Questions for “Rhinos, camels and bone-crushing dogs once roamed Nebraska”

two bronze statues of rhinos

These full-sized rhino sculptures bring to life animals that lived millions of years ago in what is now Nebraska.

Sandy Mosel/Ashfall State Park

To accompany feature “Rhinos, camels and bone-crushing dogs once roamed Nebraska


Before Reading:

1. What are fossils? What are two things scientists can learn by studying fossils?

2. Think about the animals that live near where you live. If the climate got much warmer, which animals might no longer be able to live there? What if the climate got much colder?

During Reading

1.  What was one of Mike Voorhies’ early discoveries at Ashfall? Why did he think he might find more things in the hills there?

2.  What is unusual about the fossil skeletons found at Ashfall?  

3.  What attracted so many animals to the area now known as Ashfall?

4.  What killed the animals now fossilized there?

5.  Name three types of animals fossilized at Ashfall that no longer live in the area.

6.  How did the presence of ash affect the formation of Ashfall’s fossils? What does that mean for scientists who want to study them?

7.  Even though fossils of large predators have not been found at Ashfall, what evidence led scientists to look for signs of them?

8.  What clues about large predators have researchers found? What is the significance of white bands in the ash layers?

9.  How does ground-penetrating radar work?

10. What do Michelle Proulx and George Tsoflias hope to learn using ground-penetrating radar at Ashfall? Why did they use radio waves of two different frequencies?

After Reading:

1.  As described in the story, the fossils at Ashfall are found layered over each other and are very fragile if removed from the ash. Do you think researchers should remove fossils from higher layers to access and study those in lower layers? Why or why not?

2.  Why do you think fossils of bone-crushing dogs haven’t been found at Ashfall? Use what you read in the story to develop a hypothesis.