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Studying Living Organisms

What Can You Learn About Dinosaurs by Watching an Ostrich?

OR, Do We Have a Zoo Trip for You

Linda Culp and Katherine Liu
Woodrow Wilson Biology Institute
1995


Target age or
ability group:
Grades 7-12.
Class time
required:
One class period, plus the field trip.
Materials and equipment: Worksheet and pen or pencil; clipboard (optional); drawings of dinosaurs. Recommended: maps of the zoo
Summary of activity:
Students often find dinosaurs interesting. However, it is doubtful that they have actually thought about the process by which scientists (and film animators) develop working models of dinosaurs. Reproducible worksheets provide guidelines for student observations of animal motion during a field trip to a zoo. The Summary Questions ask students to use their observations to consider body structure and hypothesize possible dinosaur motion.

Teacher Notes

Before the trip:

(a) View prepared skeletons or photographs of vertebrates, especially of reptiles and birds, so that students are aware of skeletal articulation and differences between skeletons.

(b) Review maps of the zoo and have students mark meeting times and places, and animals of special interest on the maps. (Depending on your class, you may want to collect the maps and redistribute the maps on field trip day.)

At the zoo

(a) Assign students to groups of 3-4 students.

(b) Have a set time to meet--at least one student in each group should have a watch.

(c) Have students observe 4-6 animals--assign the groups to different sets of animals. Each set of animals should include at least one flightless bird, one reptile, and one large mammal.

For this activity we suggest the following reference: Norman, David. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs, Crescent Books, NY, 1985.

NamePeriod Class:
 Group Members:  
   
   

What Can You
Learn About Dinosaurs by
Watching an Ostrich?

Field Trip Observation and Record Form

1. Put the name of the animal you are observing in the space to the right. Then answer the following questions about the animal and record your answer in the space provided below. Complete the rest of this table by putting the appropriate letter in the boxes below each animal's name.      
2. Compare forelimb length to hind limb length.

(a) Limbs are of equal length.

(b) Forelimbs are shorter than hind limbs.

(c) Forelimbs are longer than hind limbs.

      
3. How does the animal hold its limbs as it walks?

(a) relatively straight

(b) bent forward at the knees

(c) bent backward at the elbows and knees.

      
4. How do the legs swing as the animal walks?

(a) mainly from shoulder and hip

(b) mainly from elbow and knee

      
5. How does the length of the animal's body (trunk) compare to the length of its legs?

(a) Trunk and legs are of equal length.

(b) Trunk is longer than legs.

(c) Legs are longer than trunk.

      
Copy the animal names from the top row on the previous page into the spaces to the right and continue your observations.
      
6. Describe the motion of the body (trunk) relative to the legs as the animal moves forward. (More than one of these descriptions may apply to a given animal.)

(a) The body sways from side to side.

(b) The body sways from front to back.

(c) The body sways up and down.

(d) The body does not seem to move with respect to the legs.

      
7. What is the position of the tail as the animal moves?

(a) The tail drags on the ground.

(b) The tail is held off the ground.

      
8. What is the motion of the tail as the animal moves?

(a) The tail moves from side to side with each stride.

(b) There is no obvious relationship between animal movement and tail movement.

      
9. Are the animal's feet (a) toed in, (b) towed out, or (c) pointing straight ahead as the animal moves.       
10. What does the animal's head do while it is walking?

(a) The head moves back and forth.

(b) The head moves from side to side.

(c) There is no apparent relationship between the head motion and body motion.

      
11. How does the animal position its feet with respect to its body when it is standing still?

(a) Feet are side by side.

(b) One foot is in front of the other.

      
12. Is the animal a quadruped or a biped?

(a) Animal is a quadruped (walks on four feet).

(b) Animal is a biped (walks on two feet).

      
13. When it walks, where does the quadruped place its hind foot with respect to its forefoot.

(a) Hind foot is placed behind forefoot print.

(b) Hind foot in placed in forefoot print.

(c) Hind foot is placed in front of forefoot print.

      
14. What is the sequence with which the forefoot and hind foot of the quadruped move.

(a) Forefoot and hind foot on the same side of the body move forward at the same time.

(b) Forefoot and hind foot on the same side of the body move forward at different times.

      
15. Do both quadruped fore feet move forward (a) at the same time, or (b) at different times.       
Copy the animal names from the top row on the previous page into the spaces to the right and continue your observations.
      
16. Do both biped feet move forward (a) at the same time, or (b) at different times.       
17. Under what conditions do the biped forelimbs touch the ground?

(a) Forelimbs never touch the ground.

(b) Forelimbs touch the ground when the animal is moving.

(c) Forelimbs touch the ground only when the animal is stopped.

      

18. Using the information in your data table, describe in paragraph form the motion of each of the animals you have observed.

19. From your chart, select the two animals with the greatest differences in the way they move. Describe the selective advantage for each type of motion.

20. Scientists often make assumptions about extinct life forms based on comparisons to living life forms. Using your observations of living animals and pictures of dinosaurs, select the living animal whose motion your dinosaur would most closely resemble. Explain how your dinosaur would move and justify your hypothesis.

Acknowledgment

These questions were adapted with permission from material prepared by Dr. James Farlow, Department of Earth Sciences, Indiana University/Purdue University, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

On to What is Your
Explanation for the Evidence?

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