Chickens help BSU students learn about dinosaurs

Credit: KTVB

Chickens help BSU students learn about dinosaurs

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by Natalie Podgorski

KTVB.COM

Posted on March 21, 2011 at 1:22 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 12 at 3:53 PM

BOISE -- At Boise State University, one geology class decided to take learning outside the classroom room this morning.

The historical geology class has been learning about dinosaurs and how they move.

To test what the textbooks taught them they decided to conduct an experiment.

Why did the chicken cross the sandbox?

A better question is... how fast did the chicken cross the sandbox? That is what students are trying to figure out.

"We're using the size of the footprint and the distance between footprints to tell us how fast the dinosaurs could run and we're verifying that with chickens, which are dinosaurs as it turns out," said Sam.

The class is using these chickens to figure out how fast dinosaurs travel.

"If we find that the students and the chickens behave like all these other animals that have been studied then we can more safely assume that what we're doing for the dinosaur track-ways is legitimate," said Sam.

Scientists have guessed how fast dinosaurs traveled by looking at fossils made when they were running or walking.

"So if you can calculate the length of their stride and calculate the size of their foot, which tells you how long their leg probably was; you can use that length of the stride to tell you how fast they were going," said Sam.

That required measuring chickens' feet, which is easier said then done.

"Definitely kind of interesting to simulate a real world environment," said Darin. "We can't really control exactly what the chicken's going to do, but it's kind of nice to be able to try and do that as best as we can."

Two of the chickens had a hard time running but the students collected the data they needed and planned to crunch the numbers before class was out.

So how did the chickens do?

"We'll see, we've got to crunch the numbers, but we'll see," said Sam.

The chickens did not want to run but the students determined they were walking about 1.2 miles per hour.

That speed is about half as fast as humans walk.

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