Most people believe that dinosaurs disappeared over sixty million years ago... but in fact, we see living dinosaurs everyday. We call them birds. This course examines the evidence linking dinosaurs to modern birds and investigates how scientists study the evolutionary relationships between species. Learners are introduced to the world's largest collection of vertebrate fossils and the American Museum of Natural History's fourth floor Fossil Halls, exhibiting Saurischian and Ornithischian dinosaurs. This seminar uses the method of classification called cladistics to define characteristics of a group of dinosaurs called theropods. Using anatomical evidence from fossils and living birds, a case is presented for birds being direct descendents of the theropod lineage. The course looks at the process of fossilization and how scientists look for, collect, and analyze fossils. Bird behavior, along with fossil evidence, is used to infer possible behavior (such as nesting and parental care) of extinct dinosaurs. We also look at the characteristics that make a bird a bird, and explore the bird family tree and the possible origins of flight. The course also examines possible explanations for the extinction of most dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Scientist authored essays, a virtual exhibition tour, video, and web resources, enable students to explore geologic time, investigate clues to the origin of birds, and theorize about possible causes of extinction.
*All course information is from the 2013-2014 Catalog.