Below are some categories of information we can discuss during your class experience!
Working the Quarries:
Working in the quarries is perhaps the single most rewarding aspect of our research. Have you ever dug for dinosaurs? What did you find? Our displays include a molded quarry wall from our Wyoming research, and students will learn how the arrangement of a quarry bed can give insights into the dinosaurs’ extinction. Students will also learn about our groundbreaking GPS technology that allows us to map our quarries in space and time.
The research we are conducting on the site in Wyoming is taphonomy. Taphonomists attempt to reconstruct events surrounding the death and subsequent history for the fossils, including activities at the time of death, cause of death, events surrounding burial, and the post burial changes that have resulted in the bones’ modern arrangement. Taphonomy is not only important for reconstructing the history of fossils, but in modern criminology. Taphonomists are often employed in crime scene investigations to determine the cause of death, the time of death and other aspects of the crime scene from evidences present at the scene. Our unique research center outlook lets us to put students in the shoes of a taphonomist, allowing them to form their own scientific conclusions from our bonebed and database.
What did the dinosaurs eat? Where and in what did they live? Did the dinosaurs die where they were living, or did they die elsewhere before they were transported to their present location? What kinds of geological events could explain the demise of many thousands of animals found in this one deposit? Was it an earthquake, an asteroid impact, a flood, or a massive volcanic eruption? Perhaps all of them at once? These are the types of questions taphonomists, paleontologists, and geologists try to answer. Some of the possibilities come from the study of the sediments themselves, along with non-animal fossils, such as leaves, seeds, and pollen. Look into our research and propose a theory!
Not all of the vertebrate animals we find are dinosaurs. Among the dinosaur remains in our quarries are evidences of a wide range of other vertebrate forms, mostly associated with water. These include fish, amphibians, lizards, alligators and crocodiles, and turtles. The fish include Amia(a bowfin), Lepisosteus(a gar), several species of stingrays and batfish, and sharks. There are also small shrew-sized mammals of forms unfamiliar to us today called multituberculates, because their teeth have many bumps of tubercules in rows, and opossum-like marsupials. Mammals and dinosaurs both occur as fossils in middle Triassic rocks. They do not appear to change much through the rocks of the Mesozoic, and the marsupials would be easily recognizable to us as opossum-like. What do the non-dinosaurian vertebrates tell you about the taphonomy of the dinosaurs? Let your students trace anatomy through the ages with our displays of fossil fish, reptiles, and mammals.
What makes an animal a dinosaur? What is the difference between a sauropod and a theropod? What about an ornithischian and a saurischian? Learn the answers to these questions and many more as you identify the dinosaurs we find in the field, including herbivores like Edmontosaurus (a duck-billed dinosaur), Triceratops (a horned, frilled dinosaur),Pachycephalosaurus(a bone-headed dinosaur), Thescelosaurus(a sheep-sized dinosaur), and Nodosaurus(an armored dinosaur), and carnivores like Tyrannosaurus rex(the king of dinosaurs), Nanotyrannus(a smaller cousin of T. rex), Struthiomimus(the “ostritch-mimic” dinosaur), Anzu(the “demon-bird” oviraptor), Dromaeosaurus(a raptor), and Troodon (a tiny theropod). Find your favorites, see their bones, and touch a real triceratops leg!