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The ancient reptiles classified as dinosaurs have been captivating our minds for hundreds of years, as they are a part of evolution and the history of planet earth. Everything that we know about them comes from the information learned from the fossils that have been discovered all around the world, and our knowledge keeps growing. Every year palaeontologists discover more and more fossils.

Countries all around the world have teamed up to provide funding for research and excavation in order to continue to find these buried treasures, that so graciously provide us with a look into the past. It’s not only the bones that we gain insight from but surprisingly, fossilised dino feces actually provide us with most of what we know about their diets–along with their teeth of course.

Dinosaurs came in a variety of shapes and sizes, and each had specialized traits that help them survive for over 165 million years. Scientists believed that an extinction event killed about 95% of life on Earth around 201 million years ago, and all the dinosaurs had been extinct–until recently. Newly discovered fossils suggest that birds are actually descendants of feathered dinosaurs, meaning they’re technically still alive.

We’ve been living with dinosaurs this whole time and you’re probably just now realizing it, and in which case I suggest you read on to learn some more interesting and shocking facts about these ancient reptiles. You may think you know everything there is to know about these beasts, but the truth is, we discover new facts almost every day…

 

30. The Timeline

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Dinosaurs were alive on this planet for an extremely long time before their extinction and scientists estimate it lasted for 180 million years. The era has been coined as the Mesozoic and it began 245 million years ago. It consists of three periods called the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous.

29. You Eat Dinosaur

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Unless you are a vegetarian, you regularly eat dinosaurs–well kind of. Genetic patterns have shown that chickens are close relatives of the ancient dinosaurs we all love to study. In fact, out of all the bird species alive today, chickens and turkeys are the closest relatives to dinosaurs, as they have gone through the least amount of evolutionary changes. It’s pretty wild to think that animals that we have cultivated for livestock have actually been around for millions and millions of years.

28. Meat Eaters

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Meat-eating dinosaurs that are so viciously depicted throughout Hollywood movies are scientifically known as theropods. The name theropod was derived from the Greek word meaning “wild beast” and “foot”, given to them for obvious reasons. Theropods are classified by their carnivorous habits, but there were a few known herbivores. The beast-footed animals have distinctive claw-like hooks on their feet for hunting.

27. Types Of Species

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Scientists have discovered thousands of dinosaur bones throughout the years and have discovered over 1,000 different species of non-avian varieties. There are multiple species of dinosaur classified within each genera, also known as genus, (which is the way scientists group species with shared characteristics) and there are over 300 valid genera named. Although there are only 300 recognized by the scientific community, some estimate the number to be closer to 1,800 with many still undiscovered.

26. Holes In Their Heads

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Dinosaur skulls were designed to withstand brute force and were often used as weapons for protection. The sheer size of some of these ancient creatures made their skulls as big as the average modern car–we can’t imagine how strong that neck must have been! Although they were extremely large, they were often filled with holes or windows, which helped with the overall weight and pressure on the animal’s neck.

25. They Had To Eat A lot

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Some of the most famous dinosaurs that ever existed were giant herbivores and supporting that large frame was a full-time job. Their long necks allowed them to reach up into tall trees where no other animal could reach, giving them a leg up on the competition–kind of like a modern day giraffe! With the extra food source, animals like this could grow to be enormous but in order to do so, they had to consume as much as a ton of food a day, which is equivalent to a bus load of greenery.

24. Dinosaurs Lived On All Continents

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A surprising fact that you might not know, is that dinosaurs actually existed on every part of the earth at one point in time, making their way onto every continent. This was possible because most of the earth’s giant land masses were connected into a C shape, which allowed for easy travel between places. Eventually, the continents split up and formed the world as we know it today.

23. Colorado Is The Stegosaurus State

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Dinosaurs may have been found on all continents, but one state has a special connection with a particular dino, and it’s Colorado. Colorado received the nickname “The Stegosaurus State” in 1982 because the first stegosaurus fossil was found near Morrison, Colorado in 1876. The stegosaurus lived during the mid-Jurassic through the late cretaceous period, and its name means “covered lizard”, depicted by the large spines on its back.

22. Mosasaurs, Ichthyosaurs, Pterosaurs, Plesiosaurs, And Dimetrodon

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Although Hollywood has done their part to confuse the general public, animals like mosasaurs, ichthyosaurs, pterosaurs, plesiosaurs, and dimetrodon, are actually not dinosaurs. The term “dinosaur” is used to describe the land-dwelling reptiles that lived during the periods described previously, that have a specific hip structure. Yes, it actually all comes down to the hip shape and size, which we will get into later. For some reason, the distinction between these classifications are rarely made.

21. Average Sizes

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Although most of the fossils found by paleontologists are massive, the majority of dinosaur species were about the size of humans or smaller. It’s believed that the larger bones held up better during the process of fossilization, which is why they are more prevalent today. Their bodies might have been small on the dino scale, but most of them actually had tales that were 45 feet or longer. The longer the tail, the better the balance while running and hunting.

20. The Eldest Dinosaur

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This familiar-looking creature is named the eoraptor, which means “dawn stealer”, and it is the oldest dinosaur ever found–about 228 million years old to be exact. The creative name was given to the species because it lived during the early days of the dinosaurs, hence the dawn part, and it was a carnivore. The predator was about the size of the modern day German Sheppard, and the first fossil was found in Argentina, in 1991.

19. Their Hips Don’t Lie

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Remember the hip classification I was talking about earlier? Well, there are actually two distinctive hip shapes when it comes to dinosaurs. The two names for the classifications are saurischians and ornithischians, the former meaning “lizard hip” and the ladder “bird-hipped”. A lizard hip dinosaur had bones that point forward, and a bird hip had bones that face backwards. Each type was specially designed throughout the process of evolution to work best for each type of animal.

18. The Origin Of The Word Dinosaur

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British paleontologist and naturalist Richard Owen coined the term “dinosaur” in 1842, even though he was a controversial figure. The multi-talented scientist disbelieved Darwin’s theory of evolution, and many called him an anti-evolutionist. Nevertheless, he made history by coining the term that means “terrible lizard”, which was intended to convey their majesty and size–he could have picked a less frightening term.

17. Carnotaurus’ Tiny Arms

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The T. Rex is generally thought of when discussing short-armed dinosaurs, but what if I told you, there was one with even smaller proportions? Yes, it’s true, the Carnotaurus actually had smaller arms proportionally to its body, than the infamous T. Rex. “Why were the arms so tiny?”, you might ask, and the answer is–we simply don’t know. There is no obvious evidence to why the reduction in arm bones occurred.

16. Spinosaurus

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Once again the T. Rex gets a wrap that it doesn’t deserve–it’s not actually the largest carnivorous dinosaur ever to exist. The Spinosaurus was the largest carnivore, measuring in at an estimated 59 feet in length and 23 tons at its maximum measurements. This creature looks to be like a cross between an alligator and a pissed off T. Rex on steroids. The remains of this creature were first found in Egypt in 1912.

15. Argentinosaurus

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Since we told you about the largest carnivorous dinosaur to ever walk the planet, it’s only fair we tell you about the largest herbivore, the argentinosaurus. The dino was first discovered in Argentina, where it was quickly given its name. This amazing creature could reach up to 115 feet in length and over 100 tons, making this a true giant. To put its size into perspective, it would be like a beast the size of a dozen elephants roaming around.

14. Sauropods Gas Problem

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Long neck dinosaurs classified as sauropods, like the argentinosaurus, had quite the interesting digestive systems. The vegetarians ate a diet full of fibrous material, that wasn’t always easy to digest. It’s believed that their stomachs worked like fermentation chambers, trapping the necessary gases to fully break down food. It makes sense right?–there’s just one thing…if they needed that much gas to break down all that food, they must have been constantly passing gas. It might explain why their always pictured with a gaping mouth, as their constantly denying it was them who cut the cheese.

13. Micropachycephalosaurus

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This little lizard-like creature was named the micropachycephalosaurus, meaning “small thick-headed lizard” (Sometimes the names are so basic in the description, you can help but laugh). It has the longest name ever given to any dinosaur, which makes it somewhat special. Most of the fossils have been found in China as it lived during the last leg of the Cretaceous period.

12. Lifespan

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The lifespan of each species of dinosaur are unknown, but scientists speculate that creatures like the T. Rex were fully mature at the age of 28, but could have lived much longer if given the chance. Some estimate that long-necks like the sauropods listed above could have easily lived to be over 100. One thing is for sure, the lifespan of any dinosaur, and animal for that matter, depended on the abundance of food and the amount of danger encountered.

11. Major Players

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You’re probably wondering why I am showing you a very old painting of a woman and her dog on a dinosaur article, but Mary Anning was a force to be reckoned when it comes to fossil hunting. Anning lived from 1799-1847 and had tremendous success in discovering some amazing fossils pertaining to the Jurassic period. Sadly, she wasn’t given the much-deserved credibility as she was a poor woman, and the world treated her unfairly. Another famous name within the fossil hunting community is Roy Chapman Andrews, the man to find the first dino nest.

10. Dino Eggs

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To the untrained eye, these might look like just plain old rocks, but they’re actually giant dinosaur eggs–the largest ones ever found. Researchers discovered these giant eggs in the 1990’s and each one measured to about two feet in diameter, which scientists believe are as large as it gets. The larger the egg, the thicker the shell, and it’s thought that if they were much thicker the babies would have trouble getting out. It’s known that all dinos laid eggs, and over 40 types have been discovered.

9. Stegosaurus

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It’s no wonder Spike got a bad wrap for being simple-minded in Disney’s The Land Before Time; he had the brain the size of a walnut! That’s right, the fairly large dinosaur had the smallest brain out of any kind known to man. The body was around the size of a large van, which makes the tiny brain seem impossible. The armoured dino was definitely more brawn than brain.

8. Early Confusion

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Dinosaur bones have brought confusion to people throughout thousands of years, and before they were fully understood many people didn’t know what to think. When teeth were found in China over 3,500 years ago they were attributed to myths of giant dragons. Indigenous Native Canadians–the Peigan people of Alberta, once thought the bones belonged to the “fathers of Buffalo” and some Englishmen thought them to be giant humans.

7. Meat Eaters And Hollow Bones

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Most of the carnivorous dinosaurs had something in common with the avian variety, and that is their hollow bones. Although the can be massive in size and shape, they are actually relatively light due to their hollowness. It’s thought to have helped with quickness during hunting, as well as aiding their giant bodies in all types of mobility. Most of them would have walked upright on two feet, as well.

6. Colourful Or Dull?

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It may be true that some dinosaurs had bright coloring on their scales or feathers, but research shows that they probably were either brown or green, or a combination of both. The coloring would have been important in order to hide among the trees and brush from predators, much like predators we know today. Some feathered dinosaurs like the anchiornis, have been found to have melanosomes, which produce coloring. It was determined that the creature has grey, black, white, and red, feathering.

5. Reproduction

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We know that dinosaurs were relatives of reptiles, and modern day reptiles have a single opening for urination, defecation, and reproduction. It’s believed that dinosaurs were no different, making through the touching of openings called “cloaca”, which is Latin for sewer. Not the best name, but they do refer to this action as a “cloaca kiss”, which does make it a bit better. However, some dinosaurs like the T. Rex is believed to have sex organs similar to humans, some even reaching over 12 feet in length. All built nests to lay their eggs and some even nurtured their babies into young adulthood.

4. The Toothy Hadrosaurus

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The only skeleton of the Hadrosaurus was found in 1868, in New Jersey where it became the state dino in 1991. Its name means “bulky lizard” and it is quite a unique dinosaur as it had over 1,000 teeth that were constantly replacing themselves. Most dinos had one set that they were stuck with for life, but not this toothy beast–if one broke, it didn’t matter there were hundreds ready to take on chewing.

3. Therizinosaurus’ Claws

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Since we’re comparing body parts, it’s only fair that we show you the dino with the longest claws. The Therizinosaurs had the longest claws ever found, measuring in at up to three feet long. Its name couldn’t fit any better, as it translates to “reaping lizard” as cutting and slashing were its best defence mechanisms. Most of the fossils of this creature are incomplete but its distinctive claws make any and all bones special finds. The first fossil of its kind was found 1948 in Mongolia, during a joint Mongolian-Soviet fossil mission.

2. Fighting Dinos

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One of the rarest fossils ever found is the two fighting dinosaurs pictured above. A Protoceratops and a velociraptor were engaged in an intense life and death battle that would have most likely ended in the Protoceratops becoming lunch when they were entombed due to a sand dune collapse. The fossil was discovered in the Gobi desert by a Polish-Mongolian team in 1971.

1. Current Hotspots

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There are definitely spots around the world that are considered hotspots for dinosaur fossils, and right now palaeontologists are having huge success in Argentina and China. Desert environments are best for finding fossils because they aren’t covered in plant matter and can be easily excavated. The best areas have layers of silt and clay, trapping the fossilised bones in between and they usually locate the right areas by aging the rocks to make sure they were around during the dinos.