: The Jurassic was the middle of the dinosaurs reign on earth. Many dinosaurs showed major evolutionary changes, as did the plants. The Pangea-Megamonsoon was in full swing during the Early and Middle Jurassic. The interior of Pangea was very arid and hot. Deserts covered what is now the Amazon and Congo rainforest. China was surrounded by moisture bearing winds and the forest were lush and verdant. During the Late Jurassic the global climate began to change due to the breakup of Pangea. The interior of Pangea became less dry, and the seasonal snow and ice frosted the Polar Regions. Q: How did the climate change in the Cretaceous and how did it affect life? A: In the late Cretaceous, the Earth was like a huge greenhouse. There was no ice at the poles, and it was very warm and wet. The end of the Cretaceous brought about the end of the dominating dinosaurs. Many theories exist in why, including drastic climate change, large meteorites crashing to the earth, among others. There is not one conclusive theory, and debate on why the dinosaurs became extinct is a debate on why the dinosaurs became extinct is a topic of debate among scientists today and probably will be for many years to come. Q: What did the dinosaurs leave behind? A: They left behind oil, gas, coal, footprints, eggs, gastroliths or stomach stone, bones, skin impressions, coprolites or fossilized dung. From what they left behind, we can determine the characteristics of different dinosaurs and also what they ate and how they lived. Q: Who studies Dinosaurs? A: The study of dinosaurs is done by people called paleontologists. Paleontologists are people that study life in any part of the geologic past by using fossilized remains of plants and animals, and any relation between the two. Some paleontologists study only the plants, some study only early mammals, and some study only dinosaurs, among other fun and amazing things. Q: What do paleontologists do with the fossilized remains? A: A paleontologist will first dig up and find the fossils, and then identify the fossils and the animal that it belongs to. From there, they will try to fit together fossils that they found on a site and then will draw their interpretation of what the dinosaur looked like. Finally, other scientists review the findings and the remains will either be further studied or will go on display, as they do in a museum. Sometime, the fossils are also bought by private buyers.

3 Q: How do we know what a dinosaur s skin was like? A: Scientists are not sure what the pigmentation (color of skin) of dinosaurs was like. Unlike bones, skin is live tissue and decomposes after dying. Scientist can only infer what it might have looked like by studying pigmentation of today s reptile s skin. Dinosaurs also left skin impressions that we discovered in fossils and it helped us learn about their skin texture Q: How does a Dinosaurs appearance help us determined what they ate? A: A Dinosaurs posture is a clue to what they might have eaten. All carnivorous dinosaurs were bipedal, which means they walked on two legs, while all the herbivorous dinosaurs were either quadrapedal, which mean they walked on two legs or spent time on both four and two legs. Carnivores had large sharp claws while herbivores commonly had armor such as horns and plates. Carnivores had little or no armature, probably because I would have slowed them down while they hunted. Q: How do we determine plant eaters from meat eaters? A: Teeth are the best clue to determine what dinosaurs ate. Dinosaur with sharp teeth throughout their mouths, like a T-rex, ate meat. The plant-eating dinosaurs, like the Apatosaurus, had flatter and wider teeth for grinding up tough plant materials. The duckbilled dinosaurs, like the Hadrosaurs, were another type of herbivore that could have thousands of teeth in their mouths for grinding up plants. Some herbivorous dinosaurs could not grind well enough with their teeth to digest. They swallowed stones called gastroliths, which ground the materials within the stomach. Omnivores ate both plants and meat, so they possessed teeth with a combination of both features. Q: What other creatures lived in the time of the dinosaurs? A: We know that there were many land animals that are ancestor of animals that exist with us now. Gracilisuchusis, an ancient crocodile, and Megazostrodon, an early mammal, existed in the late Triassic and early Jurassic. There were marine reptiles and flying reptiles, not to be mistaken for dinosaurs. There was also a sea creature called a Megalodon, which is the ancestor of the great white shark and could have teeth up to 7.5 inches long! Q: What are the oldest dinosaurs? A: Every time we find what we think to be the oldest dinosaur, there is another discovery. Until recently, the Eoraptor was the oldest known, found to be 228 million years old, from Argentina. There have also been discoveries in Brazil and South Africa. A prosauropod from Madagascar is now the oldest known, and is being studied. It was found to be 230 million years old.

4 Activities: Dinosaur Remains: Description: the participants will all get to see and touch real dinosaur fossils, bones, teeth and other things that dinosaurs left behind for us to find. Materials: Supply of dinosaur fossils, teeth and bones. Any other dinosaur remains are also helpful include but are not limited to gastroliths, coprolites, and fossilized footprints. Goals: For participants to get an idea of sizes and weights of fossils and other things dinosaurs left behind. This will also help to demonstrate the differences of carnivores and herbivores by their fossils. It will show how carnivores had sharp, pointed teeth while herbivores had flatter and wider teeth for grinding up tough plant materials.

5 Dinosaur Operation: Description: Electronic game where participants can take turns pretending to be a real paleontologist and learn the technique of removing bones carefully without interfering with other remains. Materials: The Game, pieces, batteries. Procedure: Each participant gets a turn to remove bones without touching the sides. Goal: To demonstrate how tedious a paleontologist s work can be and helps participant see the skills associated with digging up remains of past life.

6 Dinosaur Puzzle: Description: Allows participant to be creative and make their own dinosaur puzzle for themselves and others to put together. Materials: Popsicle sticks, Dinosaur themed stamps and markers/crayons. Procedure: Each participate is given 5-10 popsicle sticks to put together and make a picture on with stamps, markers, or any other materials. When they take the sticks part they then have a puzzle to reconstruct or switch with others to do theirs. Goal: For participant to be creative and demonstrate skills of a paleontologist by looking for visual clues in order to piece together the puzzle.

7 What is a Dinosaur? Activity: Description: Blown up poster with both dinosaurs and non-dinosaurs on it. Together, the participant can work together and use the information from the presentation to discover what is and isn t a true dinosaur. Materials: Posters and/or copies for participant to have in order for them to follow along with. Procedure: Have each participant take turns sharing if they think the picture is considered a dinosaur or not. Goal: To reinforce the presentation part of the program and have the participants relate back to the information they were given.

8 Dinosaur Activity Book: Description: Dinosaur themed activity book to take home and includes pictures to color. Each coloring page of a dinosaur has information about that particular dinosaur including the time period they lived in, the food they ate, and where they got their name from. The book also has a word search and crossword puzzle where the participants will refer back to the book and presentation in order to complete it. Materials: A copy of the activity book for each participant. Procedure: Give each participant a copy to take home to show others fun facts and pictures about dinosaurs. Goal: To reinforce the presentation about dinosaurs and have the participants be able to take home fun pictures and facts for each dinosaur.

9 Name that Dinosaur: Description: The participants can now have what they learned reinforced by this activity. They now have a chance to show how well they were listening and how much they now about each dinosaur. Materials: Just some BGP workers with dinosaur knowledge, able to correct the participants if they are wrong and guide them to the right answer. This is also recommended for older children and adults for the participants. Procedure: Give participants a name of a dinosaur and let them name facts about it. For example, if it s a carnivore or herbivore, bipedal or quadrapedal, has armored or unarmored. Guide the participants in the right direction using any kind of visual aids or descriptions. Another opinion is to give them hints starting with I am thinking of a dinosaur that is/has... and give as many clues as needed until they figure out what dinosaur it is. Goals: For the participants to make the connection between traits of both carnivores and herbivores and to realize how they are different from one another and be able to recognizes names of dinosaurs and associate them with their characteristics.

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