Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries California Academy of Sciences Dinosaurs - Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries

Dino Trivia

Want to kickstart an intellectual conversation at your next party? Toss out a few of these juicy factoids and watch everybody chatter excitedly over this fascinating dino knowledge.

    Longipteryx © AMNH
  • Dinosaur fossils have been known for millennia, though their true nature was not always recognized. The early Chinese thought they were the bones of dragons, and Europeans thought they were the remains of giants and other creatures killed by the Great Flood.
  • The first dinosaur species to be identified and named was Iguanodon, discovered in 1822 by the English geologist Gideon Mantell, who recognized similarities between his fossils and the bones of modern iguanas.
  • Dinosaur fossils were first found in the Western hemisphere in 1855.
  • The first T. rex was found in 1902 in Montana.
  • The Apatosaurus was once known as the Brontosaurus. Othniel Charles Marsh, who discovered the Apatosaurus, mistakenly placed the head of a Camarasaurus on its body and called it Brontosaurus.
  • The Apatosaurus belonged to the genus of sauropod dinosaurs that lived during the Jurassic period, 140 million years ago. At 15 feet tall, with a length of up to 80 feet and a mass of up to 40 tons, it was one of the largest land animals that have ever existed. No one knows how the Apatosaurus ate enough to satisfy the needs of its enormous body. They probably ate constantly, pausing only to drink and cool off.
  • Only a tiny percentage of animals become fossils, so fossil evidence of the smallest and largest dinosaurs will probably never be found. The smallest known dinosaurs were about the size of a chicken.
  • The name Tyrannosaurus rex means “tyrant lizard king,” and they lived during the late Cretaceous period, about 65-66 million years ago.
  • Scientists once thought T. rex could run faster than 25 miles per hour, but recent mathematical analysis suggests that this would require an impossible concentration of muscle mass – 41% of the entire body’s mass – in the legs.
  • The first Antarctic dinosaur, Cryolophosaurus ellioti, was formally named and described in a scientific journal in 1994. Current discovery hotspots include Argentina and China, which has produced many exceptionally well-preserved feathered dinosaurs.
  • Dinosaur backbones are hollowed-out like those of birds and must have been filled with air-chambers, showing that the dinosaurian lung worked in an avian fashion and was twice as efficient as the mammalian lung.
  • Strong evidence has been found for powerful bonds between dinosaur mothers, fathers and siblings:
    • Dinosaur babies have bones with an open-weave texture that shows they grew as fast as baby birds, a feat possible only when parents feed the young.
    • Meat-eating dinosaurian parents dragged prey carcasses back to their nest to feed their babies.
  • Dinosaur legs, on average, were stronger than those of fast-moving big mammals today, such as rhinos, buffalo and elephant.
  • Dinosaur rib cages are huge - an indication of gigantic hearts and prodigious capacity for prolonged exertions.
  • Dinosaurian evolution was very fast. They produced new species much more quickly than cold-blooded lizards and crocodiles.
  • Eomaia © AMNH
    Eomaia is a shrewlike mammal from Liaoning, China, that is considered to be a close relative of all living placental mammals, which give birth to live young.

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