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Prehistoric Discoveries


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Science
--History
--Life Sciences
----Animals
--Physical Science
----Earth Science
--Natural History
Social Studies
--Current Events

Grades

Grades 2-up

News Content

Several prehistoric discoveries have been making news over the last few weeks.

Anticipation Guide

Before reading, ask students to agree or disagree with each of the statements below. This will set a purpose for reading; as they read, students will confirm their assumptions or learn something new.

  • Camels have lived on Earth for thousands of years.
  • Some dinosaurs lived underground.
  • Dinosaurs cared for their young just like many other species do.
  • Dinosaurs are related to modern-day chickens.

    News Words

    Next, introduce these words that appear in the News Word Box on the students printable page: estimate, burrow, material, similar, support, and cousins. Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar. Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:

  • The flu that is making the rounds this year is _____ to the one that was around three years ago. (similar)
  • Our contractor has gathered all the _____ he will need to renovate the kitchen. (material)
  • An underground _____ serves as an armadillos home. (burrow)
  • I have not seen my _____ who live in Canada in more than ten years. (cousins)
  • Stewart needs to _____ the number of people who will be coming to the picnic. (estimate)
  • The community gathered together to _____ the victims of the fire. (support)

    Read the News

    You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

  • Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

  • Students might first read the news story to themselves; then you might call on individual students to read sections of the news aloud for the class.

  • Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.

  • Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write notes in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.
  • Click for a printable version of this weeks news story Prehistoric Discoveries.

    More Facts to Share

    You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.

    Prehistoric Camel

  • The prehistoric camel, which is estimated to be about 10,000 years old, was found by workers who were digging at the site of a future Wal-Mart store near Mesa, Arizona. The camel is not a "dinosaur" (dinosaurs were lizards, and they lived millions of years ago). This animal lived much more recently, around the same time that animals such as mammoths and saber-toothed tigers roamed Earth.
  • Scientists have unearthed skeletons of camel-like creatures that date back far before this camel roamed Earth. One such find, aepycamelus (which means "tall camel"), lived from about 10 million to five million years ago.
  • In 2005, scientists unearthed bones of another camel in the Syrian Desert. Those bones are believed to date back 100,000 years. According to reports, the camel would have been about 13 feet tall -- which is twice the size of a modern-day camel.

    Burrowing Dinosaur

  • This discovery presents the first evidence that some dinosaurs might have dug dens for underground living.
  • The scientific name for the burrowing dinosaur is oryctodromeus cubicularis. Orycto is Greek for "digger"; dromeus means "runner"; and cubicularis means "of the lair (den)."
  • The ancient digger was small by dinosaur standards. The adult skeleton was about 6-7 feet long (about half that length was tail). Scientists think the adult probably weighed about 60 pounds. The young dinosaurs were about half that size.
  • According to scientists, this dinosaur likely used its short arms and snout as shovels for digging. It also had strong shoulders and hipbones, which helped the dinosaur support itself as it dug. It almost certainly ran on its long hind legs.
  • Oryctodromeus cubicularis was probably a plant-eater, scientists say. The fact that it could escape safely underground might have protected it from hungry meat-eaters. The burrows also might have protected it from bad weather, which would have allowed it to live across a wider swath of Earth.
  • Experts think these three dinosaurs probably drowned. The bones were well preserved in sediment that floodwaters probably washed into their burrows, they say.
  • Did dinosaurs take care of their young in the way many animals do today? The fact that this adult dinosaur was found with two younger ones indicates that might be the case.
  • The underground den in which the dinosaur skeletons were found was about 6-7 feet long. It had an s-shaped bend to it.
  • The public will get its first opportunity to see the burrowing dinosaur when it goes on display at Montana State University this summer.

    T. rex and the Chicken

  • Based on their study of dinosaur bones, scientists have long believed that there might be some connection between dinosaurs and modern-day birds or chickens. Now, they believe they have proof of that in tiny bits of protein from a 68-million-year-old dinosaur bone. Protein is not as strong an indicator as DNA would be, but it is "the next best thing," according to scientists.
  • Scientists had not been able to prove the connection until now because they had never been able to extract soft tissue (including blood vessels and cells) from a dinosaur bone. But that all changed when Mary Higby Schweitzer of North Carolina State University found soft tissue in a T. rex bone dug up in Montana. That was a very exciting discovery for scientists! It is believed that the thickness of the T. rex bone and the fact that it was preserved in sandstone allowed a faint measure of bone material to be preserved. Scientists previously believed that all traces of such bone material turned to minerals over the course of millions of years.
  • When Schweitzer believed there might be a possibility of preserved protein in the T. rex bones, she contacted John Asara at the Harvard Medical School. They had worked together previously to isolate protein from 100,000-year-old mammoth remains.
  • "Based on all of the genomic information we have available today, it appears these sequences [in the bone of T. rex] are closer to birds or chickens than anything else," Asara told CNN.
  • The tool Asara used to examine the dinosaur bone material is called a high-tech mass spectrometer. Such tools are generally used to diagnose cancer genes inside tumors.

    Comprehension Check

    Revisit the Anticipation Guide at the top of this lesson; ask students to respond again to the statements in it.

  • Camels have lived on Earth for thousands of years. (true)
  • Some dinosaurs lived underground. (true)
  • Dinosaurs cared for their young just like many other species do. (true)
  • Dinosaurs are related to modern-day chickens. (true)

    You might follow-up that activity by asking some of these questions:

    Recalling Detail

  • Where were the bones of a prehistoric camel found? (in Arizona)
  • How were prehistoric camels different from modern-day camels? (they were bigger)
  • How old do scientists think the camel bones are? (10,000 years old)
  • What unusual discovery did scientists in Montana make? (They found the bones of three burrowing dinosaurs.)
  • Why do scientists think the burrowing dinosaur was probably a fast runner? (because it had long legs)
  • How did scientists come to the conclusion that dinosaurs and chickens are related? (They examined bones of a T. rex and found similarities between those bones and the bones of modern-day chickens.)
  • What recent finding helps support scientists belief that dinosaurs cared for their young in ways similar to what many modern-day animals do? (The fact that the adult burrowing dinosaur was found with two younger dinosaurs of the same species supports that theory.)

    Think About the News
    Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students news page. Students might offer that there always seems to be new news about dinosaurs. There is no reason to believe that the rate of new discoveries related to dinosaurs will slow down. Also, as technology continues to improve scientists will have new tools that might help them prove current theories about dinosaurs and unlock the doors to new discoveries and learning.

    Follow-Up Activities

    Math -- estimating. Help students put the size of dinosaurs into perspective by comparing their length to something with which they are familiar. For example, have students measure the length of a car and then figure out how many car-lengths long some dinos were. You might arrange students into groups and have each group compare the length of some dinosaurs to a different object, such as a car, a school bus, a cafeteria table, or the length of their classroom. For comparison purposes, you can find the lengths of dinosaurs at Dino Database: Dinosaur Records. Another good source of dinosaur-size data is The Natural History Museums Dino Directory (though data at this source will need to be converted from metric to English measure).

    Math -- graphing. Have students use those same dino-size resources to complete this Dinosaur Length Bar Graph.

    More DinoMath. Have students work together to make a paper chain that is the length of the burrowing dinosaur (6 feet long). Have them make another paper chain that is the length of Tyrannosaurus rex (23 feet long). Have them compare the lengths of the two paper chains for a visual reference point. You might talk about how much longer the chain representing the largest dinosaur (Seismosaurus is estimated to have been 150 feet long) would be. That chain would be more than five times the length of the combined chains of the burrowing dinosaur and T. rex.

    More Education World resources. Check out these lesson ideas on Education World.

  • I Dig Dinosaurs
    Students participate in a group "fossil" dig, learn how dinosaurs are named, and create images of dinosaurs.
  • Dinosaur Activities on the Web
    These quick-tivities create instant teachable moments that capitalize on your students' fascination with dinosaurs.

    Still more activities. The Top Five Dinosaur Activities for Kids Web resource includes more fun lesson ideas.

    Assessment

    Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News questions on the news story page or in the Comprehension Check section.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    National Standards

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English
    GRADES K - 12
    NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
    NL-ENG.K-12.7 Evaluating Data
    NL-ENG.K-12.8 Developing Research Skills
    NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

    MATHEMATICS: Number and Operations
    GRADES Pre-K - 2
    NM-NUM.PK-2.1 Understand Numbers, Ways of Representing Numbers, Relationships Among Numbers, and Number Systems
    GRADES 3 - 5
    NM-NUM.3-5.1 Understand Numbers, Ways of Representing Numbers, Relationships Among Numbers, and Number Systems
    GRADES 6 - 8
    NM-NUM.6-8.1 Understand Numbers, Ways of Representing Numbers, Relationships Among Numbers, and Number Systems
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NM-NUM.9-12.1 Understand Numbers, Ways of Representing Numbers, Relationships Among Numbers, and Number Systems

    MATHEMATICS: Measurement
    GRADES Pre-K - 2
    NM-MEA.PK-2.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement
    GRADES 3 - 5
    NM-MEA.3-5.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement
    GRADES 6 - 8
    NM-MEA.6-8.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NM-MEA.9-12.1 Understand Measurable Attributes of Objects and the Units, Systems, and Processes of Measurement

    MATHEMATICS: Connections
    GRADES Pre-K - 12
    NM-CONN.PK-12.3 Recognize and Apply Mathematics in Contexts Outside of Mathematics

    MATHEMATICS: Representation
    GRADES Pre-K - 12
    NM-REP.PK-12.1 Create and Use Representations to Organize, Record, and Communicate Mathematical Ideas

    SCIENCE
    GRADES K - 4
    NS.K-4.3 Life Science
    NS.K-4.7 History and Nature of Science
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NS.5-8.3 Life Science
    NS.5-8.7 History and Nature of Science
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NS.9-12.3 Life Science
    NS.9-12.7 History and Nature of Science

    See recent news stories in Education Worlds News Story of the Week Archive.

    Article by Ellen Delisio and Gary Hopkins
    Education World®
    Copyright © 2007 Education World

    05/09/2007


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