How much do you really know about dinosaurs? Find out if what you believe is really based on scientific facts.
By Alejandro I. López
The Universe is fickle. The most accepted theory states that a tragic cosmic coincidence put an end to the era of dinosaurs on Earth. A 12-kilometer-wide meteorite crashed in the area currently occupied by the Yucatan Peninsula in southern Mexico 65 million years ago. At over 20 kilometers per second, this collision was violent enough to kill the largest creatures to ever roam our planet.
One second before, or one second after, the crash wouldn't have had the terrible consequences it had, both in terms of the destruction it caused and the effects on the atmosphere that led to the extinction of over 76% of the species on the planet at that moment. It is possible that the cloud that darkened the skies and that caused the planet's cooling would not have been as terrible if the meteorite had crashed in the middle of the Pacific or the Atlantic, which would have prolonged the dinosaurs' time on Earth, with incalculable consequences. This mass extinction provoked the emergence of mammals and, with it, the evolution of hominids, the predecessors of humans, all as a result of a cosmic fluke.
But, how much do you really know about dinosaurs? Keep reading to find out some of the most common myths about them:
They all lived together at the same time
Most people imagine that, 65 million years ago, all life happened in a world of swamps, giant insects, pterodactyls, brachiosaurus, triceratops, velociraptors, a few T-rex, and other dinosaurs frequently portrayed in pop culture, but the reality was quite different.
When you think about the fact that dinosaurs dominated Earth for 135 million years (from the beginning of the Triassic and until the end of Cretaceous), it is quite evident that not all dinosaurs were alive at the same time or even in the same area, since both continents (there were only two: Laurasia and Gondwana) were separated by huge expanses of water.
You can bring them back to life with DNA remnants
Jurassic Park portrays a possibility that for many dino fans seemed quite plausible: bringing back dinosaurs using genetic engineering. The question many scientific -and not so scientific- minds then asked was: can we bring back these giants using the remains of their DNA?
The scientific answer is that -at least for now, this is impossible -because DNA can only remain in ideal conditions for replication inside bone fragments for 6.8 million years, roughly one tenth of the time that has passed since dinosaurs went extinct.
They lived at the same time as one of our ancestors
Although this might seem like a strange idea, some people still believe that dinosaurs and some kind of hominid (even Homo sapiens) were alive at the same. Although some dinosaurs were indeed alive at the time the first mammals appeared, the time difference between the extinction of these giant reptiles and the emergence of the first hominids is about 65 million years.
They all went extinct at the same time
The story is well known: a meteorite caused the mass extinction of the Cretaceous period, and this led to the extinction of all dinosaurs, but things are much more complicated than that. It is true that over 76% of the species alive at that moment died, but the process of extinction took tens of thousands of years, and over a dozen (small) species managed to survive: they are the ones that later evolved into birds.
They were huge and dumb
The general idea about dinosaurs is that they were enormous and clumsy, with low intelligence, and most of them were incapable of doing much. This misunderstanding has led to absurd ideas, such as that this was the reason they went extinct.
Although many dinosaurs (specially herbivores) didn't have particularly large brains, carnivores did have a more developed central nervous system. One of them, the troodon, is still being studied by several research teams that have even posited the hypothesis that this theropod was capable of complex communication and had something resembling self-awareness, something that would put it way above all the other species from the Cretaceous period.
The illustrations for this article belong to Luis Atilano. Follow him on Instagram.
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