Am I a Dinosaur?

This six-part exhibit is a hands-on collection of specimens that you can touch and examine closely – when the museum is open to visitors of course! These are zooming images of the six parts to this display. Follow links to outside sites for more details (especially the Jurassic Park inspired “de-extinction” podcast at item (6) below).

>>For each specimen – ask yourself: Is this a “dinosaur”? To answer, consider definitions of “dinosaur”.
Here is a PDF worksheet to help you keep track of your answers. (Solutions * – but don’t cheat!)

1) A fabulous, huge ammonite fossil
This ammonite lived at the same time as dinosaurs. It belongs to a class called Cephalopods (the same branch as squids and octopi!). This particular specimen lived shortly before the great extinction of 65 Million years ago, although ammonites have been shown to have lived as much as 240 million years ago!
Am I a dinosaur?

2) Bones
LEFT: This bone has not been turned into rock. You can tell by touching it. Notice how it is warmer than the cold, stone fossilized bone. This is like what’s inside you!
Am I a dinosaur?

RIGHT: This fossilized bone has been turned into rock. On the outside, fossilized bones can look very similar to the exterior of petrified wood. However, when you look at the inside, you see something very different. The inside of bone is full of small bubbles. These are the remains of the bone’s marrow – the spongy interior which allows blood and nutrients to pass through the bone, and nourish the living tissue. However, trees have rings on the inside.
Am I a dinosaur?

3) Wood
These two samples aren’t even from an animal! They are from ancient trees.
We can tell HOW this tree lived based on the rings we find within this fossil. If a ring is fat, the tree had a good year. If it’s thin, the tree struggled. With enough information, we can even tell the climate in a particular region during a very narrow time period. Scientists who study tree rings are called dendochronologists.
Am I a dinosaur?

4) Fossilized “things” …
LEFT: This fossilized tooth was donated to the PME in 1962. We can tell by its sharp, pointy shape that the animal it came from was a carnivore. You can tell it was a tooth and not a claw by the marrow in the centre. A claw is more like a fingernail that is wrapped around the finger, whereas a tooth is more like a specialized bone.
Am I a dinosaur?

RIGHT: This is an egg – one of thousands collected in the Xixia County in Henan Province, China from the Late Cretaceous Age (c. 80 million years ago). Because thousands of eggs have been found in the area, it is thought that it was a good habitat for nesting. While unborn creatures inside fossilized eggs are rarely found, it’s not impossible!
Am I a dinosaur?

BOTTOM: A fossilized megalodon tooth – notice it is still sharp! Carefully examine the edges of the teeth, and you’ll still feel (or see) the serrated edges. While we find many megalodon teeth because they  were constantly shedding old ones, and growing new ones, we haven’t found much else from these mega sharks. That’s because the majority of their bodies were supported with cartilage, not bone! Cartilage is the same stuff that makes up your nose, but it doesn’t fossilize very well.
Am I a dinosaur?

5) More fossilized “things” …
LEFT: This fossilized bone is from a 200 million year old Shastasaurus. It is the largest known marine reptile to have ever lived. It lived (of course) in the water.
Am I a dinosaur?

RIGHT: This coprolite is actually fossilized poop. Scientists can tell quite a bit about an organism based on its droppings. Even the shape is telling. When large, herbivorous animals  evacuate themselves, the product usually pancakes when it hits the ground. However, when meat-eating animals do the same thing, they usually produce something with more cohesion. Based on the in-tact shape of this specimen, we can safely assume that this dropping came from a meat-eater. Further examination of the inside of this coprolite could also reveal the bone fragments, or
seeds, from this organism’s last meal. Here is a fascinating and unusual “use” of coprolites – built into fine furniture. This is at the museum in Lyme Regis, the town where Mary Anning (the first woman to make important contributions to paleontology) lived in the early 1800’s.
Am I a dinosaur?

BOTTOM: These ‘sea-bugs’ are from a large, diverse class of animals called trilobites. The earliest trilobites emerged about 540 million years ago, and went extinct about 250 million years ago, likely due to a changing global climate. The largest trilobite in the world is Canadian, and is 72 centimetres long! While they don’t have any direct descendants alive today, their closest assumed relative is the fascinating horseshoe crab.
Am I a dinosaur?

6) In amber …
Amber specimens: Zoom the image to see the four labels for these wonderful specimens of amber with entrapped insects or materials.
Am I a dinosaur?

Jurassic Park – Possible???

  • You’ve likely watched the early 90s dinosaur thriller, Jurassic Park. In the film, rogue scientists use DNA from Jurassic mosquitoes trapped in amber to grow modern dinosaurs.
  • Sadly, this story remains in the realm of science fiction, since DNA (even undisturbed in a sealed, amber casket) will have unspooled enough to be unreadable after only 1.5 million years. The closest dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago.
  • “De-extinction?” Is this possible? Check out a great 2-part podcast about the possibilities, complications and ethical dilemmas of bringing back ancient and extinct species.

Photographs: Do only insects & seeds get trapped in amber? In 2015, Lida Xing of the China University of Geosciences found the tip of an actual dinosaur’s tail trapped in amber. Confirming decades of paleontological theorizing, the tail was covered in feathers! For the first time ever, the scientific community was able to confidently assert exactly what colour this 99-million-year-old, chicken-sized dinosaur (coelurosaur) was. The feathers were brown on the upper side of the tail, and white on the underside. This specimen has a Canadian connection too. Shortly after it was discovered in an amber market, it was sent to the University of Saskatchewan for analysis!
For each amber specimen here, am I a dinosaur?