Thanks to decades of movies, comic books and less-than-accurate TV documentaries, many people continue to hold mistaken notions about Dinosaurs. Here are some things you thought you knew about dinosaurs that aren’t actually true.
1. All Dinosaurs are extinct
The vast majority of scientists now believe birds are dinosaurs. More specifically, they’re avian Coelurosaurs (avian means powered flight). Coelurosaurs (see-LOOR-oh-SORES) are advanced Theropod dinosaurs that include tyrannosaurs, small bird-like dinosaurs, and birds themselves. Coelurosaur features include an enlarged brain, long arms and a bowed lower arm bone; a hinged ankle joint; a long sacrum; and a long, stiff tail (although birds have lost their long, bony tails).
To separate birds from other dinosaurs we now use a definition based on ancestry – birds are all the descendants of the common ancestor of Archaeopteryx and modern birds. Birds can be called ‘avian dinosaurs’ but it is still correct to use the term ‘bird’ when talking about the feathered animals we see today. Dinosaurs that are not birds are often called ‘non-avian (meaning non-bird) dinosaurs’.
2. Dinosaurs all lived at the same time.
The first dinosaurs appeared in the Middle Triassic about 230 million years ago. The last non-avian (or non-bird) dinosaurs died out 66 million years ago. As the life span for most animal species is only about 2 to 5 million years, there was a continuing evolution and extinction (from events such as climate change, competition, or volcanic activity) of dinosaurs throughout the Mesozoic Era (251 to 66 million years ago). Those dinosaurs living at the end of the Mesozoic looked very different from those that appeared at the beginning. In addition, different species lived in different locations and different continents, so wouldn’t have even met those that they did share the Earth with. So T. rex, who lived about 66 million years ago, would never have met the iconic Stegosaurus, who lived about 150 million years ago!
3. Humans and Dinosaurs coexisted.
This myth has been muddied a little since scientists have classified birds as a group of small theropod dinosaurs. So, while humans have definitely shared the Earth with avian (bird) Dinosaurs, we have definitely not shared it with non-avian dinosaurs.
The latter is known as the Flintstones fallacy – there is a 63 million year gap between the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs and the appearance of humans. The last of the non-avian dinosaurs died about 66 million years ago during the end-Mesozoic extinction, whereas the earliest humans (Homo genus) appeared about 2.5 million years ago.
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