Common Misconceptions and Myths About Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs have fascinated the public for decades, so it’s no surprise that a wide variety of myths about dinosaurs have arisen

Dinosaurs have held a special place in the public imagination for more than a century, so it’s to be expected that certain myths about dinosaurs are common. Some of them are pure silliness, while others are based on scientific misunderstandings that have long since been rectified.

Myth #1: Human and Dinosaurs Coexisted at Some Point

All the evidence says otherwise — but this idea persists, probably because all the wrongheaded popular entertainment that shows humans and dinosaurs as contemporaries.

But here’s the deal: nearly all dinosaurs disappeared suddenly about 65 million years ago, probably due (mostly) to the effects of a huge comet or asteroid hitting the Earth. The first human-like fossils appeared in the fossil record about 6 million years ago. Notice a slight gap there?

The idea of humans and dinosaurs living together in the days of yore is an invention of Hollywood and the publishing industry… and not a very good or logical invention at that.

Myth #2: Dinosaurs Were Sluggish, Stupid, and Unsuccessful Animals

On the contrary. While the debate’s still raging over whether dinosaurs were cold-blooded or warm-blooded, our current understanding of dinosaur physiology suggests that at least some dinosaurs had strong hearts and bird-like metabolisms — and few birds are considered sluggish.

Old scientific theories about dinosaurs did paint them as plodding and slow, for several reasons: first, because it was assumed that they were cold-blooded like modern reptiles; and second, because they ultimately lost out in the evolutionary race to birds and mammals.

But to deem them unsuccessful is short-sighted. Dinosaurs and their relatives dominated this planet for more than 150 million years. We mammals have been in charge for only one-third as long. Our ancestors got their big chance when the asteroid hit, since small, furry animals were more likely to survive.

Modern humans, the current Lords of Creation? We’ve only been around for maybe 200,000 years, if you stretch things a bit, and have seriously dominated for just a few tens of thousands at most.

Myth #3: Dinosaurs Are Extinct

Not technically, though you’ll (hopefully) never see a Tyrannosaurus rex tromping through your neighborhood. Truth is, it can be argued that birds are feathered dinos–because at a skeletal level, it’s clear that they’re descended from small predatory dinosaurs. Look at an ostrich, and it’s easy to see the relationship.

Another clencher? Some dinosaurs are now known to have had feathers.

The current consensus is that birds descended from a Velociraptor-like lineage stretching back 150 million years. So birds may be considered avian dinosaurs, although the debate still rages among scientists over whether we should call them such.

There you are: some nice myths about dinosaurs to demolish at your next cocktail party!