These Interesting Facts About Dinosaurs will Shock the World
Sure, most people can tell you that dinosaurs were really big, and that some of them had feathers, and that they all went extinct 65 million years ago. But how deep does their knowledge of dinosaurs, and the Mesozoic Era, really go? On the following pages, you’ll find 10 basic facts about dinosaurs that ever scientifically literate adult (and grade-schooler) should know.
Facts About Dinosaurs
1. Where`s Come from Dinosaur Word
The word dinosaur comes from the Greek language and means ‘terrible lizard’. The word was coined by English paleontologist Richard Owen in 1842 and was meant to refer to Dinosaurs impressive size rather than their scary appearance.
2. Dinosaurs Weren’t the First Reptiles to Rule the Earth
The first dinosaurs evolved in the middle to late Triassic period, about 230 million years ago. Before then, the dominant land reptiles were archosaurs (“ruling lizards”), therapsids (“mammal-like reptiles”) and pelycosaurs (typified by Dimetrodon), and for 20 million or so years after dinosaurs evolved the most fearsome reptiles on earth were prehistoric crocodiles. It was only at the beginning of the Jurassic period, 200 million years ago, that dinosaurs began their rise to dominance.
3. It is believed that dinosaurs lived on Earth until around 65 million years ago when a mass extinction occurred.
4. The Dinosaur Kingdom Comprised Two Main Branches
You’d think it would be logical to divide dinosaurs into herbivores (plant eaters) and carnivores (meat eaters), but paleontologists see things differently, distinguishing between saurischian (“lizard-hipped”) and ornithischia (“bird-hipped”) dinosaurs. Saurischian dinosaurs include carnivorous theropods and herbivorous sauropods, while ornithischians account for the remainder of plant eaters, including hadrosaurs, ornithopods and ceratopsians, among other dinosaur types.
5. First Name
The first dinosaur to be formally named was the Megalosaurus, back in 1824.
6. Scientists believe that the event leading to the extinction may have been a massive asteroid impact or huge volcanic activity. Events such as these could have blocked out sunlight and significantly changed the Earth’s ecology.
7. Dinosaurs (Almost Certainly) Evolved into Birds
Not every paleontologist is convinced, and there are some alternate (albeit not widely accepted) theories. But the bulk of the evidence points to modern birds having evolved from small, feathered, theropod dinosaurs during the late Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Bear in mind, though, that this evolutionary process may have happened more than once, and that there were definitely some “dead ends” along the way (witness the tiny, feathered, four-winged Microraptor, which has left no living descendants).
8. The biggest dinosaurs were over 100 feet long and 50 feet tall… the sauropod was the largest dinosaur… the smallest dinosaurs were the size of a chicken and were called mussaurus, or mouse lizard.
9. The Vast Majority of Dinosaurs Were Plant Eaters
Giant predators like Tyrannosaurus Rex and Giganotosaurus get all the press, but it’s a fact of nature that the meat-eating “apex predators” of any given ecosystem are tiny in number compared to the plant-eating animals on which they prey (which rely on the vast amounts of vegetation needed to sustain such large populations). By analogy with modern habitats in Africa and Asia, herbivorous hadrosaurs, ornithopods and (to a lesser extent)sauropods probably roamed the continents in vast herds, hunted by sparser packs of large, small and medium-sized theropods
10. Pterodactyls are not dinosaurs, they were flying reptiles that lived during the age of dinosaurs but by definition they do not fall into the same category. The same goes for water based reptiles such as Plesiosaurs.