10 Astounding Facts about Dinosaurs

We all have a pre-conceived notion of what dinosaurs were like. Much of what we think we know about dinosaurs comes from the movie series Jurassic Park. If truth be told, not everything the movies said was true. Not all dinosaurs were big and beasty. In reality, some were as small as chickens! Moreover, it’s possible that dinosaurs did not have the ability to make terrifying roars. So, we have a lot to learn! Keeping that in mind, we bring to you 10 such mind-blowing facts about dinosaurs.

1. There is no scientific evidence to determine the lifespan of a dinosaur. They may have had a lifespan of 100-300 years, but most of them died quite young as a result of fights amongst them. 

Dinosaurs
Dinosaurs were walking the Earth Millions of years ago and we are yet to learn everything about them. Image Credit: ABelov2014 via Wikipedia

The fossils of dinosaurs can tell a lot ranging from what they ate to how they interacted with their fellow dinosaurs. But one thing that cannot be deduced from the fossils is the exact lifespan of the dinosaurs. To calculate how long any particular dinosaur lived, there are numerous metrics that need to be considered. Some of them include analogies with modern-day birds, reptiles, and mammals, growth and metabolism theories of the dinosaur, and direct analysis of dinosaur bone fossils.

Reasoning on the basis of analogy with modern-day reptiles, the lifespan of dinosaurs must have been around 100-150 years. This seems possible considering some modern reptiles, like the giant tortoise, live up to 150 years. Many birds, which are direct descendants of dinosaurs, have been known to live for over 100 years.

But considering the metabolism of these creatures, the picture painted is completely different. Giant dinosaurs were known to achieve “homeothermy.” This means that they used to warm up slowly in the sun and cool down equally as slowly at night, thus maintaining a constant, internal body temperature. Considering this, scientists have estimated the lifespan to be around 300 years for giant dinosaurs. For small-sized dinosaurs, the debate is still on. But many scientists have put forward a theory that their lifespan was directly proportional to their size.

In conclusion, these numbers are just theoretical estimates. Until and unless the scientific community discovers information related to the metabolism and growth rate of different dinosaur species, it will be very difficult to pinpoint the exact lifespan. (1, 2)

2. Sauropod dinosaurs such as Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus probably used their necks in combat. Their necks were very oversized and had large studs on them.

Apatosaurus
Illustration of the diplodocid Apatosaurus. The spine placements are speculative based on evidence for small spikes along the backs of diplodocids. Image Credit: Durbed via Wikipedia

The necks of sauropods are quite strong. The middle portion of the neck is overdeveloped, leading to a deep and wide neck. Their necks had the power to strike down items such as tree trunks or other animals. A study on the necks of Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus was published in 2015. It found numerous differences between the necks of these two and other diplodocids. Moreover, there was evidence suggesting that Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus used their necks for intraspecies combat. In layman terms, they used their necks to fight among themselves during times of limited food and resources. (source)

3. It is entirely possible that adult Spinosaurus primarily lived in the ocean and never went to land except for laying eggs.

Spinosaurus
Spinosaurus in Japan Expo. Image Credit: Kumiko via Wikipedia

Spinosaurus aegyptiacus is a species of dinosaurs that scientists believed spent some of their time in the water. The bones of the Spinosaurus were first uncovered during the World War II. But in 2014, the entire skeleton of the Spinosaurus was discovered by scientists in Morocco. This new skeleton revealed that the dinosaur was far more aquatic than was originally presumed.

The journal, Science, has released a new study saying that Spinosaurus had a long neck, powerful jaws, strong and clawed forearms, dense bones, and most probably webbed feet. They also had a spiny sail on their back which might have been seven feet in height 95 million years ago.  This new find has disproved much of the theories that scientists had created around this particular species. Nizar Ibrahim, the lead author of the study, said, “It’s like working on an extraterrestrial or an alien. It’s so different than anything else around.” (source)

4. Apatosaurus and other sauropod dinosaurs were probably capable of flicking the end of their tails at speeds exceeding the speed of sound.

Diplodocid sauropod dinosaur
Three diplodocid sauropod dinosaur skeletons named “Apollonia”, “Prince” and “Twinky” at the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, National University of Singapore. Image Credit: Jacklee via Wikipedia

It turns out that when the Apatosaurus dinosaurs slapped their tails onto the ground, they broke sound barriers 150 million years ago. A single flick of their tails might have created sonic booms. Nathan Myhrvold, founder and CEO of Intellectual Ventures, has created a model of the dinosaur and has been doing research on the same for almost 20 years. Even though Myhrvold’s model is just one-quarter of the size of the actual dinosaur, it was able to produce the distinctive crack. This means that the tail would easily break the sound barrier when whipped around.

Diplodocus longus
Diplodocus longus. Image Credit: Dmitry Bogdanov via Wikipedia

Apatosaurus, and other sauropod dinosaurs with extremely long tails must have used their supersonic abilities for defense, communication, same-species rivalry, or courtship. (source)

5. It is very unlikely that any dinosaur species ever roared. Only some big cats can roar and they have unique specializations in their vocal cords.

Dinosaurs never roared
Dinosaurs never roared. rather they made rumbling noises. Image Credit: GobbleGG via Pixabay

Dinosaurs are huge creatures, and it seems logical that they must have had blood-curdling roars. Even Jurassic Park portrayed dinosaurs with terrifying roars. But recent research proves otherwise. The beasts that walked on the earth millions of years ago might possibly have never roared. Instead, the noises they made were more along the lines of a goose or a crocodile.

The team behind this research discovered a fossil back in 1992. The fossil belonged to a duck and goose ancestor who walked the earth 66 million years ago. This particular ancestor existed with the dinosaurs. In 2013, scientists learned that this fossil had the oldest known representation of a voice box. They then worked to re-create the sounds that its anatomy could produce. Taking into consideration evolution and anatomy, they were able to determine what the dinosaurs sounded like. (source)

6. The Pachycephalosaurus’ skull is 10 inches thick or about 250 millimeters. Just to compare, the human skull is about 6.5 to 7.1 millimeters thick.

Pachycephalosaurus
Skull of Pachycephalosaurus at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Image Credit: Ballista via Wikipedia

Pachycephalosaurus is one species of dinosaur whose anatomy is not properly known. Only remains of its skull have been discovered and boy, did they surprise researchers! The thing is, Pachycephalosaurus have the thickest skull known to mankind. They have a dome-shaped structure atop their skull that provides a thickness of 10 inches. This dense bony structure works as a cushion to protect the tiny brain of the Pachycephalosaurus. They also have bony spikes on their skull, just at the end of the dome-shaped structure.

Pachycephalosauria jmallon
Pachycephalosauria jmallon. Image Credit: Jordan Mallon via Wikipedia

The skull also possessed large, rounded sockets for eyes facing forwards. This suggests that the dinosaur had good vision and might also have been capable of binocular vision. (1, 2)

7. Velociraptors were the size of a modern turkey.

Velociraptor mongoliensis
Velociraptor mongoliensis. Image Credit: Matt Martyniuk via Wikipedia

The Jurassic Park movies have given a very wrong impression of dinosaurs. They were not all big, giant creatures. Some of them were small, like the Velociraptors. Velociraptors are one of the most familiar dinosaur species to have been portrayed in the Jurassic Park movies. In reality, they were not as big as shown in the movies. They were roughly the size of a modern-day turkey as opposed to the seven-feet-tall reptiles portrayed in the movies. (source)

8. The largest dinosaur was Argentinosaurus with a height of 130 ft.

Argentinosaurus
Argentinosaurus huinculensis, a titanosaur from the Middle Cretaceous of Argentina. Image Credit: Nobu Tamura via Wikipedia

Many of us are unaware of the Argentinosaurus, a genus of the titanosaur sauropod dinosaurs. They were first discovered in Argentina, hence the name. The first fossils of the Argentinosaurus were discovered in 1987 by a rancher. He mistook the large leg for a giant piece of wood! A vertebra belonging to the Argentinosaurus was also discovered, and it was the size of a man. Many other bones were uncovered which helped scientists to reconstruct the body of this large beast.

A comparison between Argentinosaurus and human height
A comparison between Argentinosaurus and human height. Image Credit: Slate Weasel via Wikipedia

An early reconstruction by Gregory S. Paul determined the height of an Argentinosaurus to be around 30–35 meters. They were as tall as a three-story building! (source)

9. The closest relative to Tyrannosaurus Rex is a chicken.

The closest relative to Tyrannosaurus Rex is chicken
The closest relative to Tyrannosaurus Rex is chicken. Image Credit: tony241969 via Pixabay, Skitterphoto via Pexels

This is equally surprising and funny! It’s hard to believe chickens being genetically linked to dinosaurs. According to a research published in Science, chickens and ostriches are the closest living relatives of  Tyrannosaurus rex. Although it has been suspected for years that birds are in some way related to dinosaurs, this is the first study to have produced molecular evidence.

Scientists Jack Horner and Mary Schweitzer are behind this study. They discovered some unfossilized material located within a Tyrannosaurus rex bone. The discovery was sheer luck. The scientists couldn’t find a helicopter large enough to transport the bone. So they decided to break it in half. It was then that their eyes caught sight of the fossilized material. They were not able to get any DNA but were able to retrieve molecules of collagen. They compared this with 21 living organisms, including humans, and the most similar ones that popped up were chickens and ostriches. (source

10. The brain of Stegosaurus was the size of a lime.

Stegosaurus had tiny brain
Stegosaurus had tiny brain. Image Credit: Pixabay

The size of one’s brain is not directly proportional to the size of one’s body. This can be seen in the case of Stegosaurus. Dinosaurs have been traditionally depicted as possessing low intelligence. Their brains were, in fact, smaller than similarly sized mammals. In mammals, the majority of space in the skull is occupied by brain matter. But in the case of dinosaurs, it was the jaw structure, with powerful biting muscles, that occupied majority of the skull.

A system, known as the Encephalisation Quotient (EQ) was developed by Harry Jerison, a paleontologist, to understand the brain capacity of a dinosaur. Most dinosaurs have similar intelligence as reptiles. But the herbivores, such as the armored ankylosaurs, giant sauropods, and stegosaurs have the lowest intelligence. It is often said the brain of a Stegosaurus was the size of a walnut! To be fair, it was not the size of a walnut but more like a lime. Even then, it’s quite smaller considering they grow up to nine meters in length. (source)

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