Dinosaurs are pop culture favorites and it’s easy to see why. They fought epic with horns, teeth and claws that are more terrifying than any other weapon. They looked wilder, and sometimes weirder, than any other beast in any fiction. And they were all real.
But we had the misfortune (or happiness) to miss them by about 65 million years. Therefore, we see real dinosaurs only in glimpses. Glimpses that are sometimes so bizarre or obscure that dinosaurs do not fall under the pop culture of prehistoric life.
10. Dinosaurs had dandruff
Feathered dinosaurs had a huge amount of dandruff. An unattractive but interesting fact is that dinosaurs did not shed their skin like an old suit like lizards do. Instead, dinosaurs got rid of dead skin particles, piece by piece, in the form of dandruff.
The Middle Jurassic (second era of the Jurassic) experienced the proliferation of feather-covered dinosaurs, whose descendants gradually evolved into birds. Along with the evolved feathers, dandruff has evolved, and fossil feathers are riddled with skin particles. Modern birds also molt, but their skin particles are salted and act as a biological cooling system that retains and dissipates heat during flight.
Dinosaur dandruff is similar to bird and human dander. It is made up of keratin, a strong, fibrous protein involved in hair, horns and hooves. But dinosaur dander is devoid of fat, which suggests that dinosaur dandruff was not capable of flying. And so dandruff has become an unattractive indicator of which prehistoric creatures could climb into the sky and which could not.
9. Dinosaurs-mothers created “kindergartens” like bird
Hattori Dinosaurs were not recognized for their sociability. But imagine: colonies of nesting dinosaurs working together to guard their unhatched chicks, just like the birds they will later become.
This touching painting depicts the 80 millionth collection of heaps of eggs (clutches) found in the Gobi Desert. A total of 15 clutches were found with a total of at least 50 eggs. A flood in the distant past, which so successfully preserved them, also left another memento: a solid red strip of sedimentary rock through all the eggs, thereby dating them to the same nesting period.
The theropods (carnivorous dinosaurs) are responsible for demonstrating the generic behavior popular among modern birds and crocodiles. But dinosaurs did this even before the evolutionary split (facilitated by the fall of the asteroid), after which the birds appeared.
In short, pooled parenting probably worked the same way back then as it does today. More than half of the nests showed signs of at least one successful hatching, on par with the success rates in crocodiles and birds.
8. The dumbest dinosaurs were also the toughest
duck-billed, humpbacked herbivores known as hadrosaurs are abundant among the fossils with preserved skin. Hadrosaurus skin (in fact, its fossilized remains) is preserved more often and in greater quantities than any other skin.
Two reasons have been proposed for this. Perhaps hadrosaurs lived and died near rivers, where they were more prone to sediment and fossilization. Or maybe they just had larger populations. But hadrosaurs are found everywhere. And an abundance of hadrosaur fossils containing skin are found even where other species outnumber them.
Therefore, scientists have proposed a new explanation: hadrosaurs had the hardest skin of all. One study analyzed nearly 200 reports covering the period from 1840 to 2010. It was found that of the 123 remains of dinosaur bodies with preserved skin, almost half (57) belonged to hadrosaurs.
Another study focused on fossils found in the Hell Creek Formation. Of the 22 dinosaur fossils that show skin, 20 are from the hadrosaurid family. One of all the samples tested even had “enough leather to cover a car.”
7. Tyrannosaure were too slow to chase and catch up
With its supposed Olympic sprint speed, the Tyrannosaurus could overtake and deal with just about any creature. Except for the (insignificant) person running slightly above average, it is.
Scientists have studied more than 500 species of animals, including whales, to determine the ratio of size and speed. The biological limiting factor is oxygen, or more specifically, the absence of it. Short-distance running is an anaerobic exercise and the oxidation of fuel sources cannot happen fast enough to sustain it for long. Larger animals deplete their oxidative capacity even faster.
So while scientists in the past have attributed to Tyrannosaurus a terrifying top speed of 45 mph (72 km / h), its exorbitant size would actually limit it to the ability to trot at best . What’s its new, more accurate top speed? Modest 16.5 mph (26.6 km / h). Not that big of a deal, considering that the average person can hit 15 mph (24 km / h).
6. Some of the dinosaurs were incredibly small.
Some of the most amazing dinosaurs were also the smallest. One such creature, recently discovered in 99 million-year-old Mesozoic fossils, may be the tiniest dinosaur in history.
It is a small dinosaur of the species Oculudentavis khaungraae. And scientists have so far found only his headless head, preserved in Burmese amber. But what a head! It is only half an inch (1.3 cm) in size, similar to a hummingbird, yet smaller than any other modern hummingbird.
This creature is somewhere between lizards and airplanes. He has lizard eyes, which suggests he was active during the day. But it also had a mouth full of teeth like a dinosaur. The combination of features makes this small “bird-rex” one of the missing links between dinosaurs and birds.
Oculudentavis khaungraae also illustrates how dinosaurs survived over 150 million years ago. They used every adaptive strategy such as tiny size and taking advantage of resources that their giant cousins avoided.
5. Dinosaurs Suffered from Feather-Eating Parasites
Feathered dinosaurs may have been constantly grooming their plumage, like birds do, to get rid of feather-eating parasites. As old as the world: as soon as a niche opens, evolution creates something new to fill it. Often to the detriment of someone. And when the dinosaurs acquired feathers, they soon began to suffer from defeat by lice-like bugs that fed on these feathers.
These bugs are so tiny and fragile that they rarely turn into fossils. Out of thousands of amber samples, researchers have only recently discovered a lice found in Burmese amber 100 million years old.
Inside the amber were two dinosaur feathers. And they seemed to have been nibbled. Upon closer inspection, the scientists discovered 10 prehistoric small insects and named them Mesophthirus engeli. The Mesozoic devourers were only almost twice the width of a human hair, perhaps because they were cubs, or larvae. But the adults were hardly much larger: maybe only 0.06 cm longer.
4. Dinosaurs did not live in every part of the planet
Dinosaurs seemed to be everywhere. They dominated every part of the Earth despotically and enslaved our mammalian ancestors. But almost 30 million years after their appearance (240 million years ago), dinosaurs could not populate the equator.
In lower latitudes, only a select, small contingent of meat-eaters could live. Researchers have mapped the ancient ecosystem by examining the carbon content of soil and plants, flora diversity, and fossil record.
It turned out that the equator was hell on Earth. Incredible climatic swings that raged over and over again chased moisture away and turned fertile lands into arid wastelands. The intense heat led to drought and violent forest fires. The fire destroyed the ground to the ground, spoiled the soil and intensified erosion, leaving no vegetation for the huge herbivorous long-necked sauropods that dominated other latitudes.
This vision of the past can also be a vision of the future. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 6 times higher than today. And the middle latitudes resembled the scorched, sun-dried western United States. With such a shortage of resources, only the smallest and most unpretentious dinosaurs could survive near the equator.
3. Early dinosaurs laid eggs with soft, skin-like shells
For a time, all recovered dinosaur eggs had a hard shell. But this is only because they have survived to this day. It turns out dinosaurs have begun to lay soft, pliable eggs.
And eggs with soft shells were not laid by several species. Molecular analysis tells us that all early dinosaur eggs were non-mineralized. Instead, the small embryos inside were wrapped in a leathery shell, like the eggs of modern turtles and snakes. In order for their cubs to survive, dinosaurs buried their clutches and left them underground to hatch.
But evolution ended up accidentally adding calcium to this mixture. Calcification made the eggs harder and tougher, less like reptile eggs and more like bird eggs… And evolution favors the reuse of proven designs. Thus, the change from hard to soft shell occurred independently for each of the two main orders of dinosaurs: Lizard-like, or Zaurichia (Tyrannosaurus, Diplodocus) and Ornithischia, or Ornithischia (Stegosaurus, Ceratops, Iguanodon).
2. Tyrannosaurs Couldn’t Move Their Tongues
Almost every image of a snarling, tongue-wiggling Tyrannosaurus is incorrect. The tyrant lizard actually had a crocodile tongue that was attached to the bottom of its mouth.
This reveals a massive comparison of languages. Including the languages of dinosaurs, related pterosaurs (flying reptiles) and, for perspective, the languages of “modern dinosaurs” such as crocodiles and birds. Animals that could move their tongues had a longer hyoid bone of a different shape (the bone to which the tongue muscles are attached). Evolutionarily similar pterosaurs and predators had a hyoid bone that allowed them to move their tongues freely. Like modern birds.
But most dinosaurs had short hyoid bones and a large amount of cartilage that fixed tongues rigidly (like alligators), suggesting that dinosaur tongues were attached to the floor of the mouth. But tongue mobility isn’t all that necessary for creatures like alligators and tyrannosaurs, who didn’t have the time or the need to chew as they tore their prey to pieces and swallow without chewing.
Although representatives of one of the two orders of dinosaurs did have an extended mobility of the tongue, these are the herbivorous dinosaurs of the order Poultry (or Ornithischia). This group included Triceratops and other horned “armored” dinosaurs that chewed on rough, fibrous plants all day long.
1. Powerful meat-eaters were forced to feed on carrion and eat their own kind of
Allosaurus, a smaller, but equally ferocious version of Tyrannosaurus, was a monstrous predator, a real devil. But Allosaurus and its larger cousin weren’t always predators. Sometimes they were forced to feed on carrion. Evidence for Allosaurus’ less worthy eating habits comes from a 150 million year old hoard of fossils found in the Mygatt-Moore Quarry in Colorado, USA.
Of the 2,368 bones found in the quarry, about 700 had Allosaurus tooth marks. Many of the bones with teeth marks belonged to herbivores, but almost 17% belonged to other allosaurs. And bite marks have been found on the least nutritious parts of the torso, such as the legs. They were eaten last, and therefore often fell to scavengers.
When times were tough and food supplies were depleted, Allosaurus gnawed at the legs and other leftovers of their fallen brethren. These carcasses have accumulated in a sophisticated ancient ecosystem in Colorado prone to droughts.