With large reptiles featuring sharp teeth and menacing roars captivating audiences on the big screen, you may wonder if these large creatures were real or simply figments of Hollywood’s imagination?
Considering that the largest creatures today dwell in the ocean, it’s difficult for many humans to imagine a world filled with such large creatures.
These creatures were largely reptilian, and many were dangerous.
Even harder to imagine is a world that is several hundreds of millions of years old.
Humans have short memories and being able to grasp that there have been many people, civilizations, and creatures before their current time is complex.
Despite the complexity, there is physical evidence that proves the existence of past people, civilizations, and creatures.
Here’s what you need to know about dinosaurs and whether they were real or not.
Were Dinosaurs Real?
Yes, Dinosaurs were, in fact, real.
Although many civilizations have likely discovered bones before the current modern one, the first recorded discovery of a dinosaur bone rests with Robert Plot in 1622.
At the time, having no context for the bone, he believed it had come from a giant human.
That belief would continue until William Buckland, a geologist and museum curator, identified more bones in the 19th century.
The bones he found happened to match the ones that Robert Plot had found two hundred years earlier.
Buckland examined the bones he had been given to analyze—jaws, limbs, and teeth—and determined that they came from the same creature.
He named the creature Megalosaurus.
The term “dinosaur” had yet to be coined.
He believe that what he had discovered in 1824 was an ancient lizard.
Buckland is the first to have the credit of naming a dinosaur.
Two years before his official name, another individual, Mary Ann Mantell, also discovered bones.
The creature she put together looked like some form of iguana.
Because of this, she eventually named the creature Iguanadon.
This was the second dinosaur named even before the term “dinosaur” existed.
It wasn’t until 1842 that Sir Richard Owen realized that these bones belonged to a new group of ancient creatures.
He named them dinosaurs.
He took the word deinos from the Greek word for large or terrible and the word sauros from the Greek word for lizard.
Thus, a new group of creatures emerged, and it garnered a lot of interest in discovering more of these creatures.
How Long Ago Did Dinosaurs Live?
One of the confusing aspects of dinosaurs is understanding how long ago they were alive.
The current historical record dates the first dinosaurs back to 245 million years ago.
They spanned every continent, thus indicating that they covered the world long before man did.
The earliest period in which dinosaurs lived is known as the Triassic Period.
This spans the time between 250 million and 200 million years ago.
The Jurassic Period came after that, stretching from 200 million years to 145 million years ago.
The final period of the dinosaurs, the Cretaceous Period, spanned from 145 million years ago to 66 million years ago.
These three periods together make up the Mesozoic Era.
What Dinosaurs Lived During The Triassic Period?
Most dinosaurs that people know today come from the Cretaceous Period.
That’s because this period is the closest to our own history.
It’s also closer to the surface in geological studies, which means paleontologists find them faster and more easily than those from other periods.
That said, some known species of dinosaurs came from the Triassic Period.
Here are some dinosaurs that came from the Triassic Period.
Chindesaurus came from what is now America and lived in the Late Triassic Period.
This means it lived at least 227 million to 210 million years ago.
Although paleontologists haven’t found a skull yet, they have found leg bones and tail bones.
These discoveries indicated that Chindesaurus had a long whip-like tail and long legs.
It’s estimated that the dinosaur could come up to the average person’s chest.
It’s classified as a small theropod with a carnivorous diet.
It received its name in 1995.
Coelophysis also lived in the Late Triassic Period between 225 million and 190 million years ago.
It had a carnivorous diet and was also quite small.
Its body measured two meters in length and only weighed around 27 kilograms.
One of the features of Ceolophysis that was common among other dinosaurs of this time was its hollow bones.
Their hollow bones allowed them to be quite light, agile, and to move quickly.
Dinosaurs during this period were not at the top of the food chain.
As such, they had to rely on speed and agility to survive and eat.
Paleontologists found this dinosaur’s bones in areas that are now known as South Africa, Zimbabwe, and the United States.
Found in what is now Argentina, the Eoraptor was another small dinosaur that had a carnivorous diet.
Its teeth are one of its most interesting features.
It had razor-sharp teeth that, while small, were curved backward.
This allowed them to shred meat with ease.
Paleontologists believe that the Eoraptor acted more like a scavenger or an ambush predator than going up against prey on its own.
Another dinosaur discovered in Argentina is the Riojasaurus.
A rarer dinosaur, they have only found 20 skeletons of it so far.
This was a larger dinosaur that reached 5.15 meters in length.
Reminiscent of the Brontosaurus that would come later, the Riojasaurus had a long neck.
It used its long neck to eat various leaves and other herbs.
However, scientists discovered that this species didn’t eat vegetation alone.
They were omnivores.
It lived in the Late Triassic Period between 221 million and 210 million years ago.
One of the earliest dinosaurs to live in the Triassic Period was Staurikosaurus.
This was a relatively large theropod that had a length of two meters.
It was also carnivorous.
It was originally discovered in Brazil.
Believed to have preyed on insects, the Liliensternus dinosaur was another small theropod of the Triassic Period.
It’s believed to have lived between 205 and 202 million years ago.
It was five meters long, and its bones were found in France and Germany.
What Dinosaurs Lived During The Jurassic Period?
While the Triassic Period saw the emergence of dinosaurs, it was the Jurassic Period that saw them start to reach their prime.
From this period come the dinosaurs that are better known in history based on the availability of fossils.
Here are some of the dinosaurs that came from the Jurassic Period.
One of the most effective predators in the Late Jurassic Period was the Allosaurus.
It lived between 156 and 144 million years ago.
One of the reasons it made such an effective predator was its teeth.
The Allosaurus had serrated teeth that were similar to daggers.
They were five to 10 centimeters long and even curved backward to ensure their prey couldn’t escape.
The Allosaurus was also quite large.
It had a length of 12 meters and weighed an average of 2,000 kilograms or roughly 4,400 pounds!
It would tower above humans today.
They’d essentially measure up to an Allosaurus’s leg.
Paleontologists have found Allosaurus bones in both Portugal and the United States.
Not all dinosaurs in the Jurassic period were meat-eaters, however.
One of the largest dinosaurs, the Brachiosaurus, actually ate leaves and other herbs.
It’s believed that this creature evolved its long neck to be able to reach the tops of trees with more ease.
This large dinosaur grew to 30 meters long.
The average human is lucky if they could come up to the Brachiosaurus’s calf.
It lived 155 to 140 million years ago.
Paleontologists have found its bones in several different parts of the world, including
Portugal, Algeria, the United States, and even Tanzania.
One of the first evolutions towards the modern-day bird species is the Archaeopteryx.
Believed to have wings on its scaly body, the reptile lived around 147 million years ago.
It would branch into the Cretaceous Period.
This was a small dinosaur that only grew to less than a half meter in length.
It was a meat-eater, however, and had several conical-shaped teeth on the top of its jaw.
Paleontologists believe that Archaeopteryx likely ate small mammals, insects, and smaller lizards.
This species of dinosaur has only ever been found in Germany.
There has been some debate over how the Diplodocus dinosaur managed to hold up its neck.
With an extremely long neck that brought its length to around 26 meters, Paleontologists have often puzzled over how its body managed to support such a long neck.
One theory is that ligaments connected the neck to the skeleton, which allowed Diplodocus to hold its neck horizontally without using muscles.
Another theory of the Diplodocus is that it had small and pointy spines running along its back to discourage predators from biting it.
Like other long-necked dinosaurs, the Diplodocus fed on leaves and soft plants.
It lived between 155 and 145 million years ago.
They’ve discovered the bones of Diplodocus throughout the United States.
Another famous herbivore is the Stegosaurus.
Paleontologists have discovered many bones of the Stegosaurus which have allowed them to understand this dinosaur quite well.
They know that it had a spiky tail which it likely used to fend off Allosauruses and other carnivores.
They know that it had plates on its back, but they aren’t sure of the full purpose behind them.
These plates attached to the skin rather than the bones which would make pulling them off easier, albeit just as painful.
Some believe that the plates helped protect them from predators.
Others believe that the plates allowed the species to recognize one another.
Some even believe that the plates may have been useful for regulating their body temperatures.
Plates have blood vessels running through them which would have allowed heat transfer.
One thing they do know about Stegosaurus is that it had a tiny head in relation to the rest of its body.
Its brain was about the size of a plum.
It lived between 155 and 145 million years ago.
What Dinosaurs Lived In The Cretaceous Period?
The group of dinosaurs that lived during the Cretaceous Period is one of the most well-known.
Paleontologists have found tons of fossils of several different dinosaur pieces from this period.
Here are some of the dinosaurs that lived during the Cretaceous Period.
One of the early predators of the Cretaceous Period was the Carnotaurus.
Although smaller than the T-Rex, the Carnotaurus was an effective predator.
It featured a length of 7.6 meters and was taller than the average human.
It’s also best known for its horns which give it an almost bull-like appearance.
The Carnotaurus lived 70 million years ago and was first found in Argentina.
With a name that means “chicken mimic,” the Gallimimus was a known omnivore.
It ate plants and likely insects as well.
It’s similar to the modern-day chicken because of its long legs that it used to run quickly away from predators.
It had a decent length of six meters (almost 20 feet) and weighed around 200 kilograms or 441 pounds.
These bones were first discovered in Mongolia.
One of the oddest dinosaurs is the Oviraptor.
This was a smaller dinosaur that didn’t have any teeth despite having an omnivorous diet.
Instead, it had a strong beak that it used to eat shellfish, hard fruits, and even eggs.
It lived 85 to 75 million years ago, and its bones were first found in Mongolia.
It was also quite small with an average length of two meters.
Although not is much known about the Spinosaurus since paleontologists have only found a few fossils, they do believe that the Spinosaurus was the longest meat-eater.
It was more slender than either the T. Rex or the Giganotosaurus, but it had the greatest length at 18 meters or more than 59 feet.
Its teeth were flat and similar to blades.
Its diet was likely comprised of fish and even smaller dinosaurs.
The Spinosaurus has a reputation for being a water-dwelling creature, but its legs also allowed it to operate on land.
It lived 95 to 70 million years ago.
5. Tyrannosaurus Rex
Perhaps one of the best-known dinosaurs is the T. Rex.
This large reptile had incredible biting power with its 60 teeth.
Each tooth was eight inches long and could crush through bones.
It’s estimated that it had a biting power three times more powerful than a lion.
It had a length of 12 meters (39 feet) and weighed about 7,000 kilograms (more than 15,000 pounds!).
It lived 68 to 66 million years ago.
Paleontologists have found its bones in both Canada and the United States.
Another thing that has come to light about the T. Rex is that it acted as both a predator and a scavenger.
There’s also some evidence that suggests it may have lived in packs similar to wolves today.
Although there are several different types of raptors, the Velociraptor has received a lot of love from dinosaur fans over the years.
There are also a lot of misconceptions about what the velociraptor looked like.
For one, it was actually quite small.
It only had a length of 1.8 meters and would only come up to a human’s waist.
It was also covered in feathers.
That said, another recent discovery, the Utahraptor, is actually larger than most other raptors in that it comes up to a human’s chest, if not higher.
The Velociraptor had short, sharp teeth that were extremely pointed.
They lived 74 to 70 million years ago.
Paleontologists have found their fossils in Mongolia.
They’re believed to have worked in packs like wolves.
What Killed The Dinosaurs?
Considering how ferocious dinosaurs are and how large they could become, there’s no question that humans would have found it difficult to coexist with them.
Luckily for humans, there was an extinction event that caused the destruction of most species of dinosaurs.
The currently accepted theory of what happened to the dinosaurs is that they died when an asteroid struck the Earth.
The subsequent climate change that came as a result of the impact killed off the remaining dinosaurs.
This theory started in 1980 when Luis Walter Alvarez and his son determined that the reason there was a layer of iridium-rich clay in Mexico was that an asteroid had landed there.
The asteroid collided with Earth and killed everything within the vicinity of the strike.
This theory is so largely accepted because it also coincides with the time most of the non-bird dinosaurs died off.
Besides destroying the area, the asteroid also caused huge tidal waves that washed over several surfaces of the earth.
Wildfires also broke out which destroyed even more parts of the world.
Before the asteroid struck, it also affected plant growth.
Although the encroaching asteroid didn’t block out the sun, it did impede a good deal of it.
This meant that the plants weren’t able to thrive as much as they did before.
With less food, the herbivores started to starve to death.
This also had an effect on the rest of the food chain.
Climate change that was already occurring at the time was also making life difficult.
Volcanic activity in India was regularly killing off dinosaurs during eruptions.
However, that asteroid was the ultimate tipping point for the extinction of the dinosaurs.
The dinosaurs were real, reptilian creatures that lived several hundred million years ago.
Although traces of their descendants still live today, the dinosaurs that once ruled the earth have long since been extinct.
The reason behind their extinction was a mixture of climate change and volcanic activity, but it was an asteroid strike that spelled doomed for them.