Dinosaur Discovery

Today saw the third instalment of out New Activity Adventure Days for youngsters here at the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary.

It was a day full of fascinating facts, looking at all the latest scientific discoveries and in particular examining the many links between dinosaurs and birds - specifically birds of prey, which we in the bird world refer to as RAPTORS.

Raptors in a dinosaur-related context are something many children are familiar with today, thanks in part to Steven Spielberg and his hugely successful Jurassic Park movies; and in fact, starting our day discussing these films provided the perfect spring-board from which to launch the eager young minds on our course to investigating all things dinosaur!  

Velociraptors are the infamous dinosaurs from the Speilberg films that every child seems familiar with. 
In their day (83-70 million years ago) velociraptors were ferocious bipedal carnivores with long, stiffened tails and enlarged, sickle-shaped claws on each hind foot, with which they are thought to have killed their prey. This, believe it or not, is how raptors are still defined today - the word ‘raptor’ comes from the Latin word ‘rapere’, which means to seize. That particular dinosaur and all its modern day raptor relatives seize and kill their prey using their feet, or to use the correct terminology, their talons! 

So we began our activity day by investigating all the physical similarities between birds of prey and dinosaurs and took an in-depth look at fossils to discover how they are formed. From this we began to understand what fossils can tell us about animal life on the planet millions of years ago, using as an example the fossil of the famous
Archaeopteryx that is regarded as the first true bird. From there we peered further back in time at fossils of a new four-winged dinosaur discovered in 2003 which pre-dates the archaeopteryx.

We discussed how dinosaurs gradually evolved over time, and how scientists have now discovered a primitive form of feather on some fossil specimens.  Called ‘protofeathers’, they look remarkably similar to the the down feathers you get on new born raptor chicks and to demonstrate, we drafted in Baloo (our six week old Bengal Eagle Owl chick) to show the children exactly what ‘protofeathers’ may have looked like.

During the day many interesting questions were raised and we looked at lots of different sources of evidence and scientific theory to undercover the truth.  The one thing that everybody now seems to agree upon - whether they be top ranking scientists or primary school age children - is that dinosaurs did almost certainly evolve into birds!

Finally, to celebrate everything we had learnt during the course of the day, we enjoyed plenty of arts, crafts and games to round off the day - you can see some of the dinosaurs we sculpted from paper & painted in the picture above.

If you would like to take part in our next FREE Activity Adventure Day, see all the dates & details by
clicking here, or contact me soon to reserve your place!