Paleontology

Popular Myths about Dinosaurs



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One would think that with the interest in dinosaurs and the amount of information we have about them, that there wouldn't be very many myths surrounding the creatures. The fact is that there are many popular myths about dinosaurs. It isn't very hard to figure out why, either.

Breaking it down just a little, many dinosaur myths are based on partial information, old information that has since been refuted, or assumptions that aren't necessarily founded on fact. Making it a little more difficult is the point that since nobody was around 65 million years ago, there are a great many things that are supposed, but we just don't know for sure. There is little doubt that many of what are currently considered "dinosaur facts" will someday be shown to be myth.

One of those ideas that are a myth is that the "bad boy" of the dinosaur realm, Tyrannosaurus Rex, was the biggest, meanest, most vicious carnivore that ever lived. It is now believed that nearly all of this is wrong, and some of it has been proven incorrect without much doubt.

Tyrannosaurus was definitely not the largest flesh-eating dinosaur. Fossils of several larger species have been found. It is also doubtful that it was the most vicious. Though much smaller, that distinction would probably go to the raptors. There is even quite a bit of evidence that raptors hunted in packs, much like lions or wolves, which would have made them far more dangerous than T. Rex.

Studies over the last couple decades have also brought into question whether T. Rex was even that great of a hunter. It had relatively poor eyesight but an excellent sense of smell. While the same could be said of a few carnivores of today, the brain most closely resembled that of a vulture. This means that Tyrannosaurus was most likely a scavenger.

Many people find that idea offensive, though they shouldn't. A hyena is a very powerful scavenger. It can hunt if the need arises, but prefers scavenging. It is likely that T. Rex was much the same. That is, it could hunt if there was a need, but was better at eating animals that had already been killed.

Another common and popular myth is that most big dinosaurs lived during the Jurassic era. We can primarily thank Hollywood for this one. It is understandable in a way. "Jurassic Park" has a better sound to it that "Triassic Park".

Yet another myth is that all dinosaurs were cold blooded (exothermic). This is based mostly on assumption. Most reptiles of today are cold blooded, so a parallel is drawn. More evidence is being found though, that many dinosaurs were warm blooded (endothermic). Many may not have even been able to survive if they weren't. A great deal more study needs to be done in order to determine which were and which were not, however it is safe to say that not all dinosaurs were exothermic.

Not all dinosaurs were huge, lumbering beasts, either. There were dinosaurs, which were tiny. This is even reflected today, with lizards. The Komodo dragon is a heavy and large beast. However, there are many lizards with less than 1% of the bulk of the Komodo. It is unreasonable to even consider that this wasn't also true of the dinosaurs, and fossil evidence backs this up.

Still another myth is that dinosaurs laid their eggs, then left to allow the young to fend for themselves. There is quite a bit of evidence that some species protected their nest and young, much as mammals do today. We even see this today in the crocodilians. Some of the care is very tender, too.

Then too, there is the persistent thought that all reptilians living during the time of the dinosaurs were dinosaurs. This is a myth. Many of the creatures were not dinosaurs. For instance, many of the creatures of the oceans were not dinosaurs.

Many of the popular myths about dinosaurs can be readily corrected. Others can't be, because we don't have enough information yet, and because nobody was around at the time to give eyewitness accounts. This also only touches on a few of the myths about dinosaurs.

It should be remembered that quite a bit having to do with dinosaurs is conjecture. It also brings into question what a myth is. Perhaps the best definition of a myth is: Anything commonly believed but which you have never personally experienced. That is a profound definition, and it takes some time to absorb. Still, we only have the tools we have, to work with. The best we can do is to say what is almost certainly not true and, if there is room to explain, why.

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