Dinosaur Myths: The facts about dinosaurs

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Dinosaur Jungle   >   Dinosaur Facts   >   Myths


Dinosaur Myths

Many popular images of dinosaurs that you might see in movies or other fiction are not in fact true!
  • Myth: All dinosaurs lived (and died out) at the same time

    Fact: Dinosaurs inhabited the earth for over 165 million years. During this time, many different species of dinosaurs evolved and died out (went extinct) at different times. During the dinosaurs' reign there were two mass extinctions (when most types of dinosaurs died out) at the end of the Triassic period (206 million years ago), and at the end of the Jurassic period (144 million years ago). After both these mass extinctions, new species of dinosaurs evolved from the survivors. At the end of the Cretaceous period (65 million years ago), most (see below) dinosaurs went extinct.

    In a movie, you might see, for example, a Stegosaurus and a Tyrannosaurus Rex together. In real life, this could not have happened, since the last Stegosaurus died out nearly 80 million years before the first Tyrannosaurus Rex evolved.

    For more details of when the different dinosaur species lived, please see the timeline.

  • Myth: All dinosaurs are extinct

    Fact: It is not absolutely certain, but many scientists believe that birds evolved from dinosaurs (See dinosaur family tree). If this is true, then it means that when all the other types of dinosaurs became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period (65 million years ago), one type - birds - survived.

    Note: Some people have claimed (see Living Dinosaurs?) that a few non-avian dinosaurs might survive to this day, perhaps in parts of Africa. Mainstream scientists are usually skeptical of such claims.

  • Myth: Early people ("cavemen") lived at the same time as dinosaurs

    Fact: With the exception of birds, all dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago. Hominids (the group containing humans) evolved in the Pliocene (starting 5 million years ago), and the earliest modern humans (Homo Sapiens) even more recently.

    Note: Some people have claimed (see Living Dinosaurs?) that a few non-avian dinosaurs might survive to this day, perhaps in parts of Africa. Mainstream scientists are usually skeptical of such claims.

  • Myth: All dinosaurs were all huge

    Truth: Dinosaurs were incredible range of sizes. The smallest dinosaurs were smaller than a chicken, and the largest over 100 feet (30 meters) long and weighed many tons.

  • Myth: All dinosaurs were fierce meat-eaters (carnivores)

    Fact: There were many different species of dinosaurs. Some species ate meat, some ate only plants (herbivores), and some ate both meat and plants (omnivores). Scientists know a lot about what dinosaurs' diet and lifestyle.

  • Myth: Dinosaurs were a failure

    Fact: Dinosaurs lived all around the earth for over 165 million years (much longer than humans), and leave as their descendants, birds. Most scientists believe they became extinct as a result of a natural disaster, most likely a massive meteor impact. If this is true, it would mean there is no real "fault" with dinosaurs, they were just unlikely.

  • Myth: Pterosaurs were flying dinosaurs

    Fact: Pterosaurs were not dinosaurs (see dinosaur definition), but they were close relatives that lived at around the same time as dinosaurs. Until recently, it was thought that there were no flying dinosaurs (until birds), however, some small feathered and winged dinosaur fossils have been found in the last few years, so it now seems that there were, at least for a while, at least a few small flying dinosaurs (see Microraptor).

  • Myth: Some dinosaurs lived in the sea

    Fact: Many large marine reptiles lived in the seas and oceans during the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods (at about the same time as dinosaurs walked on land). These included, at various times, Nothosaurs, Thalattosaurs, Placodonts, Plesiosaurs, Pliosaurs, Mosasaurs, and Ichthyosaurs. These marine reptiles were not dinosaurs (see dinosaur definition), but some may have been fairly close relatives.

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