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Fascinating Facts about Dinosaur Species and their Long Reign on Earth

Dinosaurs ruled the earth long before humankind existed

Which dinosaur species were the biggest, smallest, cleverest and dumbest? What did dinosaurs’ babies look like? Could dinosaurs run, fly or swim? And did they even exist in the first place? These are just some of the questions that run in peoples’ minds when they think about dinosaurs.

In this article, we’ll address all these questions; you’ll also learn about the different types of dinosaurs and where they lived. But before we get started, let’s make sure we are on the same page. So, what are dinosaurs?

Dinosaurs

They are prehistoric reptiles that existed about 228 million years ago. When many people hear the word dinosaur, the first image that comes to mind is a big, ferocious and extinct reptile, which is, to some extent, true. But note, we said, “to some extent.” Dinosaurs came in varying shapes and sizes. Yes, they were the largest terrestrial animals of their time, but a great number of them were smaller than a chicken. In fact, the modern-day birds are some kind of dinosaurs because they share the same ancestor with non-avian dinosaurs which lived on the land

Dinosaurs reigned for about 175 million years until they were all wiped out due to a range of reasons about 65.5 million years ago. Although scientists don’t agree on the exact cause of their extinction, many say it could be as a result of climate change, chocking chemicals from volcanic eruptions, asteroid impact and possibly other reasons. These reptiles lived only during the Mesozoic era (commonly known as the age of reptiles) which lasted from 228 to 64 million years ago. No one has ever seen a dinosaur – the earliest of human’s ancestors did not appear on earth until 4 million years ago.

Types of dinosaurs

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There are currently more than 330 described dinosaur today. Scientists have grouped them into several categories, including:

Theropods: the two-legged dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus

Sauropods: the giant plant-eating dinosaurs like Diplodocus and Apatosaurus

Ornithopods: smaller plant-eating dinosaurs that walked on two-legs like Hadrosauridae, Parasaurolophus, and iguanodon

Ceratopsians: the plant-eating dinosaur with horns like triceratops and styracosaurus

Stegosaurus: the dinosaurs armed with plates. They were plant eaters that walked on four legs

Ankylosaurus: this group includes other armed dinosaurs like Nodosaurus and Euoplocephalus. Like the stegosaurus, they were plant eaters and four-legged

Pachycephalosaurus (thick-headed): Describes a group of dinosaurs with very thick skulls named after the best-known Pachycephalosaurus.

Although the dinosaurs all lived through the Mesozoic era, different zords lived at different times. Sauropods first appeared around 228 to 130 million years ago, but lived to about 64 million years ago, though by this time, they weren’t as many. Ornithopods only appeared between 130 and 95 million years ago, but their population increased about 60 million years later. The Ceratopsians, on the other hand, didn’t come about until 95 to 64 million years ago.

Where did dinosaurs come from?

Fossil evidence reveals that a group of reptiles living in Argentina about 230 million years ago developed a new way of walking. Rather than sprawling like crocodiles, they started walking with their legs more directly under their bodies like the dinosaurs. One reptile known as lagosuchus may have been the ancestor of all the dinosaurs. There are two essential features of the dinosaurs. First, they all lived on the land and second, they all walked on straight legs. All other reptiles had a different way of moving. What’s believed to be the world’s oldest dinosaur was found in Argentina in 1991 named Eoraptor (dawn stealer). It lived 228 million years ago. It was one meter long, perhaps the size of a large dog. Other early dinosaurs have been found in South America, and even older ones may still be discovered.

Where did dinosaurs live?

The dinosaurs’ fossils have been found on all continents, including Antarctica. But since their first appearance on earth, the earth’s position has changed considerably. The continents have been drifting apart due to different forces. Europe and North America are drifting away from each other about as fast as a fingernail grows. Today, brachiosaurus can be found on two continents: Africa and N. America. When these dinosaurs were alive, it was still one continent. But the dinosaurs didn’t live everywhere. Some groups were more common in certain parts than others. For instance, the platysaurus and its closest relatives were found in the USA, South America, Germany, and South Africa.

Did dinosaurs fly?

According to fossil evidence, some advanced dinosaur had feathers or a body with feather-like covering. However, a majority of them could not fly or swim. Archaeopteryx could launch itself from the ground, but could not fly far. Some research shows that the feathers only helped keep the dinosaurs warm.

The brave and the dumbest

Well, dinosaurs were some of the dumbest creatures to ever live on the planet. However, not all of them were equally stupid. In fact, some like the Troodon, Deinonychus, Compsognathus, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Oviraptor, and Maiasaura may even have reached a mammalian intelligence level. But on the other end of the spectrum is the Stegosaurus, which had a brain about the size of a walnut.

Fun facts

  • Dinosaurs lived on earth 64 times longer than humans have been around
  • A bite from T-rex was more than two times as powerful as that of a lion
  • Dino’s skulls had large holes to make the head lighter. Some of the biggest skulls were as long as a car
  • The largest plant-eaters ate as much as a ton of food daily. This can be equated to eating a bus-sized pile of vegetation a day.
  • Although many people think dinos were massive, they were often the size of humans or smaller. Researchers believe that the larger bones were easier to be fossilized
  • Plant-eating dinos had blunt toenails/hooves, while meat-eating dinos have sharp, hooked claws.
  • The name dinosaur was coined from a Greek word that means “terrible lizard.”

 

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Olivia Kibaba

Olivia Kibaba is a Kenyan-based content writer. She’s passionate about issues that concern the environment and strives to impact the globe in her own little way. You can read more about her at Oliviakibaba.com.

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