Facts about Dinosaurs for Kids
How Big Were Dinosaurs?
Millions of years ago, there lived an entire species of animals that are extinct today. That species was the dinosaurs. They lived for over 150 million years and became extinct 65 million years ago. Although there are no dinosaurs that walk the earth today, some of their distant relatives do. Crocodiles and birds are the closest living relatives of the dinosaur. By studying birds and crocodiles, we have a better understanding of the dinosaur.
Tyrannosaurus Rex Fossil
The only way that any of us truly know that dinosaurs existed is by the evidence they left behind. Evidence could be in the form of bone fossils, footprints, fossilized eggs, and even fossilized poop. Fossils are remains of either plants or animals that lived at least ten thousand years ago. When dirt and sand surround bones, it changes the natural decaying process, which causes the bones or other objects to fossilize.
Bone Fossils: Most dinosaur fossils that exist today are bones. The first bone of a dinosaur was discovered in 1820, nearly two hundred years ago. The fossils of dinosaur bones are the most prominent indicators that these massive creatures existed. Through bone fossils, we can discover all different types of dinosaurs that existed. Unfortunately, not all dinosaur bones fossilize; therefore, there are a lot more dinosaurs that lived than we will ever find fossils.
Footprints: One of the rarest dinosaur discoveries found is that of footprints left behind by dinosaurs. Fossilized footprints help us know how the dinosaurs walked, and how their feet looked. If a scientist discovers more than one imprint, they learn how big of steps a particular dinosaur took. The most massive footprint found was big enough for someone to sit. These footprints were left behind by the Titanosaurus and measured three feet wide.
Eggs: The most precious evidence that scientists have found are the eggs of dinosaurs, which allows us to know whether they made a nest, how many eggs they laid, and how big their babies were when they hatched. Egg discoveries are fantastic finds and tell us a lot about the dinosaur.
Fossilized Poop: Oh, yes, just like they have found fossilized footprints, bones, and eggs, scientists have even uncovered fossilized poop. By finding dinosaur excrement, it gives us a better idea about the dinosaur's diet.
What Is Paleontology?
Paleontologists, scientists who study, search, and restore fossils, find most fossils. Since they do not know where dinosaur fossils are, searching for them is a very long pain-staking ordeal, digging through layers of rock, although fossils are most often in sedimentary rocks.
Paleontologists were not the only ones to find dinosaur bones. Many discoveries occurred when someone dug the earth for other reasons, like building houses. Soon that spot would become an excavation site in hopes of finding more hidden bones. They rope off the area where they will be excavating to protect the area. Then they will carefully break away the sedimentary rock and dust away loose sand.
Once fossils have become uncovered, paleontologists will then treat the bones to make them more durable. They also may glue broken bones together and reconstruct bones that may be missing. A newly discovered fossil is very fragile. Once treated, the bones will be reconstructed like an enormous puzzle to form the dinosaur that left them and often placed in museums across the world. So far, scientists have found around one thousand different kinds of dinosaurs.
The final thing a paleontologist does is give the dinosaur a name. Some will name them after themselves, while others may use a Greek or Latin name that describes the dinosaur.
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How Big Were They?
Dinosaurs are the biggest animals that ever walked on this earth. Not all dinosaurs were big. Some were as small as a chicken, but others were huge. One of the most enormous dinosaurs ever discovered was the Supersaurus. It stands over one hundred feet tall, which means it could stand taller than a ten-story building, or imagine twenty moms standing on top of each other.
Although not the tallest dinosaur, the diplodocus is one of the longest animals that ever lived. From the tip of the tail to the top of the head, the dinosaur was ninety feet long, which is longer than the blue whale. That is longer than an American competitive pool. The diplodocus has a very long neck at 26 feet, which is five times the length of a giraffe's neck. The tail was even longer at forty-five feet. That is longer than a flagpole.
The smallest dinosaur discovered so far is as little as a chicken and called compsognathus. It was a meat-eater, which lets us know that there were other animals on earth when dinosaurs were alive, for it is highly doubtful that a three-foot-tall dinosaur was eating dinosaurs much larger than itself.
Types of Dinosaurs
Although none of us know for sure what dinosaurs were like, we do know that some were built to be fierce attackers and ate other dinosaurs or animals. There are two main types of dinosaurs, which can be separated by what they ate. Dinosaurs that ate meat are called carnivores. Most dinosaurs did not eat meat. They were gentle creatures who ate only plants. These dinosaurs are called herbivores.
One of the fiercest dinosaurs was the Tyrannosaurus Rex. They ate meat. Due to their terrifying appearance, scientists named them Tyrannosaurus Rex. Tyrannosaurus means 'tyrant lizard,' while Rex means 'king' in Latin. A Megalosaurus was another meat-eating dinosaur, that got its name because it was mega big. Megalosaurus means 'big lizard.' A spinosaurus was another meat eater.
We know these dinosaurs were meat-eaters because they had sharp, blade-like teeth and powerful jaws. These are needed to eat meat and dig through the flesh of other dinosaurs. They also had claws, which were needed to hold onto their prey.
Giraffatitan is one of the largest dinosaurs, and fortunately for the other dinosaurs, it was an herbivore. Giraffatitan was named this because it had a long neck like a giraffe, and titan means large. This dinosaur was like a giant giraffe. Other herbivores included a stegosaurus and triceratops. Stegosauruses had hard plates and spikes on their backs and tails. It was thirty feet long, which is equal to five to six adults laying down head to foot. They would use these spikes to protect themselves from carnivorous dinosaurs, by swinging their tail. That is why they were called stegosaurus, which means a 'covered lizard.' Triceratops got their name because they had three horns. Tri means three. They would also use their horns to protect themselves from carnivorous dinosaurs, by headbutting them.
Scientists can tell a dinosaur is a herbivore because of their teeth. Triceratops had scissorlike teeth so that they could chew plants. They were not big enough to eat meat but could shred vegetation. Also, herbivore's teeth tended to be ground down due to a lot of chewing and grinding. To chew up a plant, they need to grind their teeth, whereas when eating meat, you need to stab it as you chew. Some herbivore teeth were more like spoons, although not all animals chewed their food. Some swallowed vegetation whole, along with rocks, and the stones would chop up the food in the stomach.
Do They Lay Eggs?
All dinosaurs did lay eggs, although every dinosaur's eggs looked different. Some eggs were perfectly round like a basketball, while others were long and skinny. In 1820, a scientist discovered the first dinosaur bone. A hundred years later, in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, scientists uncovered their first fossilized dinosaur nest.
The biggest fossilized dinosaur egg was eighteen inches long. That is bigger than most people's heads. Most eggs were found in soft dirt nests, although some buried under dirt, which merely looked like a mound.
Most likely, many hatchlings could survive right away when they hatched, while some were taken care of by their mothers until they were strong enough to survive. Although dinosaurs all laid eggs, they each varied in the way they took care of their young.
How Did They Extinct?
A question most often asked about dinosaurs is, how did dinosaurs become extinct? There are many theories as to how the dinosaurs became extinct. The argument most often accepted is that sixty-five million years ago, a meteorite hit the earth, which caused dust to rise all over the planet. The skies became very dark due to the dust blocking the sunlight. Without sunlight, many plants died, which was the primary source of food for many of the dinosaurs. Without proper nourishment, they began to die. Even the meat-eating dinosaurs began to die because their food also was dying. Most carnivorous dinosaurs ate plant-eating animals, which were dying due to the lack of vegetation. This period is known as the end of the Age of Dinosaurs.
There are many fascinating dinosaurs, yet many more are left still undiscovered. Through the hard work of paleontologists, we will continue to learn more and more facts about dinosaurs.
- Diplodocus - Dinosaur - Enchanted Learning Software. Accessed February 27, 2018. http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/dinosaurs/dinos/Diplodocus.shtml.
- Gibbons, Gail. Dinosaur Discovery, Holiday House, New York. 2005.
- Milner, Angela Ph.D. and David Norman, Ph.D., Eyewitness Books: Dinosaur; Alfred A Knopf. New York, 1989.
© 2012 Angela Michelle Schultz