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Debunking six myths about dinosaurs

Prof. Nick Longrich, an expert on dinosaurs, shatters the myths, including, for example, that they were big, that they were all covered in scales, and that they were bad parents

By: Nick Longrich Senior Lecturer in Palaeontology, University of Bath

Yutyrannus huali - a feathered dinosaur discovered in China in 2012 and two individuals of smaller feathered dinosaurs Beipiaosaurus. Illustration: Dr. Brian Cho
Yutyrannus huali – a feathered dinosaur discovered in China in 2012 and two individuals of smaller feathered dinosaurs Beipiaosaurus. Illustration: Dr. Brian Cho

When the first dinosaur bone was discovered in 1676, it was thought to be an elephant bone or perhaps a Nephilim bone. Over a hundred years later, scientists realized that these fossils came from a creature they called Meglasaurus, which appeared to be some kind of large, solid lizard. In 1842, the leading anatomist Richard Owen identified Megalosaurus as part of an entirely new group of animals he called Dinosauria, or "terrible lizards."

Since then, about 700 different species of dinosaurs have been described and every month another one is discovered. Our understanding of dinosaurs has also changed radically. The dinosaurs we know today are different from the ones that appeared in the books you may have read as a child.

Myth 1: Dinosaurs were big

The name dinosaur tends to evoke images of huge animals - and certainly many were very large. Tyrannosaurus rex was around 12 meters long and weighed more than five tons, about the size of an elephant, and it probably wasn't even the largest carnivore. However, the sauropods, herbivorous dinosaurs, grew to formidable proportions. The huge Argentinosaurus is known only by a few bones, but it was estimated to be 30 meters long and weigh 80 tons. It was larger than all land mammals alive today, and also marine ones, except for some types of whales. The dinosaurs were unique in this regard. No other group of land animals before or after the age of dinosaurs managed to reach such dimensions.

But not all dinosaurs were giants. Protoceratops, the horned dinosaur was the size of a sheep. Velociraptor was the size of a golden retriever and had to be enlarged in the Jurassic Park movies to make them more terrifying. In recent years we have witnessed an explosion in the discovery of small species such as the cat-sized Raptor Hesperonychus, the rabbit-sized plant-eating Tianyulong, and the quail-sized insect-eating Parvicursor. The small species were probably more common than their giant cousins. It's just that the massive bones of rex are more likely to be preserved and are much easier to identify.

Myth 2: The skin of all dinosaurs was covered with scales

When dinosaurs were first discovered, it was clear that they were related to crocodiles and lizards, which is why they were covered in scales like them. Many dinosaurs – including duckbills, horned dinosaurs, sauropods, and armored dinosaurs preserved such an appearance. However, in the seventies of the 20th century, paleontologists began to wonder whether some dinosaurs wore feathers, like the birds - their relatives.
At the time this was considered a wild hypothesis, but in 1997 a small carnivorous dinosaur named Sinosauropteryx was discovered that was not covered in scales, but in a soft, fuzzy mantle. Since then, feathers have been discovered on herbivorous ornithopods, tusk-toothed heterodontosaurs, and many families of carnivorous dinosaurs including the Tyrannosauridae—meaning that Rex was probably covered in feathers rather than scales.

Myth 3: The color of the dinosaurs was greenish and brown

Early dinosaur painters favored drab colors, with monotonous animals wearing shades of gray, green, and brown. If the Mesozoic era was really gloomy, no wonder they became extinct. But in reality the colors were much more vibrant, even flashy. Studies of dinosaur scales and feathers have revealed traces of melanin, the same pigment that gives color to lizard scales, bird feathers and mammal hair. Analysis shows that the dinosaurs came in a wide variety of colors including black, white, and orange. Some of the ganders even had an iridescent sheen to their feathers.
Likewise, there were also many dinosaurs that had bumps and stripes, white bellies and dark backs, and more. Some of these patterns probably evolved for camouflage purposes, to help dinosaurs hide from predators and prey. But bright colors and striking patterns also served to attract potential mates, like a peacock's tail.

Myth 4: Dinosaurs were bad parents

Most female reptiles simply bury their eggs and move on, leaving their offspring to fend for themselves as best they can. This kind of disconnected parenting is dangerous. A lobster must lay a thousand eggs in its lifetime so that some of the offspring survive and grow. Dinosaurs were once thought to have used the same strategy. Now we know that's not true.

Many of the living relatives of the dinosaurs - birds and alligators - watch over the eggs and chicks, so it is likely that the dinosaurs did the same. Evidence of this was recently found when a fossil of a dinosaur was discovered sitting on top of a cluster of eggs. It was named Oviraptor, or "egg thief". But as more skeletons of this creature were found it was discovered that it had claws, and it sat on the eggs like a brooding bird. It turns out that Oviraptor didn't eat the eggs but kept them.

Myth 5: The dinosaurs were doomed

For a long time, the extinction of the dinosaurs was blamed on the failures of the dinosaurs themselves to adapt to the changing environment. In reality, dinosaurs were diverse for over 100 million years and their fossils have been found in North and South America, Asia, Europe, Africa, and even Antarctica.

Despite the claim that some of this diversity was in decline, fossils show that dinosaurs remained a pervasive, widespread and diverse sight until 66 million years ago, when an asteroid hit Earth in what is now Mexico. Shrapnel from the impact blocked the sun's rays and the earth plunged into darkness. The disappearance of the dinosaurs was not derived from anything related to them. It was a cosmic accident. If the asteroid had deviated by a fraction of a fraction of a degree, the dinosaurs would still be filling the surface of the earth - and we wouldn't exist.

Myth 6: All dinosaurs are extinct

The asteroid wiped out almost all the dinosaurs, T-Rex, Triceratops and their other relatives disappeared, but a handful of small feathered dinosaurs, probably less than ten species survived. These are the birds, small animals, flying cousins ​​of the T-Rex and the Velociraptor and direct descendants of the carnivorous dinosaurs. Not only did they survive they even thrived and evolved into about ten thousand species of birds.

to the article on The Conversation website

More of the topic in Hayadan:

7 תגובות

  1. In evolution, every creature is adapted to its environment and that is the reason why there are still monkeys. Few are the creatures that are found on several continents, like snakes for example. They are not yet found in Ireland, New Zealand and Iceland. The remains of the dinosaurs are found today in 2 classes of animals:
    Reptiles and birds!

  2. The dinosaurs lived for millions of years and multiplied at such a rate that after millions of years of their control over the earth the situation began to deteriorate diseases and hunger (have you ever seen an elephant eating leaves from a tree simply destroying the tree) and so it was with the dinosaurs they died from disease and hunger.... the meteor destroyed the evidence of this

  3. I saw a pteranodon in India in 2008. I remember where I saw him and I also know the way there. It's pretty much the end of the world.
    For those of you who are interested in knowing details, this is my email:

  4. Sorry, mistake - the huacin is a vegetarian, the reference was to Crimea - a close relative of the horror birds that went extinct during the great exchange (the link created between North and South America)

  5. There are also record breakers among mammals - the giant rhinoceros weighed 10-20 tons. Or the blue whale. Until the union of the Americas, there was a dominant chicken as a super predator (I think the huatsin is close to its family). This chicken was taller than an ostrich and had the teeth of a predator - but it did not stand up to the competition With carnivorous mammals that came from the north with a connection that Panama created

  6. The Madagascar elephant chicken, the New Zealand moa - they are real dinosaurs. They lived up to 300 years. The ostrich is another dinosaur that is still alive, as well as the Komodo dragon, the Australian duck are dinosaurs. The shark and the crocodile - maybe they are not dinosaurs, but they belong to the time

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