Learning With: ‘Tyrannosaurus Rex: The Once and Future King’

Learning With: ‘Tyrannosaurus Rex: The Once and Future King’

Before reading the article:

Were you fascinated by dinosaurs when you were younger? Are you still fascinated? Do you have a favorite dinosaur?

Two large museum exhibits on Tyrannosaurus rex will open in the next few months to celebrate the world’s most popular dinosaur. What do you know about T. rex? Have you ever seen a T. rex fossil in person?

O.K., now take this T. rex pop quiz:

(Don’t worry … it’s not graded.)

• Fast or slow?

• Smart or dumb?

• Social animal or loner?

• Short or long life span?

• Hunter, scavenger or both?

Final bonus question: Which is now believed to be a characteristic of T. rex: fur, feathers, wings or stripes?

Next, before you read the article and find out the answers, how do you think paleontologists go about verifying what they know about T. rex?

Turn to a partner and share your thoughts.

Now, read the article, “Tyrannosaurus Rex: The Once and Future King,” and answer the following questions:

1. The article begins: “The king is dead. Long live the king!” What evidence does James Gorman, the author, provide to support the idea that T. rex is the king of dinosaurs?

2. When were the first T. rex bones discovered? Why does the author say that the newly discovered dinosaur could have turned out to be a mere curiosity?

3. What notable changes in the study of dinosaurs have occurred in the past 30 years? How do these changes support the claim by Gregory Erickson, a leading paleontologist, that “the golden age of paleontology is right now”?

4. Who is Sue the T. rex? What was significant about its discovery in 1990? How many discovered T. rexes have been identified as female?

5. What are examples of new knowledge that scientists have gathered about the behavior and sensory abilities of T. rex? Which did you find most interesting and why?

6. New research suggests that T. rex was not always the top predator among dinosaurs. In your own words, explain why. Why does the author write, “It could be said that T. rex lucked out”?

7. Stephen Brusatte, a paleontologist, said there was some resentment toward T. rex:

People who study non-dinosaurs say dinosaurs get all the attention. … People who study dinosaurs say theropods get all the attention. People who study theropods, say, oh, tyrannosaurs get all the attention.

What do you think of this criticism? Does T. rex deserve all of the attention it gets? If not, make a case for another dinosaur that you believe deserves a greater spotlight.

Finally, tell us more about what you think:

— What did you learn about Tyrannosaurus rex from the article? Is there a specific fact or new theory that stands out? Return to the quiz from the top: How did you do?

— What more would you like to know about T. rex or dinosaurs in general? Does the article make you appreciate the work of paleontologists? Would you want to be one?

— What are your personal memories or experiences with dinosaurs? Would you like to see the exhibit in New York or Washington?

— Design a poster for either museum exhibition. Include at least three facts you learned about T. rex from the article.