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

  • Humans have been aware of fossils for centuries.  In 540 BCE the Greek philosopher Xenophanes described fossils of clams which were found in high mountains, theorizing that the area was under sea at some earlier point.
    Dinosaur fossils were first scientifically described in the early 1800s by European scientists and enthusiasts.  The term “dinosaur” was coined in 1842 by the British scientist, George Owen.  It comes from the Greek roots meaning terrible lizard.
  • Paleontologists (who 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 answer the many questions associated with these ancient creatures, such as why did they go extinct?  Most scientists agree on one of two hypotheses:  some sort of extraterrestrial impact, such as an asteroid, meteor or comet; or a massive bout of volcanism.  Although extinct, dinosaurs can be considered some of the most successful creatures in Earth’s history, dominating the planet for 150 million years (humans by contrast, have been around for about 200,000 years).  The descendants of the dinosaurs, birds, still live among us.
  • The end of the 19th century was the golden age of fossil hunting.  This was the time of the fierce competition between Marsh and Cope, known as the Bone Wars, as both paleontologists led expeditions to the American West.
  • The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is hosting the Ultimate Dinosaursexhibition from October 6, 2017 to January 15, 2018.  The exhibit focuses on how dinosaurs developed differently in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres and showcases Southern Hemisphere dinosaurs that are not as well-known to us as their Northern Hemisphere counterparts.

Exploration Questions

  • What are dinosaurs? How did they develop? What do we know about how they lived?
  • Describe two theories as to why the dinosaurs became extinct.
  • Explain why scientists believe birds evolved from dinosaurs.

Reflective Questions

  • Why do you think we keep finding new species of dinosaurs, millions of years after their extinction?
  • What do you think caused the extinction of the dinosaurs?  How would our world be different if they still walked the earth?
  • Have you visited museums where you saw exhibits on dinosaurs?  What were your impressions?

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
  • Lescaze, Zoe, Walton Ford.  Paleoart: Visions of the Prehistoric Past, 1830-1980.  Taschen, 2017. 286 pages. This book features more than 200 works of art by artists from the early 19th century to the end of the 20th century who used fossils and other scientific resources to bring alive to the viewer what dinosaurs and their world looked like.  The author also shows how the images were shaped by the cultural and historical backgrounds of the artists.
    Click here to order
  • Crichton, Michael.  Dragon Teeth.  Harper, 2017. 304 pages.  A recently discovered novel by the deceased author of Jurassic Park, this novel takes place in the American West during the Cope-Marsh Bone Wars.
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  • Naish, Darren, Paul Barrett.  Dinosaurs: How They Lived and Evolved.  Smithsonian Books, 2016. 224 pages.  The authors describe the evolution, anatomy, biology, ecology, and behavior of dinosaurs as well as explaining how dinosaurs evolved into modern day birds.
    Click here to order