Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

What Tiny Fossils Explain about Big Dinosaur Ecosystems


  • Title: What Tiny Fossils Explain about Big Dinosaur Ecosystems
  • Air Date: March 10, 2016
  • Series: Smithsonian Science How webcasts, which are designed to connect natural history science and research to upper-elementary and middle-school students.

This video features Dr. Matthew Carrano, a paleontologist at the National Museum of Natural History. Why does he sort through drawers upon drawers of tiny fossils? Watch how Matthew pieces together the evidence of ecosystems that dinosaurs lived in. Learn what tiny fossils can reveal that complete, large dinosaur skeletons may not. Get a glimpse into technologies such as cathode ray luminescence that have made detailed analysis of tiny fossils possible. Understand how paleontologists are collaborating to map worldwide dinosaur distributions.

Teaching Resources

Dinosaur Lives and Ecosystems

National Middle School Standards

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Earth Science

MS-ESS1 Earth's Place in the Universe

  • MS-ESS1-4: Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence from rock strata for how the geologic time scale is used to organize Earth's 4.6-billion-year-old history.

MS-ESS2 Earth's Systems

  • MS-ESS2-2: Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth's surface at varying time and spatial scales.

Life Science

MS-LS4 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity

  • MS-LS4-1: Analyze and interpret data for patterns in the fossil record that document the existence, diversity, extinction, and change of life forms throughout the history of life on Earth under the assumption that natural laws operate today as in the past.
  • MS-LS4-2Apply scientific ideas to construct an explanation for the anatomical similarities and differences among modern organisms and between modern and fossil organisms to infer evolutionary relationships.
Resource Type
Videos and Webcasts
Grade Level
Learning Standards
Next Generation Science Standards
Earth Science, Life Science, Paleontology