This course is about using fossils to reconstruct the origin, evolution, behaviour and extinction of dinosaurs. We will look at changes in the public perception and scientific interpretation of dinosaurs in the time since their initial discovery, with particular emphasis on relationships, adaptations and Mesozoic history.
- The fossil record: what is the fossil record, how the record is interpreted, and the influence of taphonomic processes.
- Geologic time, uniformitarian thinking, and global processes: plate tectonics and global change.
- Classification, systematics, and organic evolution: old and new viewpoints.
- Defining the dinosaur: characteristics that identify an organism; why ichthyosaurs are not dinosaurs.
- The major groups of dinosaurs: Saurischia and Ornithischia, and subgroups; old and new interpretations of appearance in life, physiology (warm or cold blooded), and behaviour.
- The origins of dinosaurs and the groups they replaced: how the dinosaurs competed successfully and became dominant on Earth.
- Dinosaur evolution and adaptive radiations throughout the Mesozoic (Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods).
- The Mesozoic non-dinosaurs: other animals that were present and how they interacted with dinosaurs.
- Dinosaurs, feathers, and the rise of birds: how it is possible that some dinosaurs are still extant, flying all around us.
- Dinosaur extinction (aside from the birds): summary of the hypotheses available, with special attention to the Chicxulub crater and the impact hypothesis; how such an event could happen in the future, and how it might affect humans.
- How dinosaur extinction affected the evolution of mammals. Human evolution if dinosaurs had not become extinct.
- Evolutionary speculation: How their descendants might look, if the dinosaurs had not become extinct.
Methods of Instruction
Means of Assessment
Evaluation will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. The instructor will present a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the semester. Evaluation will be based on the following:
Lab assignments 10-20%
Lab exams (2) 20-30%
Term paper 5%
Mid-term exam 20%
Final Exam 30%
Upon completion of the course the student will be able to:
- Distinguish between major groups of dinosaurs on the basis of general morphology, using shared derived characteristics for these groups to interpret evolutionary relationships.
- Read, construct and annotate a simple phylogenetic tree to interpret and test relationships between major groups of dinosaurs.
- Relate changes in paleogeography to the distribution and occurrence of dinosaur fossils.
- Make inferences about the age and paleoenvironments of dinosaurs using basic stratigraphic principles, absolute ages and interpretations of depositional environment.
- Employ anatomical language to describe and differentiate between fossil vertebrates.
- Discuss how the study of dinosaurs is representative of the iterative nature of the scientific method, recognizing the role of basic observations, new discoveries and advances in study techniques.
- Explain how scientists infer dinosaur behaviour from fossil remains such as bones and trackways.
Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.
Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system.
A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.
For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.
If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.