Paleontology

Early Interpretations of Dinosaurs



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Finding dinosaur fossils is nothing new in the perspective of history; it's just something that has been understood lately. Before people knew what the bones were and what they belonged to, they were easily misunderstood and became the foundation of early mythological creatures and ancient beasts of legend. In a time prior to the scientific understanding, it is easy to guess what the early interpretations became, before science and knowledge led to different theories.

Just as the distribution of dinosaur fossils are scattered across the various parts of the globe, there is one creature in particular that has the same cultural significance that dinosaurs have now, and that creature is the dragon. Just as widely known as dinosaurs are today, dragons are unexplained as to why so many cultures that knew nothing of each other could arrive at similar depictions of the great beast. While some believe that the dragon is simply a common amalgam of snakes, birds of prey, crocodiles, big cats, and other predatory animals humanity came to fear in their prehistoric origins, dinosaur fossils would give a definite framework for the imagination to work with.

Very much like dragons, different variants of the later carnivores that began the transition to an avian species would slowly abandon the arms for favor of wings. Having been closer in the timeframe of history, their larger cousins may not have been as easy to find and thus were never given a chance to appear as part of the myth. However, just as the various species of carnivorous dinosaurs differ with region, so too did the depiction of dragons, changing form drastically between European and Asian species. Given the blackened nature of fossilized bones, it could have attributed to the myth that the animals breathed fire, causing the discoloring.

Later, when science finally came across a mild understanding of what dinosaurs as creatures really were, there was no shortage of different ideas and interpretations. Early thoughts compared the creatures to lizards, and convinced many that dinosaurs dragged their stomachs and tails, and could only survive in and around swamps where their massive weight could be supported.
This posture theory was widely accepted as truth until tracks were found with no evidence of any tail marks, effectively proving the popular theory false. While evident otherwise, the tail dragging theory remained popular until late in the twentieth century.

Other theories surround dinosaur possibilities were the relation to reptiles and a cold-blooded body that could only move after warming. Also were behavior patterns still not completely decided, that placed all dinosaurs as loners that would as soon abandon a clutch of eggs than parent their young to adolescence and whether they existed as social animals.
Aside from that, the questions surrounding hunter, scavenger, or opportunist remains one of the more sought after questions for a large number of the more popular carnivorous species, like the Tyrannosaurus.

As for other interpretations, there were many cultures that could have formulated their own theories and opinions based on simple findings. What is mostly known today is only what has occurred recently. Should an ancient account of unfamiliar bones be brought to light as a connection between dinosaurs and the interpreted animal then, it would be an interesting tool to better understand exactly how dinosaur discovery has helped develop human imagination throughout the ages.

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More about this author: Morgan Carlson

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