Millions of years before the homo sapiens arrived, dinosaurs roamed the earth for about 162 million years. They lived in what is known as the Mesozoic Era, divided into Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods. By the beginning of the Jurassic period, dinosaurs had become the dominant species of the animal world, until they became extinct around 66 million years ago.
How many dinosaurs were there? What were they called? And what happened to them? We tell you all about it here. Before moving to the new facts about dinosaurs for kids, let’s learn a little more about them.
Origin Of The Word “Dinosaur” And What it means?
Sir Richard Owen, a biologist from England, coined the term “dinosaur.” He used this word to classify a large group of animals, “Dinosauria” (1).
The word ‘Dinosaur’ was derived from the Greek “deinos,” which means “big and terrible” and “sauros” means “lizard.” Although researchers called them “Big terrible lizards,” dinosaurs are not lizards.
Evolution Of A Dinosaur
Around 350 million years ago, due to natural phenomena, reptiles survived without water. As their bodies evolved, the reptiles changed to the four-legged amphibians. The early reptiles were lizards, snakes, turtles, ancestor mammals, and plesiosaurs.
It is believed that some of these reptiles later evolved into dinosaurs called “Archosaurs” and “Avemetatarsalians.”
How Many Types Of Dinosaurs Existed?
More than 700 dinosaur species have been discovered so far. Paleontologists hope to discover more species from the excavation sites.
Megalosaurus, a giant carnivore, roamed the Earth about 169 million years ago. Megalosaurus was nine meters long and three meters tall. One of the first dinosaur fossils ever discovered was of the Megalosaurus. Reverend William Buckland, a geologist, was the first to study the fossil of the dinosaur in 1824 and named it Megalosaurus
All dinosaurs descended from reptiles called ‘Archosaurs.’ They came in different shapes and sizes. British paleontologist Harry Seeley classified dinosaurs into two categories – Ornithischia and Saurischia – based on their hip structure.
- Ornithischia: Also known as bird-hipped dinosaurs, Ornithischia were herbivorous. Ornithischia dinosaurs have no known carnivores within their group. They walked on all four legs. Triceratops, Iguanodon, and Stegosaurus were well-known dinosaurs from the Ornithischia category. Ornithischia dinosaurs were not precursors to birds.
- Saurischia: Also known as lizard-hipped dinosaurs, Saurischia were carnivores. They were the most feared and violent species that walked on two legs. They had short arms, sharp jaws, and powerful tails. The pubis bone in Saurischia dinosaurs, such as T-Rex, faced forward and down.
The top three Saurischian dinosaurs are T-Rex, Allosaurus, and Oviraptor. They were the precursor to the birds, which evolved from the avian dinosaur, who were the only ones to survive the extinction event.
Extinction Of Dinosaurs
For more than 140 million years, the dominance of dinosaurs was unchallenged except by other dinosaurs. But all that changed overnight when the dinosaurs were wiped out. The reason for their extinction is not known. But the most accepted theory is that an asteroid strike that occurred 66 million years ago led to their extinction.
Keep reading to know more about how the dinosaurs lived and thrived before nature struck them out.
Interesting Facts About Dinosaurs For Kids
- Paleontology is the study of fossils to understand the process of evolution. People who study paleontology are called paleontologists.
- Paleontologists studied the fossils and bones of dinosaurs and determined that they were several hundred million years old (2).
- Scientists discovered dino fossils in Antarctica too. However, there is no evidence suggesting that dinos lived there when Earth was a single landmass called Pangaea.
- Several dinosaurs, which were carnivores, had feathers on their body.
- The Brachiosaurus and Apatosaurus were plant-eaters.
- The Triceratops was a fierce hunter with horns to defend itself against predators, while the Stegosaurus had spikes on their tail.
- Pterodactyls are not dinosaurs. They were flying reptiles that lived in the same age.
- Theropods dinosaurs are the ancestors of birds.
- British Paleontologist Richard Owen coined the word dinosaur in 1842.
- Spinosaurus was the largest carnivorous dinosaur. They lived on land and in water.
- Dinosaurs that looked like crocodiles existed in the Cretaceous Period (3).
- Before dinosaurs, reptiles existed on Earth. Archosaurs and Therapsids were the two reptile species to rule the Earth for millions of years.
- Apatosaurus, one of the largest dinosaurs, lived 300 years.
- Some dinosaurs had holes in their skull, which helped in absorbing moisture.
- Scientists hope to discover more dinosaur species.
- Megalosaurus was the first dinosaur to be named by humans.
- American geologist Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden was the first person to discover dinosaur bones in North America.
- The Seismosaurus or ‘earth-shaker’ reptile, is probably the longest dinosaur ever.
- Remains of dinosaurs have been discovered on all continents.
- The biggest dinosaur bone ever discovered was a part of the backbone of Argentinosaurus and measured 5x5ft.
- Micropachycephalosaurus is the longest dinosaur name. Fossil remains of this dinosaur were found in China.
- Carnivorous dinosaurs walked on two feet, which helped them run faster and hunt the prey.
- In 1923, Roy Chapman Andrews discovered the first dinosaur eggs in the Gobi Desert.
- Tyrannosaurus Rex had the longest teeth (8 inches).
- Herbivorous dinosaurs explored the grassy landscapes in herds for safety.
- A blue whale is bigger than any dinosaur.
- Carnivorous dinosaurs had bones filled with air.
- The smallest dinosaur skeletons ever found belonged to a baby Mussaurus or the “mouse lizard” (4).
- The smartest dinosaurs were the small carnivores.
- Herbivorous dinosaurs had eyes like humans. They had a 3D view of their surroundings, which helped them keep away from their enemies.
- A newly born human baby has a bigger brain compared to most adult dinosaurs. Dolphins and whales have the biggest brains amongst all living animals.
- Some herbivorous species also walked on two feet.
- Researchers believe dinosaurs must have shed their skin much like snakes and lizards.
- Theropods’ feet resembled that of birds.
- Due to mineral and calcium deposition in their bodies, several dinosaurs had colorful skin and amazing texture.
- T-Rex (Tyrannosaurus-Rex) had long black legs, but its front legs were shorter than human arms.
- The biggest dinosaur footprint ever discovered was 3 feet (1m) across and 4 feet long.
- Dinosaurs swallowed large rocks for digestion. Stones helped them grind the food better.
- T-Rex had a diet of approximately 22 tons of flesh in a year. It had eight-inch sharp teeth that let it chew hard meat chunks.
- Deinosuchus is an extinct relative of the crocodile. The “terrible crocodile,” Deinosuchus had the strongest bite, more powerful than the T-Rex.
- Corythosaurus used the hollow crest connected to their nose for creating echo-like sound.
Amazing Dinosaur Facts
- Longest Dinosaur: Argentinosaurus (40m height), which belonged to the Titanosaur group, is considered the longest dinosaur. Its fossils were discovered in Argentina.
- Heaviest Dinosaur: Argentinosaurus (weighed 77 tones) is also considered the heaviest, weighing as much as 17 African elephants put together. It is regarded as the largest land animal to have ever existed.
- Smallest Dinosaur: Lesothosaurus was a chicken-sized dinosaur.
- Intelligent Dinosaur: Troodon, a hunting dinosaur measuring about 2m long, had a brain similar to a mammal or bird of the 21st century.
- Smallest Dinosaur egg: Scientists discovered a 3cm long fossilized egg, the smallest dinosaur egg ever found.
- Tallest Dinosaur: The Brachiosaurid, a group of Sauropods, were the tallest dinosaurs. They had longer front legs compared to the rear legs that gave them a giraffe-like look. Their long necks helped them reach the tallest trees to feed on leaves. Sauroposeidon grew up to 18.5m tall!
- Fastest Running Dinosaur: Ornithomimids were the fastest dinosaurs. Dromiceiomimus, of the Ornithomimid genus, ran at a speed of 60 kilometers per hour.
- Oldest Dinosaur: The Nyasasaurus parringtoni is believed to the oldest known dinosaur, which lived roughly 243 million years ago. Its remains were found in Tanzania only recently.
- Fiercest Dinosaur: Tyrannosaurus Rex was the most feared dinosaur. However, Utahraptor is the fiercest of all dinosaurs. Utahraptor stood 7m tall and was known to be powerful, agile, and cunning.
Strange Dinosaur Facts
- Herbivorous dinosaurs contributed to global warming by passing gas developed from undigested food.
- Sauropods were the tallest dinosaurs. They were two times taller than giraffes.
- Struthiomimus was a meat hunter that made screaming noise while attacking the prey.
- T-Rex chased prey at a speed of 28 km/hr.
- Dinosaurs were heavy and couldn’t run faster than cheetahs.
- Dinosaurs that walked on two legs were called bipeds.
- The sound of the T-Rex’s footsteps in the movie Jurassic Park (1993) was recorded using the sequoias crashing the ground.
- Dinosaurs had their self-defense mechanisms. Carnivorous had shard teeth, herbivorous had long spikes or horns, and others had bony plates.
- Dinosaurs laid trillions of eggs in the Mesozoic era.
- Almost all dinosaurs laid eggs. Till today, around 40 kinds of eggs were discovered.
- Liopleurodon was the biggest aquatic reptile. It was half the size of the blue whale.
Movie Facts about Dinosaurs
- The first-ever dinosaur movie was called Prehistoric Peeps and was based on a comic. It was never released. The first dinosaur movie to release was Brute Force in 1914. Before that, a five-minute-long cartoon film called Gertie the Dinosaur was made.
- Jurassic Park, released in 1993, had only 15 minutes of dinosaur footage. The movie had six minutes of CGI and nine minutes of animatronics.
- Steven Spielberg’s movie on dinosaurs, ‘Jurassic Park,’ was a well-researched movie on the subject.
- The scene from Jurassic Park, when T–Rex‘s entry causes ripples in the water,is considered a classic even to this day
- Jurassic Park was shot between two locations – the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i, and Los Angeles in California.
Best Movies on Dinosaurs
Some dinosaur movies you could watch with your children are:
- Age of Dinosaurs
- Land of the Lost
- Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (5)
- King Kong
- Jurassic Park (All Parts)
- The Lost World
- Good Dinosaur
- 100 Million BC
- The Land Before Time
The world of dinosaurs is fascinating for adults and kids. There’s a lot more to be discovered about them, and scientists continue to look for more dino fossils for analysis even today. However, science fiction movies like Jurassic Park give us a peek into the world of dinosaurs and intrigue young minds to further explore the subject.
2. Dinosaur; American Museum of Natural History,
3. The Cretaceous Period; Berkeley.edu,
4. Ronald J Litwin, Robert E. Weems, and Thomas R. Holtz. Jr; Dinosaurs: Facts and Fiction; USGS Science for a changing world
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