12 Common Myths About Dinosaurs You Need to Forget

Published on January 17, 2018
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Inside of every grown man is his inner dinosaur obsessed, 14 year old self. In high school I read the Jurassic Park novel by Michael Crichton cover to cover so many times that it actually began to fall apart. Kids like me consumed the Jurassic Park movies like they were the highest form of art, seriously memorizing every name and fact we could soak up. Along the way a bunch of dinosaur myths got swept up into the crowd and now we are all sorts of out of wack with our dino knowledge. We decided to pull together 12 common myths that dinosaur fans really need to stop repeating. Get on your Jurassic Park hat and get ready to learn something so you can show off at your next dinosaur birthday party.

Jurassic Park will become a reality once we master cloning.

Any discussion on cloning could develop into a book full of myths and ideas that we would have to slam down. For now we’ll settle with dashing just one of your childhood dreams: The idea of a real world Jurassic Park is laughably impossible. In the films and books written by Michael Crichton the scientists in the series extracted DNA from blood trapped in mosquitos who happened to get preserved in amber. Pretty great concept to base your book around, right? Well, in reality this still wouldn’t work. DNA is entirely too fragile to survive the 60 odd million years between the last dinosaur extinction and present day. DNA is too fragile to survive for very long after the death of the creature and that renders the conversation dissatisfying and moot.

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park

Most dinosaurs lived around the same period.

We’ll be shaking our fingers at the pop culture world for a long time for their part in perpetuating dinosaur based myths. One of the most common myths that people cling to is the idea that the majority of dinosaurs all lived in a relatively compact period of time. This just simply isn’t the case. For example, the time distance between the iconic T-Rex and the Apataosaurus (formerly known as the Brontosaurus) was a stunning 65 million years. That means that the last dinosaurs were closer to humans than the Apatasaurus was to the T-Rex. That really puts things in perspective doesn’t it? For more information you can read into the different periods of dino life — Jurassic, Cretacious, and Triassic.

dinosaurs

dinosaurs

There were flying dinosaurs.

Now, this myth is really tricky to unwind. If you asked just about any guy or girl on the street if dinosaurs could fly they would probably say yes. Many people would point to the Pterodactyl with a smug smile. The truth is that a Pterodactyl isn’t actually a dino, they are actually just reptiles! There have been no dinosaurs discovered with powered flight and we aren’t sure if that will ever change. In any case, if you really want to trick your smug buddy with an ace question go ahead and ask them about flying dinosaurs. We are almost certain that they’ll get the question wrong…that is unless they read our list first.

flying dinosaurs

flying dinosaurs

Mammals and dinosaurs never shared a time period.

This is an understandable myth that has been developed by the lack of mammal exposure in media relating to dinosaurs. Mammals and dinosaurs both exploded onto the world at the same time, late in the Triassic Period which was something like 230 million years in the past. Mammals and dinos co-existed in their own way for a long time. There is a second myth attached to this thought: that mammals were solely egg eaters and they prompted the extinction of dinosaurs. This isn’t true. Mammals didn’t solely eat eggs and many were big enough to feed on dinosaurs of their own.

Mammals

Mammals

Dinosaurs were scaly creatures.

Our most common image of dinosaurs is probably a giant, hulking green scaled creature with big fangs and sharp claws. While these are the dominant form in which many dinosaurs took shape, many of them also had a rather stunning feature: feathers. Researchers have discovered over the past twenty years or so that many dinosaur species were actually covered head to toe in feathers. These feathers were used for mating rituals and temperature adaptation, but not flight.

Dinosaurs were scaly creatures

Dinosaurs were scaly creatures

Archaeologists study dinosaurs.

We get why you might think that archaeologists study dinosaurs but we should correct you before you get too far into the career path. Yes, archeologists are responsible for digging and they excavate dinosaur fossils but their primary job is to focus on animals and humans and the relationship of the two over the past three million years. if you want to study dinosaurs specifically then we suggest heading into the paleontology field.

Archaeologists study dinosaurs

Archaeologists study dinosaurs

Dinosaurs are stupid, for the most part.

Many people with only a passive interest in dinosaurs incorrectly come to the conclusion that these ancient creatures were pretty stupid. We’re not sure where this myth originally started but it needs to be debunked with a swiftness. Scientists have found many examples of both social and parental behavior amongst dinosaurs. Group living, protecting children and eggs, and other social cues give us the more accurate picture: dinosaurs ranged in intelligence but they definitely were not stupid.

Dinosaurs are stupid, for the most part

Dinosaurs are stupid, for the most part

Dinosaurs were either warm blooded or cold blooded.

When looking at dinosaurs we tend to think of them how we do modern reptiles: they have to be warm blooded or they have to be cold blooded. These are ways to classify how the creatures would survive via modulating their temperature. However, this wasn’t always applicable with dinosaurs. Back in the Mesozoic dinosaurs did not fit into either mold. Instead they had their own classification: dino blooded. This was a unique way that dinosaurs could cool and heat their body. Over the years, and metabolic changes, this trait eventually fell by the wayside.

Dinosaurs were either warm blooded or cold blooded.

Dinosaurs were either warm blooded or cold blooded.

Dinosaurs are completely extinct.

We can look at the time frame of when dinosaurs existed on the planet and come to the understandable conclusion that they must be extinct at this point in time — right? Well, this isn’t the case. Sauropods are long gone from the planet but one of the major groups of dinos have survived: theropods. These theropods survived through the major extinction event and gradually evolved into the different types of birds that we know of today.

Dinosaurs are completely extinct

Dinosaurs are completely extinct

Dinosaurs exclusively lived in warm climates.

Perhaps this is a misconception created from pop cultures representation of dinosaurs, but many people falsely believe that dinosaurs only lived in warm climates during their period of life. This simply isn’t the case and it never has been Paleontologists have found fossils all the way down in the South Pole. A paleontologist found a Cryolophosaurus fossil and among it were presumably skeletons of its prey. This proves once and for all that these dinosaurs can endure any climate that they are put in…well, other than one shrouded by dust from a giant meteor strike. We won’t hold that against the dinosaurs though, they had a pretty good run when it was all said and done.

Dinosaurs exclusively lived in warm climates

Dinosaurs exclusively lived in warm climates

Some dinosaurs were too large to carry their own weight.

Alright, so it is pretty clear that dinosaurs came in a variety of sizes big and small. Dinosaurs were often so big as to push our credulity to the limit. Look at some of the largest sauropods that ever existed: the Apatosaurus and the Brachiosaurus (thanks, spell check). These two dinosaurs could range in weight from 36,000 pounds all the way to over 120,000 pounds. That weight, at its highest, is similar to over eight gigantic, fully grown adult African elephants. So scientists naturally made the assumption that these dinos would have to stick to shallow water in order to help support their own body weight. This myth is so believable and logical that it persists into today with nary a second glance. The problem is that this is completely false. Those massive sauropods had such perfectly developed, muscular bodies that they were able to easily handle their massive bulk.

Some dinosaurs were too large to carry their own weight

Some dinosaurs were too large to carry their own weight

Dinosaur translates to ‘Terrible Lizard’.

One of the most oft reproduced dinosaur facts that gets thrown out by people trying to impress someone is the statement, ‘Dinosaur actually translates to terrible lizard’. There are several things wrong with this statement so we will break ’em down step by step in order to give you a clear picture that you can use to actually impress someone (at this point you should be pushing up your glasses with a snort). Richard Owen was a paleontologist back in 1842 when he ascribed the name ‘dinosaur’ to the creatures that we know and love. The root of the word, ‘deinos’, is Greek and it translates to ‘fearfully great’ — not ‘terrible’. If that isn’t enough to remedy this myth then you need to simply realize that dinosaurs are reptiles, not lizards. Boom, mic drop. Go out and drop some knowledge on the world.

Terrible-Lizard

Terrible-Lizard