Questions for “New beetle species found in fossil poop of this dino relative”

illustration of the head of an ancient insect-eating reptile

Scientists found never-before-seen beetles by analyzing ancient poop. It was likely left by an insect-eating reptile relative of dinosaurs called Silesaurus opolensis (illustrated).

Małgorzata Czaja

To accompany feature “New beetle species found in fossil poop of this dino relative


Before Reading:

1.  Fossils come in several types. List as many as you can.

2.  How do you think scientists learn about the behaviors of ancient animals (including their gait, diet and social groups)?

During Reading

1.  Why does Martin Qvarnström liken ancient feces to “hidden treasure chests”?

2.  What is the scientific term for fossilized dung?

3.  Karen Chin says carnivore feces can readily fossilize. Why? What explanation does she give?

4.  What is amber and why do paleontologists find it useful?

5.  What is a synchrotron and how was it used in the research described in this story?

6.  What is Silesaurus opolensis and when did it live?

7.  What is Triamyxa coprolithica and how did it get its name?

After Reading:

1.  The story mentions being able to find fossil insects in both coprolites and amber. Describe the advantages and disadvantages of using each when it comes to identifying what insects might have existed in ancient times. (Hint: Consider what each material looks like.)