Thursday, January 8, 2009

The World Of Fossils

By Ferdinand Okeke Ferdinand Mekino Ferdinand Dubem

As much as children love to play with dinosaurs, they love to learn about real dinosaurs even more. Unlike space aliens or Harry Potter imaginations, the thing that excites youngsters about dinosaurs is that they look like aliens but they were very much real and a big part of the history of our planet. So when any school lesson or educational show comes on about the various times in history when dinosaurs ruled the world, it is not hard to get the young people excited and fascinated. Many children become real experts in paleontology and archeology and become fascinated with how dinosaur fossils are discovered and what we can learn from them.

When you see a fossil of a dragonfly showing wingspans that may be larger than your hand, it is fun to imagine a world where event he bugs were massive dinosaurs. The ancient cavemen must have been awed by the size of every creature they came across. But it makes you glad that evolution has done its job to make our modern dragonflies the size they are when they land on your fishing pole this weekend.

As they become more fascinated with real dinosaurs and fossils that you gave them in various pictorial gifts, you can then take that interest and grow it through field trips to museums that feature fossils displays and even to places that will let the kids perform a version of play archeology in a realistic setting. They may never want to look at Barney or the Flintstones again when they come to appreciate how much fun can be had learning about real fossils and real dinosaurs from real scientists. And the pictures of fossils you cleverly used to create that fascination will have served you well.

Footprints left behind by giant dinosaurs are also helpful in determining facts about the shape of the animal and how it walked and what it looked like. Dinosaurs that walked on two legs had different prints than four legged ones. The size of the print as well as the number of goes and the shape of the foot tell a lot about the body that was supported. These footprints can even tell if the dinosaur could run and how fast. There is an amazing amount that can be learned just from footprints.

As a parent, you can add fuel to the fire and take a childhood love of cartoon dinosaurs or talking dinosaurs and begin to migrate that into a fascination with real dinosaurs and the fossil records that give us the knowledge we have of them. There are dozens of ways to give your child new and colorful pictures of dinosaurs including placemats, t-shirts, playing cards and posters. A package of playing cards each of which shows a different dinosaur with the name of the example and a little bit of scientific information about it may become a child's most treasured toy and one they love to use to play cards with the rest of the family so the cards can be shown off to everyone.

But when you think about it, how did anyone come up with those images? There were no cameras back then. Even if cavemen (or cave women) did drawings on the cave walls, who knows if they got it right? After all, when you are running away from a dinosaur trying not to be eaten, it is difficult to get a real good picture of what is chasing you. But universally those images are accepted as true. How did we get them? Paleontologists are able to draw conclusions about the most amazing amount of detail about what dinosaurs looked like, how they lived, what they ate and how they died and they do it all simply using fossils which are nothing more than the bones left behind for millions of years that we find and study.

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