- What color were the
dinosaurs? Nobody knows the real colors of
dinosaurs because the pigment is not preserved in their fossils.
Occasionally, skin impressions of dinosaurs are found, but the skin
itself decomposes rapidly. Many paleontologists believe that
dinosaurs were probably earth-tone colors (green. gray, brown)
similar to reptiles of today, so they would be camouflaged in their
- How old did
dinosaurs get? It is not possible, from the fossil record, to
age the dinosaurs. Growth rings in the teeth could not be used
because they were constantly being replaced throughout the lifespan
of the dinosaur. However, based on comparison to modern reptiles and
large mammals, it is estimated that dinosaurs may have lived for
- How can
you tell is a dinosaur is male or female?
By studying the fossils, it is not possible to identify the
gender of a particular dinosaur because reproductive organs do not
fossilize. There may be slight differences in the processes of the
caudal (tail) vertebrae in the females because they lay eggs. Some
paleontologists assume that larger skulls of the same species are
male, whereas the slightly smaller ones are female. The tendency in
nature, in vertebrates, is the larger member of the species are
male. Some dinosaurs, such as the duckbills and ceratopsians,
exhibit head ornamentation. It is speculated that the more elaborate
crests and frills belong to the male of the species and is used in
display rituals for attracting mates and defending territory, much
like is seen today in many animals.
- What was the
Based on the findings from complete skeletons, the largest (meaning
tallest and heaviest) dinosaur was Brachiosaurus. They were
12 meters (40 feet) tall and weighed 70-80 tons. However a few
fossils from four other dinosaurs (Supersaurus, Seismosaurus,
Argentinosaurus, and Ultrasaurus) have been found that indicate
they may have been larger than Brachiosaurus. Presently, only
partial skeletons of these other dinosaurs have been discovered, so
it is not certain whether they are new species or simply very large
- Which dinosaur
was the smallest?
The smallest dinosaur that palaeontologists have identified is Compsognathus.
This dinosaur was not much larger than a chicken. The adults reached
lengths of two feet, with more than half of this length being
attributed to its long, thin tail.
- Which is the
Troodon seemed to have had the largest brain of any dinosaur
in relation to its body size. This probably indicates that they were
the most intelligent dinosaur. Some paleontologists think that Troodon
was as smart as an ostrich, which is smarter than any reptile on
- Who was the
Most people think Tyrannosaurus rex was the toughest
dinosaur, but T-rex may have been more of a scavenger instead of a
ferocious hunter. The toughest and meanest dinosaur was likely Deinonychus.
This Cretaceous theropod was only about 1.5 meters tall, 2.7 meters
long and weighed about as much as an average man. In spite of their
relatively small size, these dinosaurs were one of the most
extraordinary predators of all time. With keen eyesight, large
serrated teeth, grasping hands, great agility, and five-inch long
sickle-shaped claws on each hind foot, they would have been
- Were the
dinosaurs warm or cold-blooded?
All reptiles living today are ectothermic (cold-blooded) animals
that have a body temperature which varies with their surrounding
temperature. Endothermic (warm-blooded) animals, like mammals,
generate their own constant body heat. Since dinosaurs were
reptiles, most scientists assumed that they were also ectothermic.
However, recently, some paleontologists have disputed this claim and
they believe that some dinosaurs may have in fact been endothermic
(warm-blooded). This has led to much controversy and debate in the
In looking for clues to this mystery,
paleontologists have considered such factors as posture (upright
gait vs sprawling gait), activity levels (high vs low), and the
ratio between predators and prey. The leading proponent of the
warm-blooded theory is the reknowned palaeontologist, Robert Bakker.
Since warm-blooded animals have so many advantages over cold-blooded
animals, Bakker believes that dinosaurs could only have gained
supremacy over the mammals if they were warm-blooded also.
It's possible that the question of
warm-bloodedness vs cold-bloodedness may never be satisfactorily
answered since no flesh, muscles, or organs of dinosaurs are
preserved. The answer may not be as simple as saying that dinosaurs
such as the small theropods were warm-blooded. This is indicated
because of their supposed high activity levels. On the other hand,
the large sauropods probably were cold-blooded because it would have
been near impossible for them to eat enough food to maintain a
constant body temperature.
- How big
were dinosaur eggs?
Relatively speaking, dinosaur eggs were quite small,
considering the size of the dinosaur (i.e. hadrosaur laid eggs about
the size of a turkey's or slightly larger). Even the gigantic
sauropods probably didn't have eggs much bigger than a volleyball.
This is because the bigger the egg, the thicker the shell has to be
to keep it from collapsing. A very thick shell poses two big
problems. Firstly, it would be too thick for oxygen to permeate so
the embryos would not have been able to breathe. Secondly, the shell
would have been too thick for the hatchlings to push their way out.
- Why did
This question has the distinction of being the most often asked and
most difficult to answer. Many theories have been proposed to
explain why dinosaurs became extinct at the end of the Mesozoic era.
Extinction occurs when all living representations
of a species die out. This has happened to many kinds of plants and
animals in the Earth's history. The environment we live in is always
changing. Plants and animals that cannot adapt to change die out and
become extinct. Mass extinction, the extinction of a wide range of
forms of life, occurs more rarely. The most famous of these
extinction, although neither the first nor the most pervasive, is
the extinction of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous Period,
65 million years ago. Scientists have tried to explain why many
different forms of life, including the dinosaurs, became extinct.
Their theories can be divided into two major groups:
- Gradualistic theories hold that the dinosaurs
were in a slow decline and that gradual changes in the
environment caused their extinction.
- Catastrophic theories hold that dinosaurs
disappeared abruptly due to some world-wide catastrophe.
Gradualistic theory: Evidence from Alberta,
Montana and Wyoming suggests that dinosaur diversity started to
decline at least seven million years before the end of the
Cretaceous. Seventy-six million years ago, thirty families of
dinosaurs were living in the region, but by the end of the
Cretaceous, only twelve remained. The Red Deer River of Alberta
documents the decline even more dramatically. At Dinosaur Provincial
Park, the Red Deer River cuts through rocks laid down seventy-six
million years ago, when the area was a rich ecosystem where at least
thirty-five species of dinosaurs lived. Farther upstream at
Drumheller, the dinosaurs and other fossils recovered are less than
70 million years old. Although hundreds of dinosaurs skeletons have
been found, only nineteen species of dinosaurs are known to have
lived in the region. The rocks become younger to the northwest,
where only nine species of dinosaurs seem to have lived in the
region sixty-five million years ago. The fossil record along the Red
Deer River is one of the best anywhere for the last ten million
years of dinosaurian history, and it clearly suggests that dinosaur
diversity was dropping dramatically over that period.
Unfortunately, we are not sure what was going on
in the rest of the world. Perhaps the climate conditions and
habitats were degrading only locally. There may have been ideal
conditions somewhere else where dinosaurs maintained their high
levels of diversity. But such a site still has not been discovered.
The gradual decline in diversity seems to be tied in with the
development of harsher, more continental climates as the inland seas
dried up. But could it have caused the complete extinction of such a
successful group of animals?
Catastrophic theory: An example of a catastrophic
theory is that of the asteroid. One of the most popular catastrophic
theories is that a massive asteroid, 10-15 kilometers wide (six to
nine miles), struck the Earth. Upon impact the asteroid vaporized,
throwing a huge cloud of dust and steam into the atmosphere. This
cloud would have surrounded the Earth and screened out sunlight. If
this cloud persisted for any length of time its effect on plant
life, on land and in the sea (phytoplankton) would have been
devastating. Because animals depend on plants for food, many would
Galliminus could travel an estimated 35 miles per hour
-- faster than any Olympic sprinter. Coelophysis may have
clocked in at 25 miles per hour, while Tyrannosaurus rex
lumbered behind at only 15 miles per hour.
- The oldest known
Staurikosaurus lived over 230 million years ago in South
Africa. It may have been related to the giant meat-eating dinosaurs
of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
- The strangest
Archaeopteryx, or "ancient wing" was a small,
chicken-like creature with feathers, that could fly. The first known
bird, it show clearly that birds are descended from dinosaurs.
- Eating inside a
In 1853 Sir Richard Owen and 20 other gentlemen dined inside the
reconstructed life-sized cast of an Iguanodon, which was
build for the opening of the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London.
The menu included mock turtle soup, pigeon pie, pheasant, French
pastry and an ample selection of wines.
- First discovered
Although fossils were found in England as early as 1677, the first
dinosaur wasn't recognized until 1824 when William Buckland named Megalosaurus,
"great lizard", because of its structural resemblance to
- First American
Hadrosarus, or "bulky reptile", was discovered in
1858 near Haddonfield, New Jersey by Joseph Leidy of Philadelphia.
Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada, has yielded 35
separate dinosaur species to date.
- The dinosaur
Dinosaurs flourished for 140 million years and were the most
successful land creatures ever to have lived. If the history of the
Earth were compressed into a single year, dinosaurs appeared in
early August and disappeared in late November. Man, who have been
around for two million years, appeared on the last day of December,
sometime late in the evening.
- Kinds of
Currently 440 different kinds of dinosaurs are known to have
- Dinosaurs &
Today's direct dinosaur descendants are birds. Some scientists,
using physiological similarities, think so because some dinosaurs
laid eggs, some created nests, some looked after their young, some
traveled in flocks, some migrated, some had similar digestive
systems and some were "social animals".
- Voice of
Although no one has ever heard a dinosaur, it has been guessed that Tyrannosaurus
rex had a deep raspy voice; some Hadrosaurs sounded like
a five-ton goose honking and Apatosaurus sounded like a herd
of snorting horses.
- The Mesozoic
Dinosaurs lived in this era of life, a time spanning 140 million
years. The Mesozoic is divided into three periods -- The Triassic,
the Jurassic and the Cretaceous.
dinosaur name game?
Dinosaur manes usually combine Latin or Greek root words.
Often the names describe the dinosaur. Triceratops means
"three-horned face". The names describe places where they
were discovered or recognize institutions of learning. Arctosaurus
was found near the Arctic Circle and Yaleosaurus was named
for Yale University. Some dinosaurs are named for people: Orthniel
C. Marsh, a 19th century paleontologist, gave us Marshosaurus.