Total Nerd

21 Myths You Were Taught About Dinosaurs

We love dinosaurs. As kids, we learned facts about them in science class, marveled at their skeletons in museums, and played out epic dino battles with our plastic toys. But how much of what we were taught about them is actually true? You might be shocked to know that a majority of what we learned about dinosaurs in our youth was actually not true at all. 

The truth is that the more we learn about these prehistoric animals that roamed the Earth for 150 million years, the more their story is being rewritten. A lot of the things we were taught about dinosaurs or saw in movies are just flat-out wrong. Did you know that dinosaurs were around for a couple hundred thousand years after that meteor impact you read about that supposedly wiped them out? How about that dinosaurs were not the first reptiles to rule the Earth? Or that dinosaurs had feathers? There are even some scientists that believe dinosaurs are still among us right now. You might have even eaten one of these ancient, scary animals for dinner last night with a side of mashed potatoes.

Intrigued? We were too. Read on and find out which dinosaur myths you believed all your life are not true at all.

  • Dinosaurs Roared Like Giant Lizard Lions

    University of Texas at Austin-based paleontologist Julia Clarke has spent a lot of time studying whether or not dinosaurs could vocalize. Until 2013, when Clarke and her team discovered a nearly intact syrinx in a fossilized Late Cretaceous bird Vegavis iaai, an ancestor of ducks and geese, no dinosaur vocal box had ever been discovered. 

    Nearly all existing species with the ability to vocalize have a larynx, which is your standard vocal box. Birds have a syrinx, which is more complex than the larynx, and accounts for the unique noises our feathered friends make. The syrinx Clarke found is proof animals of the dinosaur-age were able to vocalize, though neither syrinx nor layrinx has ever been found with dinosaur remains. 

    Clarke and her team have developed a theory, by which they think "many dinosaurs did not have a syrinx but in fact vocalized in a manner more similar to that which we see in crocs... low-frequency booms, maybe using a resonating structure such as an inflated esophagus or something like that, and using the larynx, not a syrinx."

  • Tyrannosaurus Rex's Small Forearms Were Weak And Useless

    You might have heard someone tell you that Tyrannosaurus rex's relatively small forearms were useless appendages, but that probably wasn't the case. The dinosaur was heavily muscled and could probably move in excess of 430 pounds with each of those arms.

  • The Brontosaurus Is A Real Dinosaur

    You may have learned that the long-necked, long-tailed "thunder lizard" is called a brontosaurus, but it never really existed. More precisely, the name came about after some confusion about the assemblage of a skeleton that was actually an apatosaurus.

    The paleontologist had the wrong skull on the specimen and named it brontosaurus, but it wasn't a new dinosaur at all - it was just an apatosaurus with the head of a camarasaurus. The name brontosaurus continued to live on in pop culture, but no scientist would use it to name a specific dinosaur.

  • Dinosaurs Were Cold Blooded

    Dinosaurs Were Cold Blooded
    Photo: ABelov2014 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    For decades scientists believed that dinosaurs were cold blooded like modern reptiles. But Australian scientists stated that if the dinosaurs did have cold blood they would not have had the muscular power to prey on other animals.

    As more evidence is found that shows that dinosaurs were fast-moving carnivores, it is more likely that they were warm blooded like their avian descendants.