The Top Six Dinosaur Myths And How We Busted Them

Simo Q/Flickr, CC BY-NC

Myth 4: Dinosaurs Were Bad Parents

Most reptiles simply bury their eggs and walk away, leaving their offspring to fend for themselves as best they can. This hands-off parenting is risky. A sea turtle must lay thousands of eggs over its lifespan to see a few grow up. Dinosaurs were once thought to use the same “lay ‘em and leave ‘em” strategy. We now know that’s wrong.

Living dinosaur relatives – birds and crocodiles – guard their eggs and their young, so it’s a reasonable assumption that the dinosaurs did as well. And there’s now evidence of this. When expeditions to the Gobi Desert found a dinosaur atop a clutch of eggs, it was assumed to have died while plundering the nest. It was named Oviraptor, or “egg thief”. But then more skeletons were found atop clutches of eggs, sitting on them like brooding birds. It turns out Oviraptor didn’t eat eggs —- it was guarding them.

We can go to the gift shop after you’ve eaten Dave Catchpole/Flickr, CC BY

Myth 5: Dinosaurs Were Doomed To Extinction

Dinosaur extinction was long blamed on some failure of the dinosaurs themselves, a failure to adapt to the changing environment. In reality, dinosaurs were diverse for more than 100m years with fossils found in North and South America, Asia, Europe, Africa, and even Antarctica.

Although some argue this diversity was in decline, the fossils show that dinosaurs remained widespread, common and diverse until 66m years ago, when an asteroid struck the Earth in what is now Mexico. Debris from the impact blocked out the sun and plunged the world into darkness. The disappearance of the dinosaurs wasn’t fated – it was a cosmic accident. If the asteroid had deviated by a fraction of a fraction of a degree, dinosaurs would still rule the planet – and we wouldn’t.

Myth 6: Dinosaurs All Became Extinct

The asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs, almost. T. rex, Triceratops and the rest disappeared, but a handful of small feathered dinosaurs, probably less than a dozen species, survived. They were birds — small, flying cousins of T. rex and Velociraptor and the direct descendants of the carnivorous dinosaurs. And they not only survived but thrived, evolving into some ten thousand species of birds.

 

Nick Longrich, Senior lecturer, palaeontology, University of Bath

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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