Dinosaurs went extinct about 65 million years ago (at the end of the Cretaceous Period), after living on Earth for about 165 million years. Even today how much there is to learn about them. There is still no complete knowledge among the people of its extinction or its exact size or color. As a matter of fact, there’s a lot of dinosaur myths out there. Misconceptions about dinosaurs are frequently fuelled by their inaccurate (though entertaining) representations in movies. Not everything you’ve been led to believe about dinosaurs is true. It’s time to clear the air.
These are the most popular dinosaur myths and the truth behind them all.
- Dinosaurs Are Extinct
There was definitely a mass extinction event when the ecosystem-devastating meteorite that struck the Yucatan peninsula 65 million years ago, the dinosaurs were not entirely wiped from the face of the Earth. Paleontologist Steve Brusatte says,
“Today’s birds evolved from dinosaurs, which makes them every bit as much of a dinosaur as T. rex or Triceratops. A good analogy is bats. Bats are a weird type of mammal that developed wings and the ability to fly. Birds are a weird type of dinosaur that did the same thing.”
Daniel Barta, a Ph.D. candidate at the American Museum of Natural History’s Richard Gilder Graduate School, adds that there are more species of birds alive today than any other terrestrial animal with a backbone which proves dinosaurs are alive today in the form their bird descendants.
- Dinosaurs were scaly lizards
Some dinosaurs were scaly, and we can say that with confidence since we’ve found impressions of their skin preserved across the eons. Brusatte says,
“There are thousands of fossils of feather-covered dinosaurs that have been found in China over the last two decades.”
Feathers would have helped dinosaurs regulate their body temperature so they would have been particularly helpful to smaller animals such as Velociraptors. In most film franchises, especially Jurassic Park, they still continue to make all dinosaurs scaly and made this dinosaur myth an impression among people.
- All Dinosaurs Lived at the Same Time and in the Same Place
Who would win a claw-to-claw battle, Tyrannosaurus Rex or Spinosaurus? Well, the question is pointless, since T. Rex lived in late Cretaceous North America (about 65 million years ago) and Spinosaurus lived in middle Cretaceous Africa (about 100 million years ago). The fact is that most dinosaur genera were separated by millions of years of deep evolutionary time, as well as thousands of miles; the Mesozoic Era wasn’t like Jurassic Park, where central Asian Velociraptors coexisted with herds of North American Triceratops.
- Dinosaurs Were Cold-Blooded
Scientists can tell from looking at the microscopic structure of dinosaur bones that they grew rapidly, and only animals like birds and mammals, with fast metabolisms and well-regulated body temperatures, do that. It’s still not totally clear whether their body temperatures worked exactly like ours do. How they produced heat remains a bit of a mystery, however, since there are lots of different ways to be warm-blooded.
- Dinosaurs Went Extinct Because They Were “Unfit”
This is one of the most adverse of all dinosaur myths. The fact is that dinosaurs were supremely fitted to their environment; they managed to dominate terrestrial life for over 150 million years, a few orders of magnitude longer than modern humans. It was only when global conditions suddenly changed, in the wake of the K/T meteor impact that dinosaurs (through no fault of their own) found themselves saddled with the wrong set of adaptations and disappeared off the face of the earth.
- Dinosaurs were all Green or Brown
Some probably were. Dinosaurs were actually quite colorful. Paleontologists can tell what colors some of them were because they’ve found really well-preserved fossilized feathers containing structures called melanosomes. These held pigments, and their different shapes and arrangements indicate what colors they were. Dinosaurs were red, black, white, and other colors, and they weren’t necessarily one color all over.
- Dinosaurs were all big
Some dinosaurs were truly colossal and many, indeed most, dinosaurs when adults were big compared with modern terrestrial mammals. However, there were plenty of species which were of the size of cows, sheep, small dogs and even those more the size of a cat or chicken. Birds aside, the smallest dinosaurs we know of were only about 200g as adults. Some were only the size of pigeons.
- Dinosaurs were evolutionary failures
What do you call someone who just isn’t up to speed on the modern world? A dinosaur. Worse, you might use the insult to call out someone who’s just slow, inefficient, or bad at their job. And that’s just not fair. Dinosaurs ruled the planet for a staggeringly long period of time — about 186 million years. By contrast, the oldest Homo sapien fossil is dated to about 300,000 years. We still have another 185.7 million years to go before we can start making fun of dinosaurs.