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The Story of Dinosaur Evolution

Co Authors:

Jeffrey Scott Coker
Department of Biology
Elon University

Jimmie D. Agnew
Science Education
Elon University


In this case study, students write their own “evolution stories” based on information taken from a review article by Paul Sereno on the evolution of dinosaurs published in Science magazine. In the process, they learn to distinguish between the three major groups of dinosaurs based on physical characteristics; trace the ancestry of individual dinosaur species; and interpret a complex evolutionary tree that includes extinctions, speciation events, and changes in the number of taxa over time. The case was designed for use in non-majors introductory science courses, but could also be used in majors’ courses.

  • Distinguish between ornithischians, sauropodomorphs, and theropods on the basis of physical characteristics.
  • Trace the ancestry of individual dinosaur species from the common ancestor.
  • Interpret a complex evolutionary tree which includes extinctions, speciation events, and changes in the number of taxa over time.
Keywords: Dinosaurs; dinosaur evolution; extinction; speciation; evolutionary tree; dinosaur classification; lizard-hipped; bird-hipped; ornithischian; sauropodomorph; theropod
Topical Area: N/A
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Interrupted, Journal Article
Language: English
Subject Headings: Evolutionary Biology   Biology (General)   Science (General)  
Date Posted: 12/09/05
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

Teaching Notes

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The link to the dinosaur anatomy dictionary is invalid.

Kathy Hallett

Carmel High School
Carmel, IN
In response to Kathy's comment, above, unfortunately, Internet sites come and go. Jeff Poling no longer maintains his Dinosauria On-line site or the Anatomical Dictionary that was part of that site. This dictionary was mentioned in the teaching notes to this case by the case authors as a helpful resource for students and teachers. When this happens - when an Internet site that is cited in one of our cases is no longer available - we suggest that teachers look for alternate resources. We did a quick Google search and found a few possible sites that could be used instead, with the first one listed below our top pick:

Editor, National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science


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