Paleontology

Dinosaur Myths



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Human beings have known about dinosaurs even before the stone ages. Even ancient Romans used dinosaur bones as tools without knowing who these belonged to. And no, these are not myths. Human beings have used the bones of dinosaurs and other extinct creatures over tens and thousands of years; they have imagined of huge, ferocious creatures such as dragons, sea-serpents, and other exotic creatures that were partly, or fully inspired by the remains of prehistoric creatures such as dinosaurs.

Although modern day paleontology has done much to void many of the myths that were so popular in ancient times, there are still many a modern myth about dinosaurs ranging from fantastic to just plain ridiculous. Let's take a look at some these myths.

10. Flying Reptiles/Dragons: Who hasn't heard about dragons and giant medieval reptilian creatures? They were part of folklores of many civilizations, from ancient China to ancient Western civilizations. In fact, in the last decade or so, it has been proven that discovery of large remains of dinosaurs were the main reasons behind folklores behind dragons and other large monster reptiles. But as we all know today, there were never any dragons, and no huge reptile paralleling the size of these fossils ever lived among human beings either. But, good material for fantasy anyways.

9. All giant reptiles (including flying and marine) were dinosaurs: One of the most popular misconceptions. Pterodactyls, Ichtyosaurs, Plesiosaurs, and other prehistoric reptiles are considered to be dinosaurs. Even those giant crocodiles that lived during those times. But hey, just because they are big, doesn't mean they're dinosaurs. In fact, dinosaurs are classified into two orders, Saurischian and Ornithischian and there are countless reptiles from the Mesozoic Era (the time of the dinosaurs) that do not fall into either of the groups, and therefore, are not dinosaurs.

8. ONE giant asteroid impact made the dinosaurs go extinct: Let's see, an asteroid hit the earth. Big explosion. Thousands of times more powerful than the most powerful nuclear bomb. But would it be enough to wipe out around 60% of life from Earth including dinosaurs?

The answer is no. Scientists have found numerous geological phenomena that were occurring towards the end of the Cretaceous period when the dinosaurs went extinct. Sea levels near continental shelves were receding, there were massive global volcanic eruptions such as the Deccan Traps that were releasing greenhouse gases across the world along with clouds of ash. However, a meteorite did hit the Earth and it did contribute to the eventual K-Pg mass extinction. But it wasn't the meteorite alone but a combination of geological and climate changes.

7. Dinosaurs' failure to evolve and adapter made them extinct: Let's get one thing straight here. Dinosaurs, unlike any other creature before or after them (including us) ruled the planet with utter dominance. They had evolved, adapted, and dominated over a time period of over 160 million years. Dinosaurs were the most dominant terrestrial creatures of all time, they lived all over the globe, and the sheer variety of shapes and sizes speaks for their adaptive evolution. Dinosaurs were very successful when it comes to evolution.

6. Mammals ate dinosaur eggs and caused them to be extinct: Although small mammals were living alongside dinosaurs as early as 150 million years ago, they were never a threat to dinosaurs or their eggs. In fact, the only threats dinosaurs faced were from other dinosaurs. And anyways, the mammals were too small to eat most dinosaur eggs.

5. Mammals evolved after dinosaurs: Once again, mammals have been living alongside dinosaurs for 150 million years. Although small, and just filling up small ecological places in the food chain, they were still there. Infact, the ancestors of modern mammals, a creatures called Synapsids, were living even before the first dinosaurs. But mammals only evolved, grew in size, and diversified after dinosaurs died out.

4. Dinosaurs were cold blooded/slow/inactive creatures: Early paleontologists considered dinosaurs to be slow, inactive creatures. However modern paleontology has proven dinosaurs to be atleast partially warm blooded, and many were very active and agile, with high metabolism rates. Infact, as we know today, birds evolved from dinosaurs, and many dinosaurs such as Deinonychus and Velociraptor had all the physical traits of an aggressive, agile, fast hunter. Large dinosaurs needed a four chambered, warm-blood pumping heart to be able to have survived.

3. Dinosaurs are still alive today (!): Well when I was a young boy, I was obsessed with dinosaurs (and still am). I would read stories that told how there are certain parts of the planet that have never been explored, as they say 'where no modern human have set foot before'. Possible and popular locations: dense forests of Amazon and Congo. I would love to see dinosaurs come to life again! Now, certain creatures thought to be extinct have been discovered. An example: the coelacanth. Although it is true that there are some remote parts of the world yet to have been properly explored, the fact is, dinosaurs did not survive past the late Cretaceous period. If dinosaurs were still alive today, they would have been spotted. Not to mention, the oxygen level in Earth back then was between 30% to 50% higher than today.

The only living descendants of dinosaurs are the birds which evolved directly from dinosaurs, and are everywhere as we see them today. But, not quite the dinosaurs that we would want to see. But hey, who knows, maybe there is this ancient valley, long forgotten by time, where dinosaurs have evolved to be intelligent, sentient species....

2. Most dinosaurs lived at the same time: As we all know from so many Hollywood movies, a Stegosaurus is always fighting a T.Rex. Come on. That's like saying Smilodon and the Woolly Mammoth still live with us. Stegosaurus was from the mid-Jurassic period while T.Rex came in the Cretaceous. Not a long time by geological context. But the fact is, many dinosaurs as we see in pop culture, did not co-exist. So great battles like these did not take place. Sorry to disappoint fans of T.Rex vs Stegosaurus fights.

And finally

1. Dinosaurs lived with human beings: We all know our creationist friends and how they believe that dinosaurs and human beings have lived, at some time or other, together. Dinosaurs died out long before the first humanoid creature ever walked the Earth. So the fact is no ancestor of human beings ever saw a living dinosaur. We have to leave these fantasies to our very favorite Flintstones. Sorry to disappoint creationists.

These are some of the most popular myths about dinosaurs. Not all were mentioned, it is not possible or useful to mention all either. Dinosaurs ruled the Earth for so long and with such authority. It is little wonder that myths and legends be based on them. But sometimes, truth is more fantastic than fiction itself. And dinosaurs, don't need myths to be popular. They were legends in life, and they are legends in death, and no species or creature will ever be able to come near to equalling them.

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