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15 Misconceptions and Myths about Dinosaurs debunked

15 Misconceptions and Myths about Dinosaurs debunked

10 min read

Almost everyone loved dinosaurs as a child, many of us collected posters and small figures, watched films and cartoons about these prehistoric creatures, bought magazines about paleontology, and much more. But not many people know that much of what mass culture tells us about dinosaurs is not true. In this digest, we have collected the most popular misconceptions about dinosaurs. And, of course, we could not ignore the cult film, loved by millions, "Jurassic Park". So, let's scatter the most interesting myths together.

And number one in our chart is dedicated to the size of the ancient lizards.

 In this article, you'll find out:

  • 10 myths about dinosaurs that are embedded in the collective belief
  • 5 scientific errors in Jurassic park

some dinosaur myths

Let's See What are the most common misconceptions about dinosaurs:

1. Dinosaurs were the biggest creatures that ever existed on earth

  big dinosaur

Alas, it's just a myth. First, not all dinosaurs were large, and some of them were even pretty tiny. The diversity of dinosaurs' sizes was really impressive. Of course, some of them reached a giant size. However, apart from them, there were many less impressive dinosaurs the size of a sheep, a dog, or a chicken, for example. So, while some dinosaur species reached a mass of tens of tons, the size of other representatives was tens of inches.

(Interesting fact: perhaps you'd be surprised, but according to some sources, the largest animal that we have ever seen on Earth is the modern-day blue whale. So if you were upset that you'd never be able to see a living Megalodon, you have every chance of seeing a much larger giant alive).

Speaking of size, there is also the following misconception...


2. Dinosaurs were lame creatures with tiny brains.

dinosaur with tiny brain

You will probably agree with us that to judge the intelligence of creatures who lived millions of years ago, having only their fossilized remains, is a very ungrateful job.

The only thing we can know more or less accurate is the size of their brains. And of course, all dinosaurs had it in a different size, both absolute and body size. The same stegosaurus, which is often mocked for its tiny brain, actually had a brain the size of a walnut and weighs about 70 grams. On the other hand, our favorite quadruped dog friends have a brain of about the same size. However, dogs weigh a maximum of 100 kilograms, which is about 20 times less than a stegosaurus. But a tyrannosaurus, for example, had a brain three times the size of a dolphin. But in terms of body size, it roughly matches the brains of modern reptiles.

Finally, the size is more or less sorted out, now let's talk about the habitat of ancient lizards.


3. All dinosaurs lived in the tropics.

This myth is caused by the fact that the climate used to be much warmer than it is now. And based on this, some people seriously believe that almost all of the land was covered by dense rainforests. That's certainly not true. At the time of dinosaurs, however, as now, there were deserts, plains, ordinary forests and jungles on Earth, of course. Moreover, in the millions of years that dinosaurs walked on our planet, the landscape, as well as the climate, was constantly changing. And the dinosaurs have successfully mastered the full range of ecosystems.


4.  All dinosaurs lived only in the equatorial region of the earth, and the finds of their remains in temperate latitudes are explained by the movement of the continents.

earth during mezosoic

And again, not really. Yes, over millions of years of dinosaurs' existence, not only did the climate change, but also the landscape of the earth. But some of the modern findings prove that dinosaurs lived even in Antarctica. It is fair to say that at that time Australia and New Zealand were connected to Antarctica, forming one polar continent. The climate at that time was naturally much warmer than it is today, but the dinosaurs that lived there still had to adapt to the harsh weather conditions. In summer, the sun shone 24 hours a day on the continent, and the polar night prevailed for five months of the year. It is quite possible that predators and herbivores dinosaurs were in these areas in summer and migrated to warmer climes northwards in winter.


5. The Jurassic period is the "golden age" of dinosaurs.

dinosaur time

It is probably not true. It's still impossible to judge in which period there were more dinosaurs. For example, some statistics say that the dinosaurs achieved the greatest diversification in the late Cretaceous period. However, one cannot rely on statistics 100%, as it may be just a coincidence that the Late Cretaceous species are simply more studied than other species of the Mesozoic era.

By the way, regarding the diversity of species and their evolution, we found another curious myth...


6. Dinosaurs were a dead-end branch of evolution

dinosaur evolution

The fact that they did not build cities or wage wars over resources does not yet indicate that they were a dead-end branch of evolution. The dinosaurs were perfectly integrated into their environment at the time. The reptiles were the dominant species on the planet and in fact masters not only of the earth but also of the air and the sea. Although objectively speaking, neither marine reptiles nor flying lizards can be called dinosaurs, but still, they were much bigger relatives than we and dolphins, for example. Moreover, humans species have only been evolving for two million years and have come close to global crises and the threat of destruction of themselves. While dinosaurs have evolved perfectly well over 135 million years, and if it were not for the global cataclysms independent of them, perhaps would have continued to this day.

What about the first mammals to live in the dinosaur age? Yes, the next myth will be about them...


7. In the days when dinosaurs lived, all mammals were the size of a mouse

prehistoric mammals

Again, this is just a misconception, because even then there were larger members of this class. But there is one very important caveat in this matter: it depends on what is considered a larger size. Of course, if we talk about mammoth size, there were no such mammals in dinosaur times. In general, the average mammal size at that time did not exceed the size of a modern cat. However, even then, namely, about 125-122 million years ago, there were already mammals such as Repenomas. It was about 1 meter long, weighed 12-14 kg and, judging by the found remains, even ate some small dinosaurs.

Of course, we couldn't help but mention the very controversial question of the death of all the dinosaurs that existed as well.


8. Dinosaurs are extinct as a result of a meteorite fall.

dinosaurs extinctions because of supernova?

Contrary to many people's belief that this is what happened, this is just one version of what happened. The scientific debate over what caused the deaths of dinosaurs, whether their extinction was sudden or gradual, continues to this day; there is no unified view. It is well known that the extinction of the dinosaurs was only part of the so-called "great extinction", which took place at the same time. it's more likely to be a succession of causes leading to the consequences we know. Along with the dinosaurs extinct marine reptiles, flying lizards, many shellfish, and a huge number of small algae. According to one other theory, dinosaurs could die due to a supernova explosion relatively close to our solar system. Such an event could have brought a deadly gamma-ray shower down on Earth, and the X-rays released by the explosion could have displaced part of the Earth's atmosphere, creating a hot layer 20-80 km above the surface of the planet. But remember, they're just theories, no one can really prove that. 

And for dessert let's turn to a couple of misconceptions about some of the most famous and brightest representatives of prehistoric fauna...


9. Velociraptors could reach speeds of up to 100 km/h.

velociraptors could reach high speed

In general, the real image of the Velociraptor, which scientists managed to reconstruct, is very far from what was shown to us in the franchise "Jurassic Park". This turned to be large since when working on the film, the basis was the reconstruction of another dinosaur - Deinonychus, which had previously been classified as a kind of Velociraptors. But even the Deinonychus in the film has been doubled in size compared to their real size. As for the real Velociraptors, according to some collected data, they were evolutionarily closer to birds, had plumage, were warm-blooded animals, in height reached 60-70 cm and weighed about 20 kg. At the moment there is no scientific reason to think that Velociraptors were able to run very fast, hunted in flocks (all their found remains are individual creatures), and possessed some kind of super developed intelligence. All this is nothing more than a fiction.


10. Tyrannosaurus is the largest predator ever to walk the earth.

spinosaurus is the largest predator

And again, a myth to which is completely made by pop culture. The "King of Dinosaurs" turned out to be so frequently mentioned that it practically became the embodiment of the brand of all dinosaurs in general. It's just that with the word "dinosaur", most people would imagine either a tyrannosaur or a triceratops in their heads. So it is a tyrannosaurus is often called the biggest and most dangerous of all known to science terrestrial predators. Today, it is well known that the Tyrannosaurus was not the largest land predator in history. The largest skeleton found is 12.3 meters long. While the Spinosaurus was up to 16 meters long. Only both of these giants have never met in their lifetime because the Tyrannosaurus is "younger" than its competitor by more than 30 million years. And, naturally, all these years evolution has not stood still, so in many ways, Tyrannosaurus looks much more perfect "killing machine" than its older cousin.

If you are interested in learning more myths about this deadly lizard and much more, then look further at a compilation of myths about dinosaurs inspired by the world-famous franchise "Jurassic Park".

So, let's look at what this cult movie has "sinned" and embellished history...


What dinosaur misconceptions "Jurassic Park" gave rise to:


At the time of its release in 1993, "Jurassic Park" was almost scientifically accurate. Steven Spielberg added a few liberties to the story, but in general, the dinosaurs on the screen looked exactly as the scientists imagined them at that time.

Ironically, almost 25 years later, Jurassic Park is the source of the most popular misconceptions about dinosaurs. Although in the past time science has noticeably stepped forward, Hollywood still does not hurry to abandon the "canon" of Stephen Spielberg.

1. Tyrannosaurs were able to run fast.

According to some studies, the weight and size of tyrannosaurs prevent them from running fast. If they could accelerate to speeds above 19 kilometers per hour, their legs would simply fail and break. This has been determined by computer modeling. However, even a quick step, which these animals are capable of, would be enough to catch up with a man. But the scene with the car chase in the "Park" is already far from reality: the car would have left the tyrannosaurus without problems. Computer modeling also made it possible to consider that the weight of tyrannosaurs was previously estimated incorrectly. They were 30% more massive than expected.

2. Tyrannosaurs had poor eyesight.

Bad eyesight of Tyrannosaurs is a great plot move, which has nothing to do with reality. Nevertheless, the myth generated by the film was the basis of a long-term study which showed that the angle of vision of these lizards was even greater than that of modern hawks.
Moreover, some scientists managed to prove that vision, in general, was very important for the Tyrannosaurs, so together with the evolution, their eyeballs became bigger and their position was more advantageous for the view.
According to other scientists, the vision of Tyrannosaurs was about 13 times clearer than the vision of humans: they could see objects at a distance of up to 6 kilometers as clearly as people see objects 1.6 kilometers from them.

3. The dinosaurs were "naked."

None of the dinosaurs shown in the film had wool or feathers, but three years after the release of "Jurassic Park" few scientists have found evidence that some dinosaurs had plumage. Not exactly like birds, but very similar.
Some scientists assume that the plumage or even wool was needed by dinosaurs to regulate body temperature, as well as to find sexual partners.
Since then, dozens of dinosaur genera, from small to large, have been found with such a coating on their skin. These include both Tyrannosaurs and flying Pterosaurs. Since feathers and hair, unlike bones, can not be preserved for millions of years, scientists are still arguing about whether such a coating was a common property of all dinosaurs or developed in some species independently.

4. Velociraptors were big dinosaurs.

Velociraptors were actually relatively small dinosaurs, some dinosaurs of the raptor family were in fact larger and could relate to the Jurassic Park raptors, but not the velociraptor.
However, it was not a scientific misconception, but the simple freedom of the director. We have to admit, it looked spectacular after all. However, there is another misconception that concerns the intellect of Velociraptors.

5. Velociraptors had a very advanced intellect

Although scientists have evidence that the Velociraptors were social animals, so far no one can say for sure that they worked in the pack.

Besides, there's no evidence that these dinosaurs had any kind of special intelligence. Scientists note that they were hardly smarter than a modern turkey or any other big bird. Among other things, the film shows many little things that could not take place in real life. For example, getting the liquid blood of a dinosaur from amber is certainly science fiction.

Or, for example, Brachiosaurs standing on their hind legs to get leaves from the upper branches. Physically, they couldn't have done that. But in the end, the film was a fiction movie, not a science documentary.
Anyway, it's hard to deny the contribution of Jurassic Park to world pop-culture and science. The film has been interesting for several generations of people, and this interest has not faded until now.

So, now you know a lot more about dinosaurs and certainly do not let yourself confused by popular myths inspired by modern pop culture.

If you are a real dinosaur fan, feel free to check out our dinosaur plush collection by clicking on the image below. 

dinosaur plush collection