Dinosaurs!

Overview

Join Active Minds as we look at new discoveries that will change our thinking about Dinosaurs, among the most fascinating creatures to inhabit our planet. From the beginnings of the Dinosaur era to the mass extinctions that eliminated their presence, we’ll look at the types, habits, and history of these amazing creatures. We’ll look at the new technologies used to study these prehistoric giants and what has been learned about their existence and demise that has never been known before.

Key Lecture Points

  • Dinosaurs have fascinated humans since the times the first fossils were discovered. Legends of the dinosaurs have captivated the minds of children and adults alike as they are passed from generation to generation. It is incredible to think an entirely different, and dominating, species of beings existed on Earth millions of years ago. As new information becomes available and new technologies are applied to understand fossils, it is necessary to adjust our thinking about these massive and amazing creatures.
  • Humans have been aware of fossils for centuries. In 540BCE the Greek philosopher Xenophanes described fossils of fish which were found in the high mountains, positing that the area was under sea at some earlier point.
  • The first dinosaur fossils were discovered in the 1800s by European explorers. The term “dinosaur” was coined in 1842 by Briton, George Owen. It comes from the Greek roots meaning giant lizard.
  • Paleontologists (those that study the forms of life existing in prehistoric or geologic times, as represented by the fossils of plants, animals, and other organisms) have been using new technologies to build the real facts that explain many questions associated with these ancient creatures. They have also dispelled many myths that were commonly accepted concerning the dinosaurs.
  • The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is hosting the Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries exhibition from September 26, 2008 to January 4, 2009. The exhibit is geared towards the use of modern technology being used to uncover new information about the great creatures and why they ultimately became extinct.

Exploration Questions

  • Do you think we have found fossils of all of the types of dinosaurs that existed? Could there be more? What might contribute to new finds?
  • Where is it most likely that we will find more evidence of the dinosaurs?
  • Is it possible that some of the listed causes of the great extinctions (asteroid strikes, volcanic eruptions, and global warming) could occur again to the degree that humans may be endangered? What can be done about these events and can technology make a difference?
  • Many experts feel that the closest existing descendents of dinosaurs are birds. Do you agree? Why or why not?
  • Of the three major periods of the dinosaur era (Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous), which do you think is the most interesting and why?

Reflective Questions

  • When you were a child, did you ever believe that dinosaurs and people lived at or about the same time?
  • Have you ever seen a dinosaur fossil? What stories do you have about Dinosaur Ridge here in Colorado?
  • What has been your favorite type of dinosaur and why did you like that kind?
  • Which museums have you been to where you saw exhibits on dinosaurs? Which ones were your favorites and why?
  • What is your favorite story about a dinosaur

More to Explore

Books For Further Reading

  • Hedeen, Stanley , Faragher, John Mack. Big Bone Lick: The Cradle of American Paleontology. University Press of Kentucky, 2008. 182 pages. This book traces the history of both a place and a scientific discipline: it explores the infancy and adolescence of paleontology from its humble and sometimes humorous beginnings.
    Click here to order
  • Jenkins, John T., Jenkins, Janice L. Colorado Dinosaurs. Colorado Geological Survey, 2003. This book describes the rich history of Colorado's bonanza of dinosaur fossils. It discusses the processes that produced them, defines and classifies the beasts, and traces the history of the area through the geological ages.
    Click here to order