There is no RationalWiki without you. We are a small non-profit with no staff — we are hundreds of volunteers who document pseudoscience and crankery around the world every day. We will never allow ads because we must remain independent. We cannot rely on big donors with corresponding big agendas. We are not the largest website around, but we believe we play an important role in defending truth and objectivity.
If everyone seeing this today donates $5, we will meet our goal for 2018.
| Fighting pseudoscience isn't free.|
We are 100% user-supported! Help and donate $5, $20 or whatever you can today with !
Dinosaurs are a group of very diverse animals, ranging in size from extinct forms over 20 times the size of an elephant to the living hummingbirds, that mostly died out about 65 million years ago, unless you
believe The Flintstones was a documentary are a creationist, in which case they (because clearly birds are not dinosaurs) died a few thousand years ago in the global flood because Noah didn't have room for them in the ark. An eminent Christian, Jack Chick, propounds an alternative theory: some dinosaurs were in Noah's ark, and hence were saved. Unfortunately, in the flood many plants were killed. As a consequence, the atmosphere after the flood was poor in oxygen. Big animals, such as dinosaurs, need lots of oxygen! Luckily, some dinosaurs survived even this — ever heard of dragons? This does not make any sense considering that the average dinosaur was about the size of a van. Why would larger modern animals, such as elephants, survive but not the smaller dinosaurs? Simple: that hypothesis is wrong.
Another popular idea is that Satan put all the fossils in the ground to trick humans into believing evolution, or perhaps God put them there to test humanity's faith. A similar idea was that the fossils were faked by scientists. These beliefs come from the idea that since dinosaurs aren't mentioned in the Bible then they are obviously not real, never mind the fact that millions of other real (living) animals aren't mentioned in the Bible either. Another, somewhat more insane idea is that dinosaurs were real, and Satan's own creation.
Creationists also tend to have an early 20th century view of dinosaurs and thus see them as slow moving, cold-blooded reptiles that could be compared to dragons. The fact that birds are a type of dinosaur is usually ignored by creationists.
Seriously, dinosaur fossils are really neat and give a grand view of the wonder and splendor that our world has seen in the past. They also showcase how cool evolution really is.
Dinosaurs are frequently defined as everything descended from the most recent common ancestor of Triceratops and the house sparrow. Thus, birds are the last of the dinosaurs. There is no real reason to exclude birds from dinosaurs as a group for any rational reason either — many popularly known carnivorous dinosaurs almost certainly had feathers and are significantly more similar morphologically to birds than to large quadrupedal herbivorous dinosaurs like Triceratops.
- Tyrannosaurus rex — Ooh, scary, and kids love them. Dubbed the "prize fighter of antiquity" by its discoverer Barnum Brown. It had a bone-crushing bite and ridiculously stubby yet surprisingly powerful arms with two-fingered hands. Paleontologist Jack Horner has suggested it was a scavenger, an idea which gained significant attention during the 1990s but was disproven by the discovery of a duck-billed Edmontosaurus fossil which showed scarring from a T. rex bite which had later healed. Astonishingly, creationists claim this terrifying beast used its giant yet shallow-rooted steak-knife teeth for cracking open coconuts and slicing fruit! (T. rex's teeth were more like railroad spikes than knives, and they were obviously deeply-rooted.)
- Spinosaurus — Another large carnivore theropod dinosaur with a large rectangular sail on its back. It gained infamy thanks to its appearance in Jurassic Park III and is competing with T. rex for the love of children. It is thought to have been primarily aquatic due to its short hindlimbs, which wouldn't have allowed it to move quickly on land.
- Triceratops — A three-horned variety, a contemporary of T. rex and arguably one of the most iconic of all dinosaurs. It had a large serrated bony crest on its head which may have shielded its neck from attack and been used for display. It still exists, despite recent hysteria concerning its relationship to Torosaurus (see section below for details.)
- Iguanodon — One of the earliest dinosaurs found. It was initially thought to be a creature with a small horn, but better evidence altered this theory to show that it was actually a modified thumb. It also might have had the ability to chew its food by moving the food around with its cheeks and biting down.
- Stegosaurus — A herbivore with spikes on its tail and plates on its back. It had a tiny brain and a glycogen body near its hips. In the past this glycogen body was misinterpreted as a second brain which would have aided in locomotion. It is the state dinosaur of Colorado.
- Brontosaurus — A large quadrupedal herbivore with a long tail and a long neck. Formerly believed to live in swamps, the fossil evidence suggests that they were active terrestrial grazers like giant reptilian giraffes. Once thought to be synonymous with Apatosaurus, but a closer inspection and comparison of fossils in 2015 shown it was indeed a separate genus. Cryptozoologists claim they aren't extinct, but no evidence to substantiate their claims has ever surfaced. The theories surrounding the shape of the Brontosaurus are owned by
an elkAnne Elk.
- Diplodocus — Similar to Brontosaurus, only longer and more lightly-built. It was thought that it and its fellow sauropods may have had spines that run along its back in a single row like an iguana, but recent studies have shown these spines were actually spread across the back.
- Brachiosaurus — Another sauropod. Unlike the smaller Brontosaurus and Diplodocus it has longer forelimbs, a domed head, and a shorter tail. It was once thought to have nostrils on the top of its head, but later studies shown they were located on the snout.
- Parasaurolophus — A hadrosaur or duck-billed dinosaur well-known for the tube-like crest on the back of its head that connects all the way to its nose. Creationists think the crest housed glands like the bombardier beetle and thus it was used for breathing fire, when in reality it is for resonating sounds (it had a non-flameproof channel connecting to the lungs).
- Ankylosaurus — A large herbivore with an armored carapace and a bony lump at the end of its tail. It lived alongside Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops. Well-known for being capable of disabling predators with a swipe from its clubbed tail.
- Allosaurus — A large meat-eater from the same time period and region as Stegosaurus and Brontosaurus. The state dinosaur of Utah. It is often confused with T. rex despite having a more slender frame, teeth for slicing as opposed to puncturing, three fingers on each hand instead of two, longer arms, and stubby brow horns. It may have hunted in packs when going after sauropods.
- Velociraptor — A small feathered predator, about the size of a dog. Sometimes called simply "raptor". Often shown in movies, as much larger, more like its cousin Utahraptor. One well-preserved fossil shows it locked in combat with a Protoceratops, again flying in the face of creationist claims that predatory dinosaurs were actually herbivores.
- Deinonychus — What everybody generally imagines when they think of Velociraptor. The discovery of this birdlike, wolf-sized predatory dinosaur inspired the notion that dinosaurs were intelligent, active animals rather than swamp-dwelling brutes doomed to obsolescence.
- Troodon — Closely related to Velociraptor and Deinonychus. It had one of the highest brain-to-body mass ratios of all dinosaurs, leading to speculation that it could have evolved into a sapient humanoid being if the dinosaurs hadn't (mostly) gone extinct. Sometimes cited as proof by conspiracy theorists for the existence of the so-called "Reptilians", despite the fact that Troodon was one of the most birdlike dinosaurs.
- Brachylophosaurus — a large hadrosaur that lived during the Cretaceous period.
- Technically, every bird.
- Barney — a modern dinosaur.
- Strom Thurmond
The sounds made by dinosaurs are currently unknown, but obviously they mostly went "RAWR." Because everybody knows that dinosaurs went "RAWR."
In reality, it is most likely that they made sounds similar to certain types of vultures, due to the lack of special throat structures necessary to produce anything but a droning hiss. Some hadrosaurs such as Parasaurolophus and Lambeosaurus may have used their hollow head crests to make trumpet sounds for anything from herding to calling out punk-ass predators.
For years it was said that humans would never know the color of dinosaurs. However, recent studies have shown that well-preserved dinosaur feathers and skins hold fossilized melanosomes. Melanosomes are cells that give color to feathers. The color of the feathers can be determined by the shape of the melanosomes, though there is still some debate about which structures are melanosomes and which are bacteria. When the fossils of Sinosauropteryx were examined, the dinosaur was discovered to have brown colored feathers and stripes on its tail. Due to the fossil's condition, the full coloration of Sinosauropteryx could not be determined. It wasn't until an Anchiornis fossil was examined that the full body coloration of a dinosaur was known. Anchiornis was mostly black and white. Its torso was black and the feathers on its limbs and tail had large bands of white. Anchiornis had a reddish-orange feather head crest with speckles of the same color on the side of its face. Since then, even more dinosaurs' colors have been realized.
List of dinosaurs with known coloration
- Anchiornis — black and white with orange crest
- Microraptor — iridescent black 
- Sinosauropteryx (partially) — probably reddish orange with a striped tail
- Archaeopteryx — at least partially black 
The Zuiyō-Maru carcass
On 25 April 1977, while off the coast of New Zealand, the crew of the Japanese fishing trawler Zuiyō Maru hauled aboard a 32 foot (9.75 m) long, recently killed carcass that looked remarkably like the remains of a plesiosaur. The crew tossed the carcass back overboard to keep the rotting flesh from spoiling the rest of their catch, only taking a few photos and tissue samples. By testing the amino acids from a sample of muscle tissue, marine biologists determined that the carcass was actually the remains of a basking shark. (As luck would have it, the long necks and flippers of basking sharks make their denuded carcasses resemble plesiosaur skeletons.)
Despite the tissue analysis, the claim that this is evidence for surviving plesiosaurs is still used by cryptozoologists and creationists. All that sciency amino acid stuff wasn't enough to fool YEC "educational" organizations like Accelerated Christian Education. To them – yessiree Bob! – it was a plesiosaur, which somehow disproves evolution, dontcha know!
Oh, and do you know the funniest part? Plesiosaurs are not dinosaurs. (Plesiosauria is not a sub-clade of Dinosauria — instead, both are nested in Sauropsida.)
"Triceratops doesn't exist!"
Typing "triceratops" into your Google search bar (as of May 2014) brought up "not real" at the top of the autocorrections list. This brings up dozens of articles proclaiming the non-existence of this poor dinosaur (the Daily Mail is the source of one of these, as well as DNews and RationalSkepticism.org. Come on guys, you should know better.) Fortunately, the BBC and the Smithsonian came to save the day, clarifying that one study found the Triceratops to be the juvenile members of a related genus, Torosaurus. However, other studies have contested this finding, so it is not even certain that this is true. Even if it were, the name "Triceratops" has been in use for longer and, as is customary in the world of paleontology, would be the name used if the two genera were to merge.
Almost turning Triceratops into the next Pluto provides just another example of how the media often get science wrong.
- Feathered dinosaurs
- Genesis Park
- Kent Hovind
- Human-dinosaur coexistence
- Jurassic Park
- The Mysterious Origins of Man an entire film dedicated to proving man walked with dinosaurs.
- Dinosaur Adventure Land
Reconstructed fossils and artistic views of various dinosaurs:
- The Cretaceous: Extinction of the Dinosaurs Smithsonian Museum of Natural History (archived copy from April 11, 2009).
- There Go The Dinosaurs Chick Tracts
- Did God Destroy the Dinosaurs? at the Kook museum
- Dragon Legends Creation Museum
- Modern birds found with dinosaurs: Are museums misleading the public? by Don Batten (Creation Ministries International)
- There is, of course, fiddling around the edges of this. See the Wikipedia article on dinosaur.
- Anne Elk's Theory on Brontosauruses on Youtube.
- Except for those that went "GRONK!"
- Dinosaurs may have used color as camouflage: Fossilized pigment pouches tell story of ancient animal’s habitat By Meghan Rosen (6:00am, November 16, 2016) Science News.
- True-Color Dinosaur Revealed: First Full-Body Rendering: Taking a pigment discovery further, scientists accurately color entire body, study says by Chris Sloan (February 5, 2010) National Geographic.
- Jersey Boy Hunts Dinosaurs blog
- Microraptor Was a Glossy Dinosaur: The feathered, four-winged dinosaur had a glorious sheen by Brian Switek (March 9, 2012) Smithsonian Magazine blog]
- Feathered Dinosaur Had Black Wings? Dark wings would have given Archaeopteryx a flight advantage, study says by Ker Than (January 26, 2012) National Geographic.
- Photo of the Zuiyō-Maru carcass
- Top 5 Lies Taught By Accelerated Christian Education (Number 3 by Jonny Scaramanga (May 7, 2012) Patheos.
- Triceratops 'never really existed but was just a young version of another dinosaur' by Niall Firth (Updated: 09:38 EST, 2 August 2010) Daily Mail.
- The Dinosaurs You Love Are Fake (Jun 7, 2013) YouTube: DNews.
- Triceratops not a dinosaur species after all by Weaver (Sep 04, 2013 3:37 pm) RationalSkepticism.org
- Triceratops and Torosaurus dinosaurs 'two species, not one' by Neil Bowdler (1 March 2012) BBC News.
- Relax—Triceratops Really Did Exist: This last week, people across the Internet have driven themselves into a tizzy over a study that threw into question the existence of the Triceratops by Brian Switek (August 5, 2010) Smithsonian.com
|Evolution Articles on RationalWiki|
|- Acceptance - Cladistics - Common descent: the incontrovertible evidence - De-evolution - Eugenics - EvoWiki - Evolution - Fossil record - Human - Microevolution - Natural selection - Niche - Palaeos - Phylogenetics - Phylogeny - Signal detection theory - Social Darwinism - Stephen Jay Gould - Theory of Evolution - Uncommon Descent -|