HOW DINOSAURS WORK
THE LONGEST LIST OF THE LONGEST
STUFF AT THE LONGEST DOMAIN NAME AT LONG LAST
How doo dinosaurs work?
Go to any zoo, amusement park, or museum, and chances
are that you’ll run into a dinosaur display somewhere along the way. Our
fascination with dinosaurs in fact is so great that you may even see such a
display while just walking down the sidewalk. People are quick to recognize
structures of a tyrannosaurus rex or a triceratops, but how often do we think
about how much we really do know, or don’t know about dinosaurs.
The simple fact is that dinosaurs roamed the earth
at a time when no living person did. This means that there were no eye-witness
accounts, and no one to record what they looked like, what they ate, and how
they lived. All researchers and scientists have to go on are the fossils that
are still around today, left by these fantastic creatures. From these fossils,
scientists must make assumptions based on what they know about scientific life,
animal structure, and from evaluation of the fossil itself. And while everyone
can quickly see an image in their heads when they hear the word, “T Rex,” much
of this is thanks to movies and images that we have only seen in books. This
unknown factor in our knowledge about dinosaurs, and the fact that scientists
are always finding new fossils, new ways of studying them, and new facts about
these prehistoric beasts, that keeps us coming back for more. And it’s also one
reason why we may not ever fully know how dinosaurs worked.
It’s true that researchers have dedicated their
lives to finding out how dinosaurs worked and how they existed while they walked
the earth long before any of us did. Based on their findings throughout the
years, they have taken their data, fossils, and other research to form the basis
of what we know of dinosaurs today. These facts have provided the fundamentals
of how dinosaurs lived and worked and these fundamentals are continually being
built upon so that we can learn more about the fascinating world of dinosaurs.
What Dinosaurs Were
dinosaurs lived approximately 230 million years ago, and the last ones before
extinction lived approximately 60 million years ago. This means that for about
170 million years, dinosaurs roamed the earth and no humans wandered it. This
entire time period is known as the Mesozoic era, but that is broken up into
three different time periods. The most ancient is the Triassic period after
which the Jurassic period followed. The most recent time period of dinosaurs is
known as the Cretaceous period and these were the last dinosaurs that lived
before they became extinct. Given the amount of time that dinosaurs were in
existence, it’s understandable why today we know of only 700 different species
of dinosaurs by name, but there were most likely thousands, if not millions,
more than that.
Though most of us have a pretty good idea of what
different dinosaurs look like, dinosaurs looked very different from each other.
Some were the giant beasts we see ravage country sides in movies such as
Jurassic Park, but others are very tiny. Some reptiles, which also ran among the
dinosaurs, weren’t actually dinosaurs themselves, yet they have sometimes been
classified along the way as dinosaurs, which can make things more confusing.
Plesiosaurs are creatures that lived with the dinosaurs but they lived in the
water and had very long bodies and fins that looked much like flippers.
Pterosaurs were reptiles that could fly. Synapsids were animals that had many
mammal qualities, such as eye sockets, but they actually physically looked more
like a lizard with large fins on its back. All of these animals were reptiles
and they all too, became extinct. However, researchers continue to find remains
and fossils of these creatures and continue to study them.
But when talking about dinosaurs that were actually
dinosaurs, these were also divvyed up into different classifications. Of course
there were the carnivores, those dinosaurs that ate only meat, but all
carnivores were also considered to be theropods. All of these dinosaurs were
known to have three-toed feet. Carnosaurs was another classification of
dinosaurs and they were very small and agile. The Velociraptor is one of the
most widely known types of carnosaurs and they were very small.
Dinosaurs that ate only plants were huge creatures that had four legs, although
sometimes, these types of dinosaurs only walked on two of their limbs. A few
popular types of these dinosaurs are Brachiosaurus, Apatosaurus, and the
Diplodocus. Some of the most frightening, and most interesting looking dinosaurs
are ankylosaurs, which have bodies that look like armor and have long tails with
spikes on them. There was another classification of dinosaurs called ceratopians.
These dinosaurs had large heads with horns and frills on them. One of the most
popular dinosaurs today is the triceratops, which is a dinosaur that falls into
the ceratopians classification.
These dinosaurs are all considered to be actual
dinosaurs because they all share common traits that researchers have determined
are common traits found within the different dinosaur species. Dinosaurs always
have four limbs, although they may only use two of these limbs to walk. And
although certain types of dinosaurs liked to spend some time in the water, all
dinosaurs lived mostly on land.
Although dinosaurs have left countless of fossils
behind, and from each of these fossils comes all different kinds of physical
characteristics depending on the dinosaur, there were still very specific
features that all dinosaurs had in common. One of these specific physical
characteristics is that all dinosaurs had actual cheek bones that started at
their jaw and ran up to the top of their skull. All dinosaurs also have three
bones in their hips. These bones can fit together one of two ways but when
calling a dinosaur a dinosaur, these bones will be a good indication. All
dinosaurs also walked upright. Although they have four limbs as reptiles such as
crocodiles do, they use their legs to stand up, even if they use all four limbs
to stand. They do not sprawl their legs out and pull their bodies along the way
many reptile animals do.
Finding and Excavating Fossils and Bones
So how do researchers, scientists, and a slew of
other experts get their hands on these delicate bones to gather enough
information so they can then piece it all together? Fossils are not actually
delicate at all. The process of fossilization actually happens once the animal
has died and the bones and remains have been covered by sedimentary rock. Once
this happens, the soft tissue of the animal decomposes and the minerals from the
surrounding rock become absorbed by the remaining bones of the animal. Once this
happens, that bone turns to stone and this stone is then the fossil.
Fossilization doesn’t happen all the time and in fact, it doesn’t even usually
happen. This is one reason why we know so little about the vast world of
dinosaurs. Conditions have to be just right in order for bones to be turned to
fossils and if they’re not, the bones will simply turn to dust.
Teams of researchers and experts are needed to
remove fossils from where they are found and they’ll use many devices from
bulldozers to paintbrushes to do this. Once the fossil has been lifted from
where another team has found it, it will usually be placed in caster and sent to
a laboratory where it can be further examined, tested, and evaluated. At the
laboratory, teams of scientists will recreate casts of the fossil. This is not
only so that they can recreate the entire skeletal frame of what the dinosaur
looked like, but also so that they can handle it and study it without disturbing
the actual fossil. This entire process becomes very tricky, especially when you
consider that researchers can sometimes run into problems such as many different
fossils located in the same area. This requires separating fossils that belonged
to different animals. And although it’s always rewarding, sometimes other things
that lay around the creature such as eggs or nests, also become fossilized. This
does a great deal in helping scientists decipher how dinosaurs lived.
Once a dinosaur has been reconstructed with the use
of fossils, researchers are able to determine a lot simply based on its body
structure. The way it looks is an immediate indication of how it looked, how it
walked, and any special features it may have had, such as wings. Researchers can
also tell by looking at fossils of teeth whether or not the dinosaur was a
carnivore or a herbivore. If the teeth are flat and look like leaves, the
dinosaur was an herbivore. Sharp, jagged teeth, on the other hand, indicate that
the dinosaur was a carnivore. Leg bone measurements can tell researchers how
fast a particular dinosaur could run, and examining different areas of the skull
can indicate how well a dinosaur could hear or smell. Some dinosaurs come with
quill barbs, which are present in dinosaurs that had feathers on their body.
However, just because a dinosaur’s bones don’t show quill barbs, doesn’t mean
that they also didn’t have feathers.
The advancements in technology have also made fossil study much more accurate
and much more detailed. Researchers can now enter their data into a computer and
have the computer make a digital remodel of the dinosaur. This remodel can go so
far as to provide an accurate guesstimate of the muscles the dinosaur had, how
it used different parts of its body, and how their bones fit together.
How Dinosaurs Became Extinct
So with so many species, and so many special skills
and attributes meant for survival, just how exactly did dinosaurs become
extinct? Well, although there are many, many theories on how dinosaurs became
extinct, when they became extinct is not up for debate. Dinosaurs became extinct
at the K-2 Boundary, which is the boundary that separates the Cretaceous period
and the Tertiary period. The end of the former marked the end of dinosaurs while
the beginning of the latter marked when mammals started to dominate Earth. So
just what happened at the K-2 Boundary? It’s hard to say. But there are a few
One theory that has very little scientific evidence
is that there was a certain type of flower that evolved during the later years
of the Cretaceous period and that these flowers produced pollen that the
dinosaurs were deathly allergic to. However, this theory makes little sense
considering that flowers and other plant life existed for millions of years
while the dinosaurs were existence. Another theory that is based on very little
fact is that as more and more mammals started to populate Earth, they began to
eat the dinosaur eggs as food. But researchers have discovered thousands of
fossilized intact dinosaur eggs so this possibility also seems unlikely.
One of the most widely accepted theories was
developed in 1980 by Luis and Walter Alvarez and is known as the Alvarez
hypothesis. This theory states that a large comet or asteroid hit Earth and
wiped out the dinosaur population, along with many other species and animals, in
one fell swoop. The complete destruction this asteroid would have caused along
with the shock waves and the debris throughout the air would certainly be enough
to cause damage of that magnitude. There is much scientific evidence to prove
that there was indeed an asteroid or other object from space that landed on
Earth at around this period of time. Researchers even now believe that they may
have located the exact identity of this asteroid. There’s also a sight just off
the coast of Yucatan Peninsula known as the Chicxulub crater. This crater is
believed to be part of the actual asteroid as it has matching measurements and
is approximately as old as the asteroid that took out the dinosaurs would have
When it comes to dinosaurs, there’s a fine line
between actual fact and fiction and there’s much that’s largely up for debate.
This is a very basic overview of what dinosaurs were, how they are studied, and
how they became extinct. It’s because there’s still so much more to learn, and
will be for some time that dinosaurs will always hold that ‘fantasy’ status in
the minds of children and adults alike, and why everyone is so interested in
learning about these fascinating creatures!