This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process.
This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.
This page first made public: Jun 4, 2009
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
How the activity is situated in the course
Content/concepts goals for this activity
> information and limitations provided by fossil record
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
> distinguishing evidence from intepretations
> weighing differing viewpoints/interpretations
Other skills goals for this activity
Description of the activity/assignment
Determining whether students have met the goals
However, students each write up their own final interpretation and limitations. Additionally, there is generally a lot of discussion between students and instructors about clues during the exercise.
Download teaching materials and tips
- Activity Description/Assignment:Student assignment for Dinosaur Taphonomy (Microsoft Word 27kB May16 09)
- Instructors Notes:
More information on this exercise and examples of clues can be accessed through a powerpoint
found at http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/paleo/workshop09/program.html
For this activity I use two dinosaur sites:
1) Cleveland-Lloyd Quarry
Bilbey, 1999 (Gates, 2005)
2) Yale Deinonychus Quarry
Maxwell and Ostrom, 1995
I chose these sites because they are:
1) controversial with multiple interpretations.
2) have references with the needed clues.
3) relate to class lectures on behavior.
Additionally, within the classroom I prefer to have
adjacent groups(tables) working on different sites.
Clues are on separate sheets of paper that provide brief descriptions of various site attributes.
For example, there may be sheets on the dinosaurs species represented, bone weathering, lithologies, sedimentary structures, bite marks, etc.
Students request information one clue at a time. To receive a clue, they must formulate a hypothesis and explain how a specific type of information would test that hypothesis. For example, they might propose the assemblage represents a mass mortality and request information on bone weathering. A hypothesis might be that if the dinosaurs died together at one time, their remains should show uniform weathering.
In practice, the exercise requires the instructor to provide some prompts/assistance to students in linking hypotheses with physical/observable information.
Suitable for any taxonomic group - mammals, trilobites, reef assemblages. Just get the right reference or make it up.
Perhaps suitable for general vert/invert. paleontology class where specimens unavailable.
Bilbey, S. A. 1999. Taphonomy of the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry in the Morrison Formation, central Utah—a lethal spring-fed pond. in Gillette, D.D., ed., Vertebrate Paleontology in Utah: Utah Geologic Survey, Miscellaneous Publication 99-1, p. 121– 133.
Perhaps a better/newer reference:
Gates, T. A. 2005. The Late Jurassic Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry as a Drought-Induced Assemblage. Palaios 20:363-375.
Maxwell, W. D. and Ostrom, J. H. 1995. Taphonomy and paleobiological implications of Tenontosaurus-Deinonychus associations. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 15(4):707 712.
- Solution Set: