Dinosaur Fun Facts
If you are a parent or teacher or have any interaction with young children, you would know that one thing which seems to fascinate most children is dinosaur! They will probably know more about the various types of dinosaurs than most adults.
Here are some interesting facts about these amazing creatures that might help you have an interesting conversation with your child.
The word ‘dinosaur’ has a Greek origin and literally means ‘terrible lizard’. It was coined by Richard Owen in 1842. Richard Owen was a British palaeontologist (A palaeontologist is a scientist who studies fossils).
2. Mesozoic Era
Dinosaurs lived in the Mesozoic Era or Age of the Reptiles. They roamed the Earth from around 230million years ago to around 65million years ago. Their time on Earth is divided into 3 main periods – Triassic Period, Jurassic Period and ending with the Cretaceous Period. Dinosaurs were not the first reptiles to walk on Earth. Other reptiles like therapsids and archosaurs lived even before the time of dinosaurs.
Dinosaurs survived for around 160 million years. Humans on the other hand have been in existence for less than a million years!
3. Descendants of Dinosaurs today
Many palaeontologists believe that birds are the descendants of small meat-eating dinosaurs. Thus, even though dinosaurs have long become extinct, their descendants still remain. The first birds had skeletons like a microraptor. Over a period of time they developed flight muscles, lost their teeth and tails which made them lighter for ease of flying.
It lived in the late Cretaceous period (70-65 million years ago). Even though it was not the largest carnivore that ever lived, Tyrannosaurus did have the most powerful jaws and therefore the most powerful bite of any land animal known to man. Its teeth could puncture hide, muscle and even bones of animals leading to immediate fatal injuries to its prey (if it was not already crushed to death).
About 30 Tyrannosaurus fossils have been found. We can infer from these that their length was 12m or 39feet and probably weighed 2 times the weight of an elephant.
Spinosaurus was even bigger than Tyrannosaurus (with a length of 12-18m or 39-59ft) and was the largest land-living predator of all time. It hunted on land and also in water. It had enormous ‘sail’ running on its back supported by spines (these were as tall as a full grown man) and that is where it got its name – spine lizard.
6. Largest Dinosaurs
The largest dinosaurs, however, were not the carnivores mentioned above but herbivores. The sauropod, Argentinosaurus is considered to be the largest land animal. However, the largest may have been Amphicoelias. More than a century ago, a single backbone was found which suggested that it could have been almost 40-60m (130-196ft) in length and 120 tonnes in weight. However, these mysteriously disappeared and the animal is still considered by many as mythical.
7. Largest Brain
Troodon (the ‘conductor’ in ‘Dinosaur Train’ series) were small but very agile dinosaurs. Unlike most dinosaurs their eyes faced forward, instead of sideways, and gave them 3D vision (like humans)ce of its prey more accurately before pouncing to kill. Troodons also had a large brain (in comparison to dinosaurs), probably the largest brain relative to its body weight, of any dinosaur (it was ofcourse still much smaller than any mammal’s brain).
8. Fastest Dinosaurs
Ornithomimids (Ostrich Dinosaurs) were the fastest dinosaurs and were capable of reaching 80km/h (50mph) when running. They lived in desert plains and were about 20ft long. They had bird like beaks (with tiny or no teeth), a bird like skull, large eyes and a brain about the size of a golf ball. Their fossils have been found in Mongolia.
Dinosaurs hatched from eggs. The largest eggs that scientists are aware of are that of a segnosaurus (about 19 inches long) while the smallest eggs that have been found are only 0.7inches long (found in Thailand).
10. Death of Dinosaurs
Scientists believe a large asteroid struck the Earth, causing major changes in climate and most large animals, including dinosaurs, could not adapt to the change and became extinct. No land animal larger than a dog survived. Not all animals died or became extinct during this time. Many which survived are sharks and many other fish, jellyfish, birds, scorpions, snakes, many insects, turtles.