Mapping Dinosaurs in Place and Time


Students will research dinosaurs that lived on a selected continent, and will compare the continent's location when dinosaurs lived there with its current location.


To understand the world of the dinosaurs, it is useful to know about two factors. One is the ecosystem in which the dinosaurs lived. Important members of the ecosystem included the plants, herbivores, and carnivores who lived together. Another factor is the climate, which has changed dramatically as continents have moved across Earth.

What You Need

What to Do

  1. Divide the class into groups of 3 to 5 students each. Have each group pick a continent and a time period in the Mesozoic Era. In each group, assign one student to research the climate and the plants, one or two students to research herbivores, and one or two students to research carnivores.
  2. Distribute a copy of the Four-Column Chart and a copy of continental drift maps to each group.
  3. Give students time to research their topics. They may use books or Web sites. Have students organize their findings on their group's chart. They may wish to label the columns Climate, Plants, Herbivores, and Carnivores.
  4. Using the continental drift maps, have students mark on the present-day map where the dinosaur fossils they researched were found. Have them mark on the appropriate ancient map where that continent was when the dinosaurs were alive.
  5. Have each of the students write a brief description of the ecosystem they researched. Encourage them to draw or to copy and paste illustrations next to the description.
  6. Put a copy of the continental drift maps on the board, and have each group mark it as they did their own maps, using a different color for each group. Add a key to match each group with its color, and put the group reports near the maps.
  7. Lead a discussion about students' findings. Were they surprised by the locations of present-day continents back in the Mesozoic Era? Where in today's world can they find environments similar to those in which the dinosaurs lived? Where might the dinosaurs be living today, if they had survived?

Internet Resources

Maps of Ancient Earth
This series of maps shows the present-day continents as they appeared between 50 million years ago and 510 million years ago.
This site brings together a great deal of information about dinosaurs and their world. Students will find it easy to use.
The Dinosauricon
This extensive site contains a large collection of information and art. You can probably find information here about almost every dinosaur known.
The Natural History Museum's Dino Directory
You can find information about many kinds of dinosaurs on this well-organized site. Search by time period, country, or even by body type.