So you are browsing the Internet, maybe playing some online game, and then all of a sudden power cut occurs. All devices stop working, including your favourite one, the router. The Internet is gone, and your game webpage does not load.
A few moments in and the page changes to this disturbing light grey semi-blank page where you see a no-Internet sign on top of which is a digital dinosaur and under which some option to retrieve the connection.
And you are not sure when the power will be back, but you are hopeful it will not take too long to return to your beloved game. So to kill time, you click the spacebar and start playing that dinosaur survival game, the lonely T-Rex, by making it jump over either cactus trees or some large ugly birds flying low.
Soon enough, you win some points, and the T-Rex starts walking faster. You get excited and try to save that poor dinosaur from going extinct by crashing into a cactus tree or a large ugly bird.
Then all of a sudden, the power is back, and so is your Internet connection. The page automatically reloads in a blink of an eye, and the little T-Rex disappears. You have already won so many points, so you get frustrated because you really want to save it from extinction.
But then you wonder why dinosaurs went extinct in the first place. That is when you realise that you know almost nothing about dinosaurs. So you ignore the online game altogether and decide to read about dinosaurs and learn more about them.
Well, we have written this article for you. So here are 10 facts about the dinosaur, the world’s most famous extinct animal.
Fact Number 1: Dinosaurs are crocodiles’ distant cousins
Dinosaurs are prehistoric reptiles. They come from the same family as crocodiles, cobras, alligators, and leatherback sea turtles. Dinosaurs appeared on Earth about 243 million years ago. They flourished on our planet for over 177 million years, but then most of them went extinct about 66 million years ago.
This 177-million-year-long period during which dinosaurs lived was actually divided by scientists into three eras. Each era features a different geology of the Earth at the time caused by a series of catastrophes.
The oldest era is the Triassic period which started 252 million years ago and lasted for 51 million years. It is mainly characterised by the catastrophe that ended it. That was global massive volcanic eruptions that killed 76% of all the animals that lived on land and underwater. But dinosaurs were not among those that went extinct.
The second era is the Jurassic period which started 201.3 million years ago and lasted for another 56 million years. The climate of Earth during that period was warm and rainy which allowed nature, in terms of plants and animals, to flourish. When it came to dinosaurs, they also became larger and many species of them emerged thanks to the abundance of food.
The final period is the Cretaceous period which was the longest of them all. It lasted for 79 million years, extending from 145 million years ago to 66 million years ago.
The Cretaceous period came to an end, hypothetically, when a super giant asteroid 10-15 km in diameter hit the Earth and caused most lifeforms on the planet to vanish. This catastrophe was the one that killed most dinosaurs, leaving only a few species that continued to live.
Fact Number 2: Dinosaurs are birds’ great great grandpas
These dinosaur species that survived the asteroid attack and escaped extinction tried to cope with the then-new environment. So they started experiencing significant changes in their bodies, basically shrinkage.
Over millions of years, their bodies underwent slow but steady reform. Their front limbs gradually disappeared. Their skulls and bodies became smaller. They developed wings and grew feathers and eventually turned into birds.
So yes, living birds now were once giant dinosaurs.
Fact Number 3: ‘Dinosaur’ translates to ‘terrible lizard’
The first ever dinosaur fossil was actually just a leg of a giant one. It was discovered in the mid-17th century by Oxford University Professor Robert Plot. At first, he thought the bone belonged to a super large human. But then English Geologist William Buckland found the first complete dinosaur skeleton in 1824 and thought “this must belong to a prehistoric giant lizard.”
Over 10 years after that, Richard Owen who was the director of London’s Natural History Museum gave the skeleton the name dinosaur. This name was derived from Greek and consists of two parts: deino, which means terrible, and sauros, meaning lizard. Together, a dinosaur literally means a terrible lizard.
Fact Number 4: Dinosaurs lived on every continent
When dinosaurs first appeared on Earth, the Earth’s current seven continents joined in one giant landmass called Pangea. Due to a phenomenon called tectonic plates, this landmass started dividing into different super-large pieces. These pieces drifted away from one another and are currently the seven continents.
Dinosaurs that lived on Pangea were also separated on those seven landmasses. And because every continent already had different climatic conditions, dinosaurs in their new habitat started adapting to the new conditions. Generation after generation, they all started changing shape. As a result, they looked extremely different from the other dinosaurs that lived on other continents.
Fact Number 5: Dinosaurs were highly diverse
From their fossils, scientists found out that there used to be over 1,000 dinosaur species. As we have just mentioned, dinosaurs that lived on different continents evolved and looked different from the rest in terms of their shapes, sizes, and body structures.
Some looked like birds with relatively small necks and were just under 1 metre long. Others were as giant as 40 metres long. Some walked on four legs and others were bipeds and used their short front legs to catch prey.
Argentinosaurus was the most giant dinosaur that ever lived on Earth. It was 35 m tall on average, weighed between 50,000 and 100,000 kg, and walked on all four. It lived during the Cretaceous period in what is now Argentina, South America, as you might have guessed.
No? Argentinosaurus’s fossil was discovered in Argentina in 1993 by Argentinean Scientist Rodolfo Coria and the name means ‘Argentinian lizard’.
Dinosaurs also had different food preferences. About 60% of the known 1000 dinosaur species ate plants and were called herbivores. The rest relied on meat, like predators, and were called carnivores.
Though it might sound odd, herbivorous dinosaurs were much more giant than carnivores. And that was mainly caused by climate.
During the three long geological periods we mentioned above, the climate on Earth was warm. It was raining all the time, and the air contained elevated percentages of CO2. This caused plants to grow fast and flourish. So herbivorous dinosaurs consumed so much food, which caused them to grow massively.
Interestingly, most carnivorous dinosaurs walked on their hind limbs; they were bipeds. This way they could move faster and have their hands free and ready to catch prey.
Fact Number 6: Dinosaurs were either intelligent or not
It is said that the bigger the brain, the more intelligent the animal that has it is. Since dinosaurs ranged from incredibly small to massively large, their brain sizes also varied. This means those with large brains were, well, more intelligent than those with tiny brains.
The dinosaur with the smallest brain was called Stegosaurus. Its fossil was discovered in the UK in 1874. This animal was super large, measuring between 6.5 and 9 metres long and weighing up to 5.5 metric tons. It lived near the end of the Jurassic period, around 155 million years ago. It was also a herbivore and walked on four legs.
Despite its large size, Stegosaurus had a very small skull within an incredibly small brain, only 3 cm long and just as heavy as a walnut. Based on the theory we mentioned above, Stegosaurus is nicknamed the stupidest dinosaur!
On the other hand, one of the most intelligent dinosaurs, based on brain size, was Troodon. It was a carnivore that walked on its hind limbs and lived in the late Cretaceous era. Troodon weighed only 50 kg and was as tall as 90 cm and 2.4 cm long. That is even smaller than an adult human.
Though it is incredibly smaller than the Stegosaurus, it had a relatively large brain, at least when compared to its small body. Its brain was as big as a golf ball.
Now that you have learned a lot about dinosaurs, or at least that is what we hope has happened, you wonder about that poor dinosaur on Chrome’s offline page. What was it called? Yes, T-Rex.
So what exactly is the T-Rex?
Tyrannosaurus rex, or the T-Rex for short, is the most famous dinosaur in the world. Not only does it feature that online game on Chrome’s offline page, but it also appeared in Disney’s animated film, Toy Story. Remember that dinosaur toy, Rex? Well, it was a T-Rex.
The T-Rex was a giant bipedal dinosaur that used to live in what is now North America. It is widely famous because scientists could find a lot of its fossils, many of them complete, well-preserved skeletons. This allowed them, the scientists, to study T-Rexes very closely. And using modern technology, they could reimagine what this dinosaur looked like and how it lived and behaved.
The T-Rex lived in the Cretaceous period, about 66 million years ago. It went extinct because of that claimed asteroid impact that brought that era to an end. The T-Rex had huge and strong back legs that could carry its massive body around. But its front legs were short and only had two toes with claws.
And as you might have deduced, the T-Rex was a carnivore, an apex predator on top of the food chain. Some of its favourite food was some other dinosaur species named ceratopsians, hadrosaurs, and ankylosaurs.
Speaking of the size, this dinosaur is one of the largest predators that have ever existed.
Yet, when compared to Argentinosaurus, the T-Rex is medium-sized. More precisely, it was 12.35 m long with an average height of 3.81 m and weighed 8.87 metric tons! That is the mere size of a school bus.
This dinosaur was characterised by a large skull measuring 1.52 m long (WOW!)
It also had a long, heavy tail which it used to support and balance its large body.
Besides all these characteristics, the T-Rex is known for having the strongest bite among all land animals, with the saltwater crocodile coming in second place.
But how did scientists know the T-Rex’s bite was that strong?
Well, from the shape of its teeth and reimagining the jaw muscles.
For an animal to bite, it has to close its jaw to smash the object between its solid and sharp teeth. And for the bite to be so strong, the animal has to close its jaw more fiercely.
Jaws are supported by muscles that are connected to the skull. If these muscles are strong, the force the animal applies on its jaw will be strong too.
The T-Rex had 60 teeth that looked and were as sharp as saws. Each one of them was about 20.3 cm long. Using these incredibly strong teeth, the T-Rex could easily catch large prey. It is even said that they were so strong they could crush a car.
Scientists could use computer modelling to reimagine the shape and strength of the T-Rex’s jaw muscles through the information they derived from its skeleton. Consequently, they found out the T-Rex had very strong jaw muscles, the strongest in all land creatures.
With these powerful jaw muscles supporting the T-Rex’s 60 20-cm long teeth, it indeed had the deadliest bite.
Why not try our fun dinosaur activity:
And here comes the end of today’s journey in the missing world of dinosaurs.
In this article, we discussed some interesting facts about dinosaurs and the distant relatives of crocodiles and turtles.
Such facts included when and how long they lived, what challenges they faced and what caused their extinction, which happened gradually over millions of years. We also explained how their remaining species, after their grand extinction, shrank and evolved into birds.
After that, we discussed how dinosaurs were found worldwide, what their name meant and why they were called. We also looked into some major dinosaur characteristics, including their sizes, body structures, and brain sizes, as well as what caused this vast diversity.
Finally, we talked a little about one of the most enormous meat-eating dinosaurs and the most famous of them all, the T-Rex. We explored when and where it lived, how it looked, and how scientists found out it had the deadliest bite.
We hope you found this article interesting as much as we loved writing it for you. Keep returning to our website to learn more about living and extinct animals.
And until another lesson, keep learning.
If you enjoyed learning about this facinating animal why not check out more fantastic facts about other animals: Koalas, Land Animals, Sharks, Raccoons, Moon and Sun Bears, Rats, Chickens, Cats, Pandas, Monkeys and Whales.
Why not subscribe to our LearningMole Library for as little as £1.99 per month to access over 1300 fun educational videos.