We’ve watched Jurassic Park, the three following sequels and then Chris Pratt’s Jurassic World. We all loved them, once upon a time when we were children. We like to believe there are entire research institutions dedicated to them. Dinosaurs, hulking beasts that once ruled the earth are still a bit of a mystery to us humans, despite all those research dedicated to them. Hulking beasts at the top of the food chain whose carnivorous tastes led them to eat whatever was in sight? Well all three of the statements in the last sentence are not completely true. Because of all the shrouded mystery that surrounds the subject, there are many myths around dinosaurs. Thus, this week’s FYI will look into these myths and give you the correct facts for your information.
MYTH: Jurassic Park will be a reality once we master cloning
FACT: One of the most commonly accepted dinosaur myths is that we will be able to clone and propagate dinosaurs once we get better at cloning. Not true! DNA has a fragile structure and breaks down soon after a creature’s death – and surely after 62 million years. So, sadly for all the Jurassic Park fans, it seems as though we won’t be having Disney-owned dino-theme parks.
MYTH: Mammals only evolved after dinosaurs died out
FACT: Tiny mammals lived in the shadow of the dinosaurs for more than 150 million years, occupying ecological niches as small, nocturnal animals weighing as little as two grams. The ancestors of mammals, animals called synapsids, actually appeared before dinosaurs. Mammals remained relatively small until 65 million years ago, when the demise of the dinosaurs left a mass of niches for larger mammals to fill. Most of the types of mammals we know today evolved after this time.
MYTH: Archaeologists study dinosaurs
FACT: Archaeologists do study the past and they do plenty of digging, but they don’t study dinosaurs – they study humans (and some study animals and their relationships with humans) over the past three to four million years. Paleontologists are the scientists who study dinosaurs through paleontology: The study of fossils to learn about life in previous geological periods.
MYTH: Some dinosaurs could fly
FACT: Wait. Before you freak out and yell Pterodactyl, let me just tell you that the Pterodactyl was not a dinosaur in the first place. The earliest vertebrates scientists have identified as developing powered flight, Pterosaurs, were reptiles but not dinosaurs. And dinosaurs could not fly.
MYTH: Dinosaurs died out because mammals ate their eggs
FACT: Dinosaurs coexisted with mammals for 150 million years. Although dinosaur nests were undoubtedly vulnerable, the most dangerous predators were probably smaller dinosaurs. Most mammals of the time were probably too small to eat the eggs of large dinosaurs.
MYTH: An asteroid impact alone killed the dinosaurs
FACT: This is perhaps one of the most pertinent dino-myths that ever existed in dino-history. A layer of iridium-rich rock marks the impact 65 million years ago of a 10-kilometre asteroid in shallow water covering what is now Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.
That impact formed the 180 kilometre-wide Chicxulub crater. There is no convincing evidence that any non-avian dinosaurs survived the aftermath of the impact. Yet we are still not totally sure how the dinosaurs died.
The impact itself could only have killed the dinosaurs in the immediate vicinity of the crater. But it also produced devastating after-effects including giant tsunamis, rain that may have been as acidic as battery acid and clouds of dust that darkened and cooled the globe for months or even decades.
Another theory suggests that before the impact, dinosaurs were already dwindling as falling sea levels and volcanic eruptions took their toll. A combination of those effects probably wiped out the dinosaurs.
MYTH: All dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago
FACT: Birds evolved about 150 million years ago. Most experts believe they evolved from small predatory dinosaurs, which would classify them as dinosaurs according to modern methods of grouping animals. These avian dinosaurs probably suffered some losses after the asteroid impact, but they soon rebounded.
MYTH: Dinosaurs died out because they were unsuccessful in evolutionary terms
FACT: Dinosaurs survived for more than 150 million years, so they cannot be considered unsuccessful. Hominids have lived for only six million years and Homo sapiens date back no more than 200,000 years. Dinosaurs out-competed other animals of their era, but they lost the battle to survive the effects of the asteroid impact.
(Source: New Scientist)