Learning dinosaur facts introduces people to a diverse and fascinating animal that lived millions of years ago when the Earth was a tropical, humid and green paradise conducive to the growth of these terrestrial vertebrates.
planet with their enormous bodies, sharp teeth, voracious appetites and small
brains for nearly 165 millions years, dinosaurs remain one of our most discussed
and researched prehistoric animals ever to have graced this planet.
Dinosaur fossils and the knowledge resulting from close examination of these fossils continue to be discovered every day, revealing the existence of both carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs long before man appeared. Some walked on two legs and were mostly bipedal, while others remained on four legs, choosing quadrupedal movement instead.
Different types of dinosaurs possessed unique, sometimes startling features, which are still seen on present-day reptilian ancestors of dinosaurs, strange traits such as enormous horns, sharp spines, bony armor and large crests on top of small heads.
The history of dinosaurs begins during the Triassic Period, some 200 million years ago when the first dinosaurs appeared as small, rapidly moving creatures no more than 10 feet long. Types of dinosaurs living in this time include:
Coelophysis--An early dinosaur with a long neck, large eyes, protruding snout and a strong tail used to balance the body when running at high speeds. With jagged, curved teeth filling its mouth, coelophysis undoubtedly ate meat and may have been a pack hunter as well.
Erythrosuchus--This dinosaur lived primarily in South Africa and is considered the largest terrestrial predator existing during that time. Fossils indicate it grew to at least 16 feet long and possessed razor-sharp teeth. With strong legs to propel a formidable body, erythrosuchus resembled the later tyrannosaurus rex in both appearance and aggressive hunting style.
Efraasia--An herbivorous dinosaur living in Germany during the late Triassic period, dinosaur facts about efraasia include having unusually long, slender fingers with which to pull leaves off trees and plants from the ground. Walking upright with a maximum length of eight feet, this dinosaur probably ate ferns, conifers and horsetails, all plants that flourished in the Triassic.
Herrerasaurus--One of the earliest known dinosaurs living in the Triassic Period, herrerasaurus were predominantly carnivorous, small bipedal dinosaurs standing about three feet high with a long tail and tiny head. It probably caught and ate smaller herbivore dinosaurs but was also prey to larger carnivores living at that time. According to paleontologist examination of its teeth and anatomy, herrerasaurus not only ate meat but bone as well.
Famously referred to as the "Age of the Dinosaurs," the Jurassic
Period generated a more tropical and lush climate than the preceding
Triassic, producing the largest animals ever existing on Earth.
Impressive flying reptiles inhabited Jurassic skies as well, eventually evolving into the first real birds. The types of dinosaurs that lived during this remarkable era flourishing about 130 millions years ago include:
Plesiosaurs--First discovered in 1821, plesiosaurs were marine dinosaurs surviving in the Earth's oceans by using keen eyesight and an ability to utilize camouflage coloring underwater. Like sea turtles do today, plesiosaurs laid eggs in nests they constructed on sandy beaches. In addition, paleontologists believe that these dinosaurs swallowed food whole rather than chewing it first, somewhat in the manner that pelicans eat fish.
Brachiosaurus--At a whopping 80 to 85-feet long, brachiosaurus represents the largest land animal yet to be discovered. Because it was so large, researchers assume it had no predators, which is one reason so many fossils of this dinosaur have been found. As an herbivore, brachiosaurus ate off the tops of trees, swallowing its food whole, and may have traveled in small groups. Dinosaur facts about these giants include having a weight of 20 times more than African elephants and stood an average of 50-feet high. One mystery about this is the fact that even though it is highly doubtful it ever had to fight for its life due to its enormous size, its small feet had unusually large claws, a trait that puzzles paleontologists.
Archeopteryx - About 150 million years ago, a species of flying dinosaur began to evolve into what we know as birds today. Archeopteryx is considered an intermediate species of predatory dinosaur and bird, is one of the most important fossil discoveries of the 20th century. Scientists have not decided whether this animal glided among the trees or actually flew like a bird. What they do know is that archaeopteryx used wings possessing three claws each and these wings possessed some sort of feathers similar to bird feathers. However, it did not have a beak but had a scaled snout instead with definitely reptilian teeth filling its large jaws.
Stegosaurus - Dinosaur facts about stegosaurus, who resembled a bony-plated tank on four short, stubby legs, is one of the most recognized dinosaurs, next to the t rex dinosaur, brontosaurus and the pteradactyl. With a tail bearing intimidating-looking spikes, stegosaurus is thought to have been one of the least intelligent dinosaurs, relying on its protective covering for defense from more cunning predators. Its short neck indicates that it munched mostly on shrubs, bushes and other low-lying plant life and avoided competing for food with larger, treetop eating dinosaurs.
Ichthyosaur--Appearing to be a mix of dolphin and fish, the ichthyosaur first appeared during the Triassic Period as a result of terrestrial reptiles moving back into the oceans and seas. Averaging six to 13-feet in length and possessing a somewhat pointed snout, ichthyosaur's streamlined body was probably capable of attaining underwater speeds of 25-miles per hour, similar to the speed of dolphins. They were not fish, however, as they could breathe air and were fueled by a warm-blooded, endothermic metabolism enabling it to survive in cooler environments.
Part of the Mesozoic era, the Cretaceous Period presented Earth's history with more dinosaur species than the previous two periods.
This was also the time when the planet was terrorized by the infamous T rex dinosaur, an aggressive and frightening bipedal carnivore known for its massive, strong jaws and rows of razor-sharp teeth.
Other dinosaur facts about Tyrannosaurus Rex are:
• T rex weighed between seven and eight tons, stood 20-feet high and
was 40-feet long.
• Thirty nearly complete T rex skeletons have been discovered and identified since the early 1800s.
• A T rex's tail contained nearly 40 vertebrae so that it could assist in balancing its oversized head and muscular torso.
• Many bones comprising the t rex dinosaur were hollow, which helped decrease its cumbersome weight but did not reduce its strength.
• Some fossilized skulls measure as long as five feet.
• The largest tooth ever found belonging to a T rex measured 12-inches long, which also included the root.
Judging from the size of its jaws and sharpness of its teeth, paleontologists think that the T rex dinosaur was capable of eating as much as 500 pounds of flesh with just one bite.
During the time of the dinosaurs, the Earth's continents were
essentially connected to each other to form a supercontinent called
This is why paleontologists discover dinosaur fossils on just about all continents.
Further, the Earth's climate maintained a consistent level of humidity and rainfall, which made living anywhere on the planet conducive to the dinosaur's existence.
However, Pangea began slowly breaking apart due to plate tectonics and violent underground volcanic activity, resulting in the continental arrangement we have today.
Natural selection explains why some dinosaurs grew to such large sizes.
Because dinosaurs, even some of the carnivores, ate vegetation as a
main food source and because they required such massive amounts of
food to sustain them, the need to grow large enough to reach higher,
more abundant food sources genetically provoked long necks, long
legs and enormous body sizes.
Plant eaters also need big stomachs and strong intestines to digest tough, fibrous plant material.
Additionally, being large offered protection against predators who might think twice about attacking another animal that is five times its size!
During the Age of Dinosaurs, the weather was consistently humid and wet, with lush vegetation and swamps spreading over the Pangean supercontinent.
Since dinosaurs did not have to worry about utilizing energy for staying warm, paleontologists believe that dinosaurs used this extra energy for growing purposes.
The preoccupation with dinosaurs is not surprising considering the interesting facts about them, such as:
Although we know quite a bit about dinosaur history, the question of why dinosaurs went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous Period remains somewhat of a mystery.
With the numerous facts we have concerning how dinosaurs lived, what they ate and the conducive nature of the environment in which they seemed to flourish, the idea that these imposing animals were driven to extinction by other animals seems preposterous.
A theory that is the most plausible of why dinosaurs went extinct involve speculation about a large asteroid smashing into the Earth about 65 million years ago, causing such abrupt and disastrous changes in the climate that dinosaurs, as well as other creatures, did not survive.
The sudden and dramatic decrease in sunlight from the tremendous
amounts of ash and dust thickening the atmosphere resulted in the
inability for plants to engage in photosynthesis.
Without enough plants to eat, many animals died out. Without a sufficient food supply for smaller animals to eat, dinosaurs eventually died out as well, unable to adapt to a cooler, drier climate with the massive loss of plant and animal food sources.
When you look at a bird, you are essentially looking at an ancestor
of the dinosaurs that began evolving during the Mesozoic Era.
Unbelievably, birds and dinosaurs share many of the same skeletal and anatomical features. In addition, more than 15 flying dinosaur species have been unearthed with imprints of feathers clearly visible on sedimentary rock.
Birds and reptiles both have scales covering their feet, as well as
possessing similar respiratory systems. Lungs containing pulmonary
air sacs permitted dinosaurs to force air in and out of their lungs
twice instead of once as practiced in mammals.
Present-day birds exhibit this trait as well.
Although not technically related to the dinosaurs, crocodiles and
alligators represent reptiles that have remained relatively
unchanged from the way their Cretaceous period ancestors appeared.
Apart from being slightly larger than today's reptiles, ancient crocs and gators took to the waters when the Earth experienced its tropical phase and dined on smaller, chicken-sized dinosaurs that happened to venture too close to the edge of a large lake or swamp.
Because they are so well adapted to their environment, both then and now, crocodiles and alligators were able to survive the Cretaceous-Tertiary Event, watching from just beneath the waters of ancient lakes and rivers as the dinosaurs quickly vanished from the face of the Earth.
Filmmakers began making movies with dinosaurs as the main character as early as the 1900s.
An animated short film called Gertie the
Dinosaur was released in 1914 and featured a cartoon
brontosaurus-type dinosaur named Gertie.
Because this animated motion picture was produced before the invention of cartoon cels, the animator had to actually draw thousands of frames of the movie on pieces of rice paper, and then attach them together to generate an animated dinosaur.
Rarely did filmmakers rely on dinosaur facts when making their films. In the famous 1933 film, King Kong, dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures are seen fighting one another on Skull Island where Kong also lives.
Beginning in the 1950s, dinosaurs began appearing in all kinds of
horror movies, such as The Beast ,
Fathoms (1953) and the
original Japanese made Godzilla, released in 1954.
Although Godzilla resembles a T rex dinosaur, it is actually some kind of monster that has suffered nuclear radiation mutations. Extremely popular in Japan as well as the United States, Godzilla went on to make dozens of other films for the next five decades.
Of course, the most famous movie presenting dinosaurs as the main
attraction is the 1993 film Jurassic Park, in which a billionaire
philanthropist and several scientists have established an amusement
park island teeming with cloned dinosaurs.
Although noted paleontologists were consulted during the making of the film, the movie does sometimes stray from established dinosaur facts.
Because of substantiated dinosaur facts, we all know that humans and
dinosaurs did not co-exist but to add campy excitement to a film
about the supposed lives of early "cave" men, the producers of
Million Years B.C. (1966) placed stop-motion dinosaurs side-by-side
with people wearing animal skins and ineffectually throwing spears
One scene has a Pteranoden a flying dinosaur snatching a woman from the ground and later dropping her into the ocean.
Another shows an Allosaurus attacking children who are playing in a tree.
Paleontologists and evolutionary biologists have often speculated
about development of dinosaur history and what the world would be
like today if an asteroid did not wipe out the dinosaurs.
It was because of the extinction event that mammals flourished without fear of being eaten by dinosaurs. These early mammals eventually gave rise to both human and non-human primates.
If dinosaurs had continued to flourish, theories regarding the end product of such an occurrence, range from the dinosaurs evolving into intelligent and possibly sentient creatures to humans emerging later in evolutionary history.
When investigating the comprehensive knowledge we have regarding dinosaur facts about their survival abilities, it is entirely possible that the world of today would be nothing like it is if dinosaurs had not experienced an extinction event.
The fictional characters created to entertain children and the young at heart do delight the audience but they are not based on dinosaur facts. These beloved dinosaurs include:
• Barney the purple dinosaur became the favorite of preschoolers in
the 1990s when he starred in his own show Barney and Friends.
• The popular cartoon about a stone-age family called The Flintstones featured a pet dinosaur named Dino.
• Imported from Japan in the early 1990s, Mario's dinosaur friend Yoshi accompanied him in many Nintendo video game adventures, eventually starring in his own games Yoshi's Island and Yoshi's Story.
• The Beanie Baby series of dolls featured four dinosaurs named Enigma, Swooper, Bronty and Hornsly.
• Published in 1987, the book We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story, involves the adventures of a T rex dinosaur called Rex and his friends.
This book was later made into a popular film by Steven Spielberg's animation studio in 1993 under the same name.
People love learning dinosaur facts as well as dinosaur history about the different types of dinosaurs that lumbered over the earth so many millions of years ago.
They also love laughing at dinosaur jokes such as these:
Joe: I keep seeing Stegosauruses with orange polka dots.
Mike: Have you seen an eye doctor yet?
Joe: No, I just keep seeing Stegosauruses with orange polka dots.
What is three meters high and jumps every ten seconds?
A dinosaur with the hiccups!
A Joke about the Intelligence of Dinosaurs
It is one of the most well-known dinosaur facts that these creatures were not too bright:
Three dinosaurs were stranded on a desert island. One day they found a bottle floating in the water and opened the bottle. A genie popped out and said he would grant them each one wish.
The first dinosaur said he would love to leave the island and go
back to the jungle. Poof! He was gone.
The second dinosaur said he would also love to leave the island and go back to living in the jungle. Poof!
He instantly vanished as well. The third dinosaur looked around for a moment, sighed and said, "Gee, I'm already lonely without my friends. I wish they were back with me!"
First spotted and photographed in the early 1930s, the Loch Ness monster, or "Nessie" for short, continues to titillate the curiosity of both scientists and laymen.
Thought to be a Plesiosaur-like creature
living in the depths of Loch Ness, Nessie's existence remains
inconclusive due to ambiguous photographs and anecdotal descriptions
of numerous sightings. Scientists have attributed sightings of
Nessie to being that of a giant eel or simply misidentification of
Many expeditions have been made to explore the dark depths of Loch Ness but so far, no one has presented any firm proof regarding the existence of Nessie.
People are fascinated by the past existence of dinosaurs and
intriguing dinosaur facts simply because no other creatures like
them exist on Earth and probably never will again.
While the blue whale remains as the largest animal ever to live on this planet, its hidden ocean realm prevents us from viewing it as we would view elephants or giraffes.
Our fascination with dinosaur history and types of dinosaurs that once shook the ground as they lumbered over the continents on which we walk today will no doubt continue to captivate our sense of awe and wonder.
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