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Scientists Study Dinosaur "Mummy"




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Grades 2-up

News Content

The remains of a hadrosaur are being called the closest thing to a real, live dinosaur ever found.

Anticipation Guide

Before reading, ask students, How do scientists know so much about dinosaurs that lived millions of years ago? Write on a board or chart the ideas that students share.

News Words

Next, introduce these words that appear in the News Word Box on the students printable page: preserved, hardened, muscles, decay, organs, and nicknamed. 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 clay _____ because Brians brother left its container open. (hardened)
  • Do you know why the farmer _____ his biggest pig Tiny? (nicknamed)
  • Pickles are nothing more than cucumbers _____ in a mixture of vinegar and water. (preserved)
  • The heart, lungs, kidney, and liver are among the bodys major _____. (organs)
  • Bananas need to breathe, so they will _____ quickly if you keep them in a plastic bag. (decay)
  • The weightlifters _____ bulged beneath the thin white T-shirt. (muscles)

    Read the News

    Click for a printable version of this weeks news story Scientists Study Dinosaur Mummy.

    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.
  • More Facts to Share

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

  • Scientists continue to study the hadrosaur, which has been fossilized into stone. They say the dino mummy came complete with skin, ligaments, tendons, and maybe even some internal organs.
  • In describing the hadrosaurs skin, paleontologist Phillip Manning of Manchester University in England said, It's unbelievable when you look at it for the first time. There is depth and structure to the skin. The level of detail expressed in the skin is just breathtaking.
  • Under normal conditions, soft parts of dead animals decompose rapidly after death; but the conditions where this hadrosaur died led to its quick fossilization.
  • Because the skin is fossilized, scientists cannot be sure what color the hadrosaur was. But there does seem to be a pattern of banding (striping) to its scales. They think hadrosaurs skin might have had the ability to change colors, like the skin of some modern-day reptiles.
  • Scientists are using the worlds largest CT scanner to examine the hadrosaur. The scanner, owned by Boeing Company, is often used to scan space shuttle engines and other large objects.
  • Scientists are learning from the scans how much muscle was packed between the hadrosaurs bones and its skin. They have figured out from the scan that hadrosaurs rear end was about 25 percent bigger than originally thought, which would mean its legs were probably much more powerful than thought.
  • Most dinosaur skeletons in museums are estimations of how a dinosaurs bones were spaced. But this new find is the real thing. Because there was some muscle between the bones and the bones were not so close together, scientists believe that hadrosaur might have been more quick and flexible than previously thought.
  • A television special about this dino discovery, , went on sale in recent weeks.
  • Scientists are not optimistic that they might be able to extract any DNA from the hardrosaur. DNA has been extracted from mammoths frozen as long ago as a million years ago, but the hadrosaur is estimated to be 65 million years old.
  • Scientists often refer to the plant-eating hadrosaur as the cow of the Cretaceous period. It had a horny, toothless beak, but it had hundreds of teeth in its cheeks and a long, stiff tail that was likely used for balance.

    Comprehension Check

    Revisit the Anticipation Guide at the top of this lesson; again, ask students to respond to the question How do scientists know so much about dinosaurs that lived millions of years ago? Add to the list any new facts that students learned from this news story.

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

    Recalling Detail

  • What type of dinosaur was found? (hadrosaur)
  • In what kind of material was the dinosaur preserved? (fossilized stone)
  • What was unusual about this dinosaur? (It was not only bones that were found. Scientists actually found fossilized skin on its tail, arms, and legs; muscles; and other parts.)
  • Why have scientists ideas about how hadrosaur looked and moved changed as a result of this new dino mummy? (The fact that muscle can be seen gives scientists a better idea than before about how hadrosaur looked [how its bones were spaced] and moved. They now think it had a more muscled rear end, which means it probably had very powerful legs to help it move quickly.)
  • Why might speed be especially important to a hadrosaur? (Its body didnt offer horns, armored skin, or other features that might protect it, so it relied on speed to escape predators such as T. rex.)
  • How did the dinosaur get its nickname? (It is called Dakota because a teenager discovered the remains in North Dakota in 1999.)
  • How large was hadrosaur? (Scientists now think it was probably 40 feet long and that it might have weighed about 3-1/2 tons.)

    Think About the News
    Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students news page. The dino mummy was a jackpot find for many reasons. Accept students reasoned responses, such as the fact the dinosaur had not decayed in normal ways. It was fossilized before it had a chance to decay.

    Follow-Up Activities

    Technology. Explore the online resources of National Geographics Dino Deathtrap Web page. Share the Dino Mummy Timeline. Then share the What Is a Dino Mummy? video and invite students to answer the following questions about it.

  • What was unusual about the piece of sandstone that Tyler Lyson found that August day? (It had a pattern on it; it was a 3D piece of dinosaur skin.)
  • Was hadrosaur a herbivore [plant eater] or carnivore [meat eater]? (It was a herbivore.)
  • Why are dinosaur mummies so rare and special? (It takes a very unique set of circumstances for a dinosaur to be preserved in this way.)
  • Why might scientists learn more from a dino mummy than from typical dinosaur bones or skeletons? (A dino mummy provides scientists with access to dinosaur tissue and muscles, which can lead to new discoveries about dinosaurs and their existence.)
  • How do scientists believe the dinosaur mummy named Dakota came to be preserved? (They think that very soon after the dinosaur's death it was covered by water and sediment, which preserved it before it decayed or was attacked by predators.)

    Language arts - adjectives. See the The Very First Dinos? resource. Scroll to page 3 for a printable activity that will engage students in turning ho-hum writing (adjectives) into writing that is more descriptive and interesting.

    Following directions. Have students follow the step-by-step instructions for drawing the dinosaur at Draw a Dinosaur.


    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 the printable news story page.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    FINE ARTS: Visual Arts
    GRADES K - 4
    NA-VA.K-4.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
    NA-VA.K-4.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NA-VA.5-8.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
    NA-VA.5-8.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NA-VA.9-12.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
    NA-VA.9-12.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English
    GRADES K - 12
    NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
    NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

    GRADES K - 4
    NS.K-4.3 Life Science
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NS.5-8.3 Life Science
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NS.9-12.3 Life Science

    GRADES K - 12
    NT.K-12.1 Basic Operations and Concepts
    NT.K-12.5 Technology Research Tools

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

    Article by Ellen Delisio
    Education World®
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