Questions for ‘Defining a dinosaur is now far harder’

The dinosauromorph Teleocrater rhadinus had a skull depression that was once thought to be unique to dinosaurs.


To accompany feature “Defining a dinosaur is now far harder


Before Reading: 

1.  What is a dinosaur?

2.  Name three species of dinosaur. What makes them unlike other types of animals?

During Reading: 

1.  Why is it important whether there is a hole or not in the hip socket of a fossil reptile?

2.  What is Dinosauria? What is a dinosauromorph?

3.  Who coined the term “dinosaur” and when?

4.  What is the “Great Dying” and when did it happen?

5.  What is parallel evolution?

6.  How do scientists build an evolutionary tree?

7.  Three proposed dinosaur evolutionary trees are mentioned in the story. How do they differ?

8.  Why were many paleontologists skeptical of the dinosaur family tree proposed in March 2017?

9.  Why is it important to know what the dinosaur evolutionary tree looked like?

10.  Name two types of Teleocrater fossils that have been found in the Ruhuhu Basin of Tanzania. Which of them excited Sterling Nesbitt more? And why?

After Reading: 

1.  The word “dinosaur” had a specific meaning when it was first coined. That meaning has since changed. Does it matter what a dinosaur is or isn’t? Is your answer different for scientists, the general public or schoolkids? Use evidence from the story to explain your answer.

2.  Scientists have been collecting dinosaur fossils for well over a century. Many of these fossils sit in the collections of natural history museums. Should researchers spend time looking at fossils dug up long ago? Explain your answer using evidence from the story.


1.  Find Tanzania’s Ruhuhu Basin on a map. How far is it from your hometown?