Justin D. Yeakel bio photo

Justin D. Yeakel

Assistant professor at UC-Merced; Omidyar Postdoctoral Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute

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Natural History of Dinosaurs


(BIO/ESS 065)

Winter/Spring 2016

Lecture time: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 11:30 am – 12:20 pm (50 min)

Lecture location: Classroom Office Building (COB) 114

Exam Date/Location: Monday May 9, 2016 from 3-6pm in CLSSRM 110

Instructor: Professor Justin D. Yeakel (jdyeakel@gmail.com)

Science and Engineering Bldg., Rm. 288

Office hours: MW 2-4 (SE1 288) or by appt.

Discussion section time and location:

Discussion Section times: Section 1 M 1:30-2:20 (50 min)

Section 2 M 2:30-3:20 (50 min)

Location: CLSSRM 282

Teaching Assistants: Paola Saldierna Guzman

Bobby Nakamoto

Office hours: Justin: 2-4 MW (or by appt.); SE1 288

Paola: 12:25-1:25 W; SE1 398

Bobby: 10-11 WF; Alcove near SE1 281

Become familiar with Earth history and the history of life through the lens of the origin and dominance of Dinosauria during the Mesozoic Era (252-66 million years ago). This will include a detailed understanding of the relationships between dinosaur taxa, their known ecological niches, and the clues by which paleontologists reconstruct these animals and their environment.

1. This course is structured as follows: 3 50-minute lecture session with me and one 50 minute discussion/practical section with the TA per week.

2. Discussion sections will provide students an opportunity to discuss in more detail concepts introduced in class, practical sessions on graphing, reading scientific papers, data collection, and review for exams. Your participation in discussion section is required and is part of your grade (see Grading below).

Students are expected to attend all lectures; and will sign in for attendance. It has been shown that a student’s performance in a course is **closely** coupled to their attendance. Attendance and participation in the discussion section is *required and will be a component of the student’s course grade (see Discussion syllabus for details).*

Students are required to have a *bound notebook (not an iPad or other electronic device) for taking notes during lectures.*

Required Textbook: Fastovsky & Weishampel. Dinosaurs: A Concise Natural History, 2nd edition.

Selections from: Brusatte, S. Dinosaur Paleobiology. (provided)

Course Website: http://jdyeakel.github.io/teaching/dinos/

Information, lectures, notes, and important dates/alerts related to the course will be posted here.


*Assignments (e.g., homework, natural history report) should be handed in on time. *

Late assignments will lose a letter grade (10%) each day past the due date.

Homework: Homework will be assigned by the Teaching Assistant. The assignments will include problem sets, reading, and writing and will be directly related to material presented in class, for which students may expect to see on an exam. Some assignments will be based on readings from the primary literature.

Natural History Report: Each student will choose a topic of interest concerning the natural history of dinosaurs and write a 1/2 page abstract of their chosen topic. This abstract will serve as one of the above homework assignments and requires approval from the instructor. Pending approval of this summary statement, each student will then write a 6-page research report (no more, no less) on their chosen topic.

Quizzes: 4 quizzes will be given periodically during the lecture period. They will be announced during class.

Exams: There will be three “midterm” exams during the semester and a final. If you are sick during an exam, please bring a note from your doctor verifying your illness. Missed exams based on an excused medical illness will be taken as soon as possible. **There will be no early exams given. **

Letter Grading Scale: A: (90-100%); B: (75-90%); C: (65-75%), D: (50-60%), F: (<50%)

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: The University of California Merced is committed to ensuring equal academic opportunities and inclusion for students with disabilities based on the principles of independent living, accessible universal design and diversity. I am available to discuss appropriate academic accommodations required for student with disabilities. Requests for academic accommodations are to be made during the first 3 weeks of the semester, except for unusual circumstances. Students are encouraged to register with Disability Services Center to verify their eligibility for appropriate accommodations. The instructor will make every effort to accommodate all students who, because of religious obligations, have conflicts with scheduled exams, assignments, or required attendance. Please speak with the instructor during the 1st week of class regarding any potential academic.

Tentative Weekly Schedule: Please note that the Instructor reserves the right to change the schedule. You will be advised in advance of any changes via email or the UC web system.

Week Date Topic Description Readings Assessments

1 1/20 Introduction to paleontology I Intro, timescales & fossils Fastovsky Chpt 1

                 **1/22**   Introduction to paleontology II     Sedimentology & Taphonomy                                                                               

S1 None - Organizational

2 1/25 Evolution and classification I Introduction to evolution and natural selection Fastovsky Chpt 2,3

                 **1/27**   Evolution and classification II     More on natural selection and an introduction to classification                                         

                 **1/29**   Early life history                  Overview of the origin of life leading up to tetrapods                                                  

S2 Cladistics HW1: Cladogram worksheet

3 2/1 Tetrapods Life in the Permian Fastovsky Chpt 4

                 **2/3**    An introduction to Dinosauria       Basal dinosaurs                                                                                         

                 **2/5**    Thyreophorans I                     Stegosauria                                                                                             

S3 Anatomy HW2: Anatomy worksheet **Homework 1 due **

4 2/8 Thyreophorans II Ankylosauria Fastovsky Part 2 & Chpt 5

                 **2/10**   Prepare for Exam I                                                                                                                          

                 **2/12**   **Exam I**                          Good Luck!                                                                                              

S4 Review Homework 2 due


                 **2/17**   Pachycephalosaurs                   Basal traits and conundrums                                        Fastovsky Chpt 6                     

                 **2/19**   Pachycephalosaurs                   Intraspecies competition then and now                                                                   

S5 Marginocephalians HW3: A scientific paper!

6 2/22 Ceratopsians Basal traits and relatedness

                 **2/24**   Ceratopsians                        After the frill is gone: diversity and movement over space                                              

                 **2/26**   Ornithopoda I                       Functional morphology and complex dentition                        Fastovsky Chpt 7                     

S6 Natural History Report HW4: Writing your Abstract Homework 3 due

7 2/29 Ornithopoda II Dinosaur behavioral ecology

                 **3/2**    Sauropods I                         Carnivorous ancestors to gentle giants                             Fastovsky Part 3 & Chpt 8            

                 **3/4**    Sauropods II                        Troubles: dealing with gigantism and the sauropod hiatus                                                

S7 Sauropods No homework… study! Homework 4 due (abstracts)

8 3/7 Sauropods III

                 **3/9**    Review for Exam II                                                                                                                          

                 **3/11**   **Exam II**                                                                                                                                 

S8 Review for Exam II (midterm)

9 3/14 Dino physiology & ecology I. Reproduction and growth Brusatte Chpt 8

                 **3/16**   Dino physiology & ecology II.       Diet and food webs                                                                                      

                 **3/18**   Dino physiology & ecology III.      Some like it hot: endothermy vs. ectothermy                                                             

S9 Physiology and ecology HW5: TBA


10 3/28 Theropods Basal theropods Fastovsky Chpt 9

                 **3/30**   Theropods                           The strange: Spinosaurus, Oviraptor, and Therozinosaurs                                                 

                 **4/1**    Theropods                           Derived theropods: brawn and brains                                                                     

S10 Theropods HW6: TBA Homework 5 due

11 4/4 Origin of birds I From theropods to Avialae Fastovsky Chpt 10

                 **4/6**    Origin of birds II                  Feathers and flight                                                                                     

                 **4/8**    Prepare for Exam III                                                                                                                        

S11 Review for Exam III No homework: Write papers! Homework 6 due

12 4/11 Exam III

                 **4/13**   Mesozoic World I                    Climate and environment during the Mesozoic                        Fastovsky Chpt 15, Brusatte Chpt 9   

                 **4/15**   The Mesozoic World II               Diversity dynamics in the Mesozoic                                                                      

S12 Climate Change No homework: Write papers!

13 4/18 The Mesozoic World III Mammals: masters of dentition TBA

                 **4/20**   Crocodylomorphs                     From croco-dogs to croco-ducks                                                                          

                 **4/22**   Flying reptiles                     Pterosaur diversity and morphology                                                                      

S13 Air and Ocenas Natural History paper due

14 4/25 Swimming reptiles Reptiles, fish, and modern ocean specialists: a comparison TBA

                 **4/27**   Dinosaurs in California             Planning your next road trip                                                                            

                 **4/29**   Macroevolution and Extinction I     Dinosaur diversity: putting it all together                                                             

S14 To Be Announced

15 5/2 Macroevolution and Extinction II The K-Pg extinction event TBA

                 **5/4**    Macroevolution and Extinction III   The history of mass extinction events: putting it in perspective                                        

                 **5/6**    Review for Final                                                                                                                            

S15 Review for Final

                 **5/9**    **FINAL EXAM**                      May the Force be with you \<(-\_-)\>                                                                    
                            **Monday, 3-6pm CLSSRM 110**