Questions for ‘Speckled dino spurs debate’

Only about the size of a golden retriever, Psittacosaurus had a distinct head, which gave it a bit of the look of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (from the 1982 movie).

J. Vinther/University of Bristol, Bob Nicholls/

To accompany feature “Speckled dino spurs debate about ancient animals’ colors


Before Reading:

1. This story is about dinosaurs. What kind of dinosaurs do you know about? Describe a few species.

2. When you think about dinosaurs, what color do you imagine them to be? Why?

During Reading: 

1.  What kind of dinosaur is Psittacosaurus?

2. How big was this dinosaur?

3. What color was Psittacosaurus?

4. How did its color help it hide?

5. What is a pigment?

6.  What is a melanosome?

7.  What do fossilized pigment structures tell us about dinosaurs?

8. What other colorings on dinosaurs do scientists know about besides Psittacosaurus?

9. What are the shapes of melanosomes and what colors do they produce?

10. Why aren’t all scientists convinced that preserved structures in fossils are pigment pouches?

After Reading: 

1. Using what you read in the story, describe how the color of dinosaurs may give clues to their lifestyle. Imagine how Psittacosaurus might have depended on its coloring, and then write a mini-tale (two paragraphs or more) about some event in its life.

2.  Describe how you would approach looking at a fossil and trying to figure out an ancient animal’s color. What tests could you run to know for sure whether the structures in the fossils were preserved pigments?