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Scientists Find Fossils of T. rex Relative



  • Science
    --Life Sciences


Grades 2-up

News Content

Scientists in China just found fossils of a T. rex relative.

Anticipation Guide

Print and share with students a picture of the newest dinosaur. The new dino is named Guanlong wuccaii (pronounced guanlng wuci). Just as scientists call Tyrannosaurus rex by the shortened name T. rex, they call this new dinosaur G. wuccai.

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

  • Guanlong wucaii is the largest dinosaur ever found.
  • G. wucaii is related to T. rex.
  • G. wucaii was a plant-eating dinosaur.
  • Scientists believe that T. rex and G. wucaii lived around the same time.

News Words

Introduce and talk about the meaning of these words that appear in the News Word box on the students' printable page: fossils, unusual, crest, and purpose. Ask students to use one of those words to complete each sentence below.

  • It was highly _____ for Jake to be late for school. (unusual)
  • Stacy did not know the _____ of the button on the machine, so she did not want to push it. (purpose)
  • The bird had a _____ of red feathers on its head. (crest)
  • Paleontologists study _____ of plants and creatures of long ago. (fossils)

Read the News

Click for a printable version of this week's news story Scientists Find Fossils of T. rex Relative.

Reading 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 call on individual students to read the news aloud for the class.

* 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 a note 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.

More Facts to Share

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

  • The most unusual things about G. wucaii is the crest on its head. The boney crest was narrow and hollow, scientists said. Other meat-eating dinosaurs had crests, but this one was large by comparison.
  • Some scientists say that G. wucaii's crest might have been some kind of display to other members of its own species.
  • Translated from the Mandarin Chinese language, the new dinosaur's name means crown dragon from the land of five colors. The "land of five colors" refers to the colorful rocks of the Chinese badlands where these dinosaurs were found. G. wucaii should help paleontologists understand more about where T. rex fits into the evolution of dinosaurs. They used to think that T. rex evolved from huge predators, but now it seems that T. rex might have evolved from a group of small meat-eaters called coelurosaurs. Scientists say that G. wucaii shares traits of both groups and seems to fit somewhere in the middle of the two.
  • Some scientists suspect that Guanlong wucaii had feathers because related dinosaurs of the coelurosaur family did.
  • What G. wucaii lacked in size, it probably made up for in speed. It had to be quick to catch prey and to escape from predators that were twice its size.
  • The two G. wucaii skeletons were discovered in the Junggar Basin of Xinjiang (pronounced shin jang), China. Both skeletons were nearly complete. One was that of a 12-year-old adult and the other was about 6 years old. G. wucaii reached its adult size at about 7 years old, scientists said.

Comprehension Check

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

  • Guanlong wucaii is the largest dinosaur ever found. (false, many dinosaurs were larger)
  • G. wucaii is related to T. rex. (true, scientists think it is a predecessor of T. rex)
  • G. wucaii was a plant-eating dinosaur. (false, it was a meat-eater)
  • Scientists believe that T. rex and G. wucaii lived around the same time. (false, scientists believe that G. wucaii lived about 95 million years before T. rex came on the scene)

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

Recalling Detail

  • How old do scientists think the fossil bones of G. wucaii are? (160 million years old)
  • Is G. wucaii older or younger than T. rex? (older by about 95 million years)
  • How many G. wucaii skeletons were found? (two)
  • What purpose did G. wucaii's crest serve? (Scientists are not sure. It could have been related to breathing or it could have been just for show. It could have helped the animals to tell member of their own species, or to tell males from females.)
  • In what ways was G. wucaii different from T. rex? (It was much smaller and shorter than T. rex. It had longer arms, and it had three fingers instead of two.)

Think About the News
Discuss the Think About the News questions that appear on the students' news page.

Follow-Up Activities

Measurement. Help students to understand the relative size of G. wucaii and T. rex.

  • Measure the height of a typical student in your class. How many students laid end to end would it take to equal the length of G. wucaii, which was 9 feet long? How many students would it take to equal the length of a 40-foot-long T. rex?
  • Have students measure out a length of string or yarn that is 9 feet long. Then have them measure a 40-foot-long length. How do the two lengths compare?
  • What other things are 9 feet long? 40 feet long? Have students estimate and measure. For example, how long is your classroom? How does that compare to the length of the two dinosaurs? How does the length of a school bus compare to them?

Geography. The fossils of G. wucaii were found in northwestern China. Have students find China on a world map. Have them find the northwestern part of China. Can they find the city of Xinjiang (pronounced shin jang) on the map? The Gobi Desert? The skeletons of G. wucaii were found in the region Xinjiang, not far from the western borders of the Gobi Desert.

More Geography. Have students compare the size of China with the size of the 48 contiguous states of the United States. How do they compare in size? Let students share their thoughts about that question. Then share with them a map that shows the United States map superimposed on the China map. The map helps students see that China and the United States are about the same size. Add in Alaska and Hawaii and China ends up being slightly smaller than the United States. Have students find the following locations on a world map and estimate whether they are smaller or larger than the United States.

  • Antarctica -- is about 1-1/2 times the size of the United States
  • Argentina -- is about three-tenths the size of the United States
  • Atlantic Ocean -- is about 6-1/2 times the size of the United States
  • Australia -- is slightly smaller than the 48 contiguous U.S. states
  • Brazil -- is slightly smaller than the United States
  • Canada -- is somewhat larger than the United States
  • India -- is about one-third the size of the United States
  • Indian Ocean -- is about 5-1/2 times the size of the United States
  • Pacific Ocean -- is about 15 times the size of the United States
  • Russia -- is nearly twice the size of the United States
  • Saudi Arabia -- is about one-fifth the size of the United States
  • Sudan -- is about one-quarter the size of the United States


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 question on their printable news page.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

National Standards

NS.K-4.3 Life Science
NS.K-4.4 Earth and Space Science
GRADES 5 - 8
NS.5-8.3 Life Science
NS.5-8.4 Earth and Space Science
GRADES 9 - 12
NS.9-12.3 Life Science
NS.9-12.4 Earth and Space Science

NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

NSS-G.K-12.1 The World in Spatial Terms

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Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World®
Copyright © 2006 Education World