For the longest time, I’ve had a passion for paleontology, the study of prehistoric animals. Growing up I would play with nothing but dinosaur toys and watch The Land Before Time. But as I got older, I started to read factual dinosaur books and I would watch documentaries on these giant lizards. In doing so, I came to realize that a lot of the things I thought I knew about these prehistoric creatures wasn’t totally correct or just plain wrong. In the spirit of knowledge and sharing it, here are some facts that can help clear up misinformation you may have about these ancient animals.
1. Pterosaurs Were Not Dinosaurs
First and foremost, I’d like to clear up the misconception that Pterodactyls, and other flying reptiles of the time, were not actually dinosaurs. In order for something to be a dinosaur, it doesn’t just have to be a prehistoric lizard. It also had to have a specific bone structure that put it in the same scientific classification of Dinosauria. The easiest way to put it was that they may have been around at the same time as dinosaurs, but Pterosaurs were just another run of the mill flying reptile.
2. Plesiosaurs Were Also Not Dinosaurs
In a similar fashion as the aforementioned Pterosaurs, Plesiosaurs and other marine reptiles like Mosasaurus, Liopleurodon, and Ichthyosaurus were not dinosaurs. It can be very confusing when looking at how these creatures look and are named. I mean, Plesiosaurus looks like an Apatosaurus with flippers. It also doesn’t help that nearly every other creature has “saur” ending their name. This is just because the suffix “saur” comes from the Greek “sauros” which means lizard, so it’s usually tacked on to the name of any prehistoric reptile.
3. Triceratops Was Probably an Omnivore
As strange as it might sound, yes, Triceratops could have been an omnivore. Yes, they are usually depicted as docile, lumbering herbivores that protect their young from fearsome predators, like the Tyrannosaurus Rex, but some fossil specimens have shown that they had broken up bones of smaller lizards and mammals within their rib cage where the stomach would have been. Now, it’s very plausible that these creatures just went unnoticed as they were grazing on bushes or in the grass. But it’s equally as likely that they sought out these creatures to maintain a source of protein in their diets
4. The Velociraptor Was Much Smaller Than Commonly Depicted
I love the Jurassic Park movies as much as the next guy, but I still have my gripes with them. The biggest one is their inaccurate depiction of a lot of species of dinosaurs. The Velociraptor was not as big nor as scaly as the movies depicted them. As opposed to the bigger than human size that director Steven Speilburg decided to give them, Velociraptors were actually about the size of a domesticated turkey, complete with feathers and the surprising lack of brain power. Now, that doesn’t exactly sell the whole “terror” aspect of the film as well but that’s only the tip of the iceberg as far as the inaccuracies of that series goes.
5. Dinosaurs and Humans Never Coexisted
Thank you, Flintstones, for this one. But yes, humankind has never walked the earth alongside Dinosaurs. In fact, it took about 64-65 million years after the demise of the Dinosaurs for humans to show up on Earth. Granted, there were shrew-size primates on Earth at the same time but humans would still be a long ways away at that point. We did, however, walk the Earth with creatures such as Mammoths and Smilodons. So, I suppose that the Ice Age series is slightly more accurate in some aspects than Jurassic Park which just feels odd to say.
6. Not All Dinosaurs Lived at the Same Time
It’s true. T-Rex, Stegosaurus, and other famous Dinosaurs didn’t all live at the same time. There were three periods of time that encompasses the time of the Dinosaurs. These are the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods. Each of these were roughly 50 million years long with many different species of dinosaurs emerging and disappearing through evolution during these time periods.
7. T-Rex Had Feathers
As odd as it may sound, there is staggering evidence that the great “King of the Dinosaurs” was in fact, riddled with feathers. It’s not all too far fetched when you take into account that smaller relatives to the T-Rex, such as the Velociraptor, also had feathers. Since they were ancestors to birds, the T-Rex and other relatives had a bone structure that was the exact same which would allow for the growth of feathers that was needed to keep these cold blooded giants warm on the mountains of what would become North America.