Jurassic Park is often credited with sparking renewed scientific and pop culture interest in dinosaurs. And while the visual effects of the film certainly hold up, paleontologists now largely agree that the way the dinosaurs looked in the film probably isn’t accurate. (It’s worth noting, though, that the animatronics for Jurassic Park were based on generally accepted models, at the time, of what these extinct animals may have looked like.)
We’ll never know with 100% certainty what all dinosaurs looked and acted like; however, we can take educated guesses based on new evidence and form reasonable hypotheses from there. Let’s take a look at the answers the scientific community has recently given to some of the most common questions about dinosaurs!
What dinosaur was the biggest?
It’s not the iconic T. rex or long-necked Brontosaurus. Many experts currently believe that the titanic Argentinosaurus was the largest genus of dinosaurs to have walked the earth. So just how big were these giants? While estimates vary, one reconstruction is 130 feet long and 24 feet tall (at the shoulder), and scientists estimate that an animal this size could have weighed up to 88 metric tons. For comparison, modern African elephants can grow up to roughly 10 metric tons.
Were dinosaurs birds? Or were dinosaurs reptiles?
For some time, many people believed that dinosaurs were dumb, slow lizards. As more evidence surfaced, those ideas were reconsidered. In fact, now it’s generally thought that many species were active and even social creatures. Similarities between modern birds and these extinct creatures also prompted the debate as to whether dinosaurs are even reptiles at all, but actually some type of bird.
So, just what are dinosaurs: birds or reptiles?
Well, the answer is technically both: there are both avian and non-avian dinosaurs. It is thought that birds evolved from theropods (which are hollow-boned dinosaurs), and that these ancient birds co-existed with non-avian dinosaurs. So, that means that birds today are descended from these animals, having survived the mass extinction event that wiped out all of the other dinosaurs. That’s right: those cute little visitors at your bird feeder are modern dinosaurs!
Non-avian dinosaurs are what most people probably think of when they think dinosaur, and these animals included well-knowns like the T. rex. Non-avian dinosaurs are considered reptiles.
Were dinosaurs warm blooded?
If non-avian dinosaurs were reptiles, that must mean that they were cold-blooded, right? Well, maybe not. You see, the outdated idea that dinosaurs were slow was partly due to the notion that they were likely cold blooded like modern reptiles. That might not necessarily have been the case, though.
Body temperature regulation would naturally vary widely on the type of dinosaur, but there are strong arguments that some dinosaurs may well have been warm-blooded creatures.
What dinosaur flies?
When someone thinks winged dinosaur, the mighty pterosaur from Jurassic Park III might come to mind. However, despite the pterosaur’s reputation as a flying dinosaur, it isn’t a dinosaur at all. It’s actually an order of extinct animals called Pterosauria.
So, if you’re wondering which dinosaur flies, take a look at the Archaeopteryx, not the pterosaur. Ever wonder just how birds descended from dinosaurs? These little winged creatures could very well have been that evolutionary link!