Rock Cycle - Past Life (KB)
Pre Lab 

  • Comparing dinosaurs and prehistoric animals.
  • Contrasting dinosaur eating habits.
  • extinct
  • prehistoric
  • mammal
  • herbivore
  • carnivore
  • crayons

Students color a worksheet comparing dinosaurs and prehistoric animals.


A common mistake made by manufacturers of dinosaur toys and games is to call dinosaurs "prehistoric" animals. Strictly speaking, the term "prehistoric" means before written history. Dinosaurs certainly lived before humans or writing, but in practice prehistoric is used by most people to refer to the time from the beginning of the Ice Age (the Pleistocene Epoch, beginning 1.8 million years ago) to the beginning of written history. Classifying dinosaurs as prehistoric leads to incorrect notions, for example, that the dinosaurs were contemporaneous with large mammals like mammoths and saber-toothed cats, or worse, that dinosaurs lived at the same time as humans.

The second goal of the Pre lab is to introduce the concept of eating habits and food types. Different dinosaurs ate different types of food. The Mesozoic dinosaurs included carnivores (meat-eaters), herbivores (plant-eaters) and omnivores (plant- and meat-eaters). Paleontologists can tell what different dinosaurs ate by looking at the shape of their teeth and the shape of their bodies and comparing them with the shapes of modern carnivores, herbivores and omnivores. Teeth are the most common type of vertebrate body part found as fossils because they are denser and more resistant to chemical destruction than the other bones in the vertebrate skeleton. From fossil teeth we get valuable information about the eating habits, sizes, and growth patterns of ancient animals, including dinosaurs.

Children (and even adults) often identify meat-eating behavior as a negative trait and plant-eating behavior as a positive trait. This mind-set leads to the bizarre notion of ‘good’ animals and ‘bad’ animals, especially when it comes to dinosaurs. We encourage you to address this issue during the Pre Lab. Explain feeding habits in the context of the food chain.

  1. Before lab, mix the extinct dinosaurs, non-dinosaurs and prehistoric animal models. Make enough collections for each student group.
  2. Discuss the difference between extinct and prehistoric animals with the class. Point out that prehistoric (or Ice Age) animals lived with our human ancestors and that some prehistoric animals are extinct (like mammoths) and some are not (like bison). The dinosaurs lived long before humans appeared on earth. Therefore, they are extinct but not prehistoric.
  3. Have the students sort the animal model collections into dinosaurs, non-dinosaurs and prehistoric animals.

    The following are dinosaurs: Palaeocincus, Camptosaurus, Brontosaurus (=Apatosaur), Iguanodon, Corythosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Parasaurolophus, Ankylosaurus, Polacanthus, Triceratops, Protoceratops, and Stegosaurus.

  4. Have the students color the worksheet.

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