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Geology and Dinosaurs

GLG 118

Geology and Dinosaurs

GLG 118

Course Description

Prerequisites: Prerequisites: READING LEVEL 2 and WRITING LEVEL 2 and MATH LEVEL 2.

Designed for non-science as well as science majors who are interested in the basic principles of geology and in the study of dinosaurs. Introduces the student to the physical earth, its rocks, minerals, and external processes. Examines the theory of Plate Tectonics and the changing shape of the continents during the time of dinosaurs. Investigates the concepts of geologic time, evolution, and fossilization as related to the study of dinosaurs. Reviews new and controversial theories, including dinosaur extinction, metabolism, and behavior. Optional field trip to view museum specimens. Credit may be earned for GLG 117 or GLG 118 but not both. (45-30)

Outcomes and Objectives

Explain the science of geology and theories of the origin of the earth.

Objectives:

  • Define and distinguish between geology, earth science, and paleontology.
  • State the accepted age of the Earth.
  • Describe the scientific method.
  • Discriminate between hypothesis, theory, and law.
  • Sequence the events of the Big Bang Theory.

Explain the changing scientific reconstructions of dinosaurs since their discovery.

Objectives:

  • State who introduced the term "dinosauria" and when.
  • Compare and contrast the scientific view of dinosaurs in the 19th century and in the 20th century.
  • Explain the scientific influences of early dinosaur artists on later reconstructions.
  • Describe the great dinosaur rush and list the major participants.
  • List the major dinosaur quarries in the U.S.
  • Explain the significance of the early 20th century dinosaur-collecting expeditions.

Discern which dinosaur features are inferred from skeletal evidence and which are based on speculation.

Objectives:

  • Describe two methods to estimate dinosaur weight.
  • Estimate the weight of a dinosaur given a scale model.
  • Explain why dinosaur coloration, body covering, and thinness are primarily conjecture.
  • Explain how scientists determine what a dinosaur likely ate.
  • List the defensive strategies of three different groups of dinosaurs.
  • Describe the evidence for and against group behavior of dinosaurs.
  • Given a set of tracks, estimate the speed of dinosaur movement.

Describe evidence for and against hot-blooded dinosaurs.

Objectives:

  • Define endotherm, ectotherm, and gigantotherm.
  • Summarize the physiological evidence for hot-blooded dinosaurs.
  • Summarize the physiological evidence for cold-blooded dinosaurs.
  • Determine which groups of dinosaurs were most likely hot-blooded and which were most likely cold-blooded.

Describe the various theories of dinosaur extinction.

Objectives:

  • List three popular ideas about the cause of dinosaur extinction.
  • Describe the extent of the terminal Cretaceous extinction in terms of life on Earth.
  • List the evidence for an extra-terrestrial impact causing the dinosaur extinction.
  • Explain why some scientists tend to minimize the significance of the dinosaur extinction.

Describe and compare the major groups of dinosaurs.

Objectives:

  • List the defining characteristics of theropods, sauropodomorphs, stegosaurs, and ankylosaurs.
  • Compare and contrast the defense mechanisms of sauropodomorphs, stegosaurs, and ankylosaurs.
  • Discuss two popular myths of stegosaurs that have been recently challenged.

Describe the principle of uniformitarianism, the origin of the geologic column, and the geologic methods of dating various rock bodies.

Objectives:

  • Explain uniformitarianism.
  • Contrast absolute and relative time.
  • Define isotopes and radioactive decay.
  • Determine the age of a rock using parent-daughter ratios and half-life.
  • Select an appropriate radioactive isotope to date a rock given the rock's approximate age.
  • Discuss causes of error in radiometric dates.
  • Explain and apply the principles of original horizontality, superposition, and cross-cutting relationships.
  • Explain the role of correlation in establishing the geologic column.
  • Recite the major divisions of the geologic column.

Describe the mineral identification process and apply diagnostic properties to identify unknown mineral specimens.

Objectives:

  • Distinguish between a mineral and a nonmineral.
  • Define and demonstrate an understanding of the major physical properties of minerals.
  • Estimate the hardness of an unknown mineral using only a fingernail, penny, and glass plate.
  • Classify and identify unknown minerals on the basis of their physical properties.

Describe the rock cycle, the three major types of rocks, and apply that knowledge to identification of unknown specimens.

Objectives:

  • State the three major classes of rocks and briefly explain how each is formed.
  • Explain the rock cycle.
  • Compare the abundances of the three major rock types in the earth's crust.
  • Contrast clastic and chemical sediment.
  • Outline the steps involved in the formation of a sedimentary rock.
  • State the basis of sedimentary rock classification.
  • Classify by rock type, and identify, unknown rocks on the basis of their physical properties.

Explain the process of fossilization and describe rocks which are most likely to contain fossils.

Objectives:

  • Discriminate different types of fossilization from hand specimens.
  • Explain why most dinosaur fossils are found in only certain rock types.
  • Outline the steps in the fossilization process.
  • Contrast relative vs. absolute time and explain their respective usage in dating fossils.
  • Determine the relative age of a rock given a suite of fossils.
  • List the principal types of trace fossils.
  • Explain the types of information paleontologists are able to obtain from trace fossils.
  • Summarize the behavioral inferences that are made from the study of trace fossils.

Critique the evidence for the modern theory of plate tectonics.

Objectives:

  • Compare and contrast the theories of continental drift and plate tectonics.
  • Summarize the evidence that Wegener presented to support continental drift.
  • State why Wegener's theory of continental drift was rejected by the scientific community.
  • Describe the evidence that led to the discovery of seafloor spreading, including evidence for magnetic reversals.
  • Draw a cross-section of earth, label its layers, the asthenosphere and the lithosphere, and indicate the thickness of each.
  • Contrast the three types of plate boundaries, giving modern examples of each.
  • Describe a lithospheric plate and its average rate of movement.

Describe the changes in world geography and climate during the age of dinosaurs.

Objectives:

  • Describe the inferred configuration of the continents from the Triassic through the Cretaceous Periods.
  • Describe the worldwide climate changes in the age of dinosaurs.
  • Summarize the major changes in vegetation that took place during the age of dinosaurs.
  • Summarize the major changes in sea level that took place during the age of dinosaurs.
  • Discuss the influence of land bridges and continental rifting on dinosaur distribution.

Explain what distinguishing features define a dinosaur.

Objectives:

  • State what physiological features are unique to dinosauria.
  • Explain why lizards are not dinosaurs.
  • Describer when and where dinosaurs lived.

Describe the central idea behind Darwinian evolution.

Objectives:

  • Define natural selection and evolutionary novelty.
  • Contrast gradualism with catastrophism.
  • Construct a cladogram using three or more diverse taxa.
  • Describe the changes in dinosaur taxa with geologic time.
  • Construct simple evolutionary pathways using comparative morphology.