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. They are formed by being surrounded by dirt and sand, which changes the natural decaying process. Therefore, the bones or other objects become fossilized.
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 biggest indicators that these massive creatures existed. Through bone fossils, we are able to discover all different types of dinosaurs that existed. Unfortunately, not all dinosaur bones fossilize; therefore, there are a lot more dinosaurs that existed than we will ever find fossils for.
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 what their feet looked like. If more than one footprint is found, then scientists can learn how big of steps a particular dinosaur took. The largest footprint found was big enough to sit in. 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. This 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 absolutely amazing 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?
Fossils are most often found by paleontologists. Paleontologists are scientists who study, search for and restore fossils. Since scientists do not know where dinosaur fossils are, searching for them is a very long pain-staking ordeal. Most are found within sedimentary rocks. Therefore, paleontologists will often look for dinosaur bones within sedimentary rock near areas where other dinosaur fossils have been found previously.
Not all dinosaur bones were found by paleontologists. Many have been accidentally discovered when others are digging the earth for other reasons like building houses. Once an area where a dinosaur fossil has been found, an excavation site will be constructed. They will rope off the area where they will be excavating to protect the bones. 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. When fossils are first discovered, they can be very fragile. Once treated, the bones will be reconstructed like a very big puzzle to form the dinosaur that left them. Many of these reconstructions are found in museums across the world. So far, around one thousand different kinds of dinosaurs have been found.
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 what the dinosaur looked like.
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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 largest dinosaurs ever discovered was the Supersaurus, which stands over one hundred feet tall. This 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. That is longer than an American competitive pool. The diplodocus has a very long neck at 26 feet. That is up to five times the length of a giraffe's neck. The tail was forty-five feet. That is longer than a flagpole. At ninety feet long, it is longer than the largest whale, which is the blue whale.
The smallest dinosaur discovered so far is as small 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.
Meat Eating Dinosaurs
One of the fiercest dinosaurs were 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, literally 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, 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 large giraffe. Other herbivores included a stegosaurus and a triceratops. Stegosauruses were covered with 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 they could chew plants. They were not big enough to chew meat but could shred vegetation. Also, herbivore's teeth tended to be ground down due to a lot of chewing and grinding. In order to chew up a plant, they need to grind their teeth, whereas when chewing meat, you need to stab it as you chew. Some herbivore teeth were more like spoons. Not all animals chewed their food. Some would swallow vegetation whole, along with rocks. The rocks 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. The first dinosaur bone was discovered in 1820; it was another hundred years before scientists uncovered their first fossilized dinosaur nest. The nest was found in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia.
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 were buried under dirt, which would have looked like a mound.
It is believed that many of the 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 theory most often accepted is that sixty-five million years ago, a meteorite hit the earth, which caused dust to rise all over the earth. The skies became very dark due to the dust blocking the sunlight. Due to the lack of sunlight, many of the plants died, which was the main source of food for many of the dinosaurs. Without proper food, 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 a many very interesting dinosaurs, yet many more are left still undiscovered. Through the hard work of paleontologist, 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