About this Course
Paleontology: Theropod Dinosaurs and the Origin of Birds is a five-lesson course teaching a comprehensive overview of the origins of birds. This course examines the anatomy, diversity, and evolution of theropod dinosaurs in relation to the origin of birds. Students explore various hypotheses for the origin of flight. Watch a preview of the course here: https://uofa.ualberta.ca/courses/paleontology-theropod-dinosaurs
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100% online course

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.
Clock

Approx. 8 hours to complete

Suggested: 4 hours/week
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English

Subtitles: English, Romanian, German
Globe

100% online course

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.
Clock

Approx. 8 hours to complete

Suggested: 4 hours/week
Comment Dots

English

Subtitles: English, Romanian, German

Syllabus - What you will learn from this course

1

Section
Clock
2 hours to complete

Bird Anatomy

In Lesson 1, we explore the anatomy and adaptations of birds, and meet the Victorian scientists who first suspected the link between the terrible lizards and modern birds. In order to fly, birds have undergone a series of anatomical specializations that distinguishes them from other vertebrates. However, many of the most striking and anatomically unusual traits of birds originated over 230 million years ago with the very first theropod dinosaurs. Just a quick note before you get started: 'Palaios' is the Greek word for 'ancient', so palaeontology or paleontology is the study of ancient life. Both spellings are correct, with palaeontology used in Britain, and paleontology more common in the US....
Reading
3 videos (Total 37 min), 6 readings, 1 quiz
Video3 videos
1.1 The Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs15m
1.2 Bird Anatomy19m
Reading6 readings
Instructional Staff10m
Meet Your Presenter: Scott Persons10m
Course Glossary10m
Acknowledgements10m
Interactive Learning Objects10m
Lesson 1 Course Notes10m
Quiz1 practice exercises
Module 1 Assessment (Graded)10m

2

Section
Clock
1 hour to complete

Survey of Non-Avian Theropods

In the wake of the Permian mass extinction, the prehistoric world was ripe for the taking. All the world’s landmass was consolidated into the single supercontinent: Pangaea. With no seas standing in their way, new terrestrial animal lineages were able to exploit new habitats all across the globe. Archosaurs, meaning ‘ruling reptiles’, came to dominate Triassic ecosystems. However, dinosaurian archosaurs were not the top predators. Instead, crurotarsans sat undisputed at the top of the food chain. The first theropods were small, but agile carnivores, and although they started out as the Darwinian equivalent of the mail room clerks, by the next geological period (the Jurassic), they were large and in charge. In Lesson 2, we will introduce you to some of the earliest theropods, and explore the anatomical secrets to their survival and eventual success. We will also meet the largest land predators of all time. ...
Reading
3 videos (Total 44 min), 1 reading, 1 quiz
Video3 videos
2.2 Jurassic Theropods17m
2.3 Cretaceous Theropods15m
Reading1 readings
Lesson 2 Course Notes10m
Quiz1 practice exercises
Module 2 Assessment (Graded)10m

3

Section
Clock
2 hours to complete

Coelurosaurs I

In the previous lesson, we explored how the various theropod lineages adapted to their role as apex predators. In this lesson, we will explore a new group of theropods, as much characterized by their speed and agility as their predatory prowess. The coelurosaurs were the most successful and diverse of all the theropods, and included herbivores, the smallest of all dinosaurs, and, of course, the mighty tyrannosaurs....
Reading
4 videos (Total 73 min), 1 reading, 1 quiz
Video4 videos
3.1 Early Coelurosaurs - Part 216m
3.1 Early Coelurosaurs - Part 314m
3.2 Bird-Like Traits in Coelurosaurs21m
Reading1 readings
Lesson 3 Course Notes10m
Quiz1 practice exercises
Module 3 Assessment (Graded)10m

4

Section
Clock
1 hour to complete

Coelurosaurs II

Dinosaurs had long been thought of as overgrown reptiles; cold blooded, swamp bound, with meagre intelligence and little to no social complexity. The ‘Dinosaur Renaissance’ was a revolution in palaeontological thinking that entirely transformed that traditional image of dinosaurs. In Lesson 4, we will see how new research and discoveries over the past fifty years have shaped our modern image of dinosaurs into one of energetic, intelligent animals, that likely displayed many of the complex social behaviours witnessed in modern birds. You’ll also meet the deinonychosaurs, A.K.A. ‘the raptors’, and you will learn the leading theories for how one group of dinosaurs learned to fly....
Reading
3 videos (Total 60 min), 1 reading, 1 quiz
Video3 videos
4.2 Bird-Like Characteristics - Part 115m
4.2 Bird-Like Characteristics - Part 218m
Reading1 readings
Lesson 4 Course Notes10m
Quiz1 practice exercises
Module 4 Assessment (Graded)10m

5

Section
Clock
1 hour to complete

The Avian World

66 million years ago, an asteroid the larger than Mt. Everest collided with the earth and brought about the extinction of the dinosaurs…except birds! Now that you’re familiar with some of their larger Mesozoic ancestors and their bird-like features, it’s time to meet the avian lineage proper. With the evolution of flight, birds could exploit habitats and resources that were literally unreachable by other animals. The evolution of birds has been one of diversification. Flightlessness has evolved numerous times, as have specializations for insectivory, swimming, and predation. Although theropods may no longer dominate the land, they still rule the skies. ...
Reading
3 videos (Total 66 min), 1 reading, 1 quiz
Video3 videos
5.2 Survival of the Neornithes - Part 123m
5.2 Survival of the Neornithes - Part 225m
Reading1 readings
Lesson 5 Course Notes10m
Quiz1 practice exercises
Module 5 Assessment (Graded)10m
4.9
Briefcase

83%

got a tangible career benefit from this course

Top Reviews

By MCMar 15th 2018

This course was great! It explains everything clearly, and it keeps you involved by asking questions about the material, and keeps you amused with some interesting anecdotes. Highly suggested by me!

By JCAug 22nd 2017

I loved this course. It was informative, easy to understand, and exciting. The lecturer's knowledge and passion shone through in the lectures, and the course notes were a great supplement too.

Instructor

Avatar

Philip John Currie, Ph.D

Professor and Canada Research Chair, Dinosaur Paleobiology

About University of Alberta

UAlberta is considered among the world’s leading public research- and teaching-intensive universities. As one of Canada’s top universities, we’re known for excellence across the humanities, sciences, creative arts, business, engineering and health sciences....

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