Science & Technology

Stop Believing These 6 Dinosaur Myths

It's no secret that we love dinosaurs here at Curiosity. What's amazing is how much there is to learn about them, even nearly 200 years after the first one was dug up from the ground. As a matter of fact, there's a lot of dinosaur misinformation out there. It's time to clear the air. These are the most popular myths about dinosaurs, and the truth behind them all.

1. Dinosaurs Are Extinct

Great news! Despite the ecosystem-devastating meteorite that struck the Yucatan peninsula 65 million years ago, the dinosaurs were not entirely wiped from the face of the Earth. The big difference is that these days, we put them on our money and watch hilarious videos of their hijinks. That's right: Every living bird is actually a dinosaur.

2. Dinosaurs Were Cold-Blooded

Older depictions of dinosaurs tended to show them as large, lumbering, cold-blooded monsters. But the truth is a lot more complicated. We now know from microscopic examinations of their petrified bones that their metabolisms were simply too fast to have relied on the sun for body heat. How they produced heat remains a bit of a mystery, however, since there are lots of different ways to be warm-blooded.

3. Dinosaurs Were Scaly

Some dinosaurs were scaly, and we can say that with confidence since we've found impressions of their skin preserved across the eons. But others had feathers — see #1 on this list — and that was true long before there was any clear distinction between "bird" and "dinosaur." Case in point: The "Jurassic Park" and "Jurassic World" movies have been lying to you — there was no such thing as a velociraptor with scaly green skin. Speaking of ...

4. Dinosaurs Were Green or Brown

Some probably were. But believe it or not, we actually do know the colors of some dinosaurs, and all of the ones we do know about weren't drab and dull at all. Dinosaurs were red, black, white, and other colors, and they weren't necessarily one color all over. We can even say with certainty that some dinosaurs had striped, raccoon-like tails. Aww, cute!

5. Dinosaurs Were All Around at the Same Time

Think of two of the most famous dinosaurs of all time: Tyrannosaurus rex and Stegosaurus. One's a giant meat-eater, the other a big plant-eater with lots of defensive spikes. They must have tussled at some point, right? Nope, not at all: if Tyrannosauruses had built natural history museums, they could have installed Stegosaurus fossils as the main exhibit. Dinosaurs were around for a looooong time, and, oh yeah, they're still around today.

6. Dinosaurs Were Evolutionary Failures

What do you call someone who just isn't up to speed on the modern world? A dinosaur. Worse, you might use the insult to call out someone who's just slow, inefficient, or bad at their job. And that's just not fair. Dinosaurs ruled the planet for a staggeringly long period of time — about 186 million years. By contrast, the oldest Homo sapien fossil is dated to about 300,000 years. We still have another 185.7 million years to go before we can start making fun of dinosaurs.

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The reign of the dinosaurs is a fascinating tale of rising and falling fortunes. "The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs" by Steve Brusatte has been hailed by Scientific American as "the ultimate dinosaur biography." We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Reuben Westmaas December 13, 2018

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