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Here Are All The Craziest Dinosaur Facts That Have Been Discovered Since You Were In School

People have searched for the truth about dinosaurs for centuries. While previous generations may have considered them dragon remnants or fossils placed into the ground by God to test humanity's faith, the real picture has become clearer with each new dinosaur discovery. Research has also illuminated the similarities between dinosaurs and birds - namely, dinosaurs had feathers, among other bird-like traits.

Several of the most important questions, like learning how dinosaurs behaved or what they looked and sounded like, have ambiguous answers at best. Dino researchers have dug up fossils and examined them for generations, but now some question the validity of a few widely believed conclusions. This is happening across the field, with new archaeological discoveries constantly challenging our long-held notions about the ancient, and prehistoric, world. 

Along with the discovery of many new dinosaur species, our knowledge about dinosaurs has completely changed. Check out the most shocking facts about these giants.

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  • Dinosaurs Might Have Evolved From A 4-Inch-Tall Reptile

    In an article published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on July 6, 2020, researchers described a newly discovered ancestor to giant dinosaurs and flying pterosaurs dug up in Madagascar. The Kongonaphon kely is approximately 4 inches tall and 237 million years old.

    The lead author on the study, Christian Kammerer, mused the Kongonaphon kely "would probably make a great pet." Its name means "tiny bug slayer," a reference to the idea that it would jump around on its hind legs catching bugs all day. 

    Examining a section of the thigh bone allowed researchers to conclude the fossil is that of an adult. 

  • During The Cretaceous Period, More Than 2.5 Billion T. Rexes Roamed The Earth

    During The Cretaceous Period, More Than 2.5 Billion T. Rexes Roamed The Earth
    Photo: Herschel Hoffmeyer / Shutterstock.com

    According to a study from UC Berkeley published in April 2021 in the journal Science, an estimated 2.5 billion T. rexes lived and died during their 2.5 million years on Earth, or about 20,000 at any given time. Paleontologists previously thought they couldn't calculate population numbers for animals that had been extinct for so long. But Charles Marshall, director of the University of California Museum of Paleontology and a UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology, said he realized an estimation might be possible using what is known about the relationship between population density and body mass among living species, known as Dalmuth's Law.

    For their calculations, Marshall and his team characterized T. rex as an animal "with energy requirements halfway between those of a lion and a Komodo dragon, the largest lizard on Earth." Despite the strength of the relationship, there's a great deal of uncertainty, Marshall said, because "ecological differences result in large variations in population densities for animals with the same physiology and ecological niche."

    From a series of data scientists already know about T. rexes, Marshall and his colleagues estimated the population at any given time was 20,000 individuals, and because the species lived about 127,000 generations, that would mean a total of 2.5 billion individual dinosaurs.

    Due to uncertainties in the calculations, however, the actual number could range from 140 million to 42 billion.

  • Paleontologists Discovered A Burial Site That Suggests Some Dinosaurs Were Cannibals

    Paleontologists Discovered A Burial Site That Suggests Some Dinosaurs Were Cannibals
    Photo: Drumheller SK, McHugh JB, Kane M, Riedel A, D’Amore DC / PLoS ONE / CC BY 4.0

    Paleontologist Stephanie Drumheller-Horton, from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and her colleagues found hundreds of fossils at the Mygatt-Moore Quarry bonebed off the Colorado-Utah border. Of the 2,000 fossils found at the site, 28% showed punctures, scratches, and bite marks from other carnivorous dinosaurs, suggesting some species fed on their own kind. A survey of the bones published in the PLOS ONE academic journal suggests "the first evidence of cannibalism in Allosaurus" because of the "relative abundances of the carnivores, partnered with the size-estimates based on the striated bite marks, [and] the feeding trace assemblage." More likely these dinosaurs were scavengers, however, as opposed to actively hunting their own kind.  

    Paleontologist Joseph Peterson, who was not involved in the study, told Smithsonian magazine the dinosaurs at the Mygatt-Moore Quarry site likely acted different because of weather conditions. During the dry season, meat like fish and crocodiles are rare, so carnivores might have picked at dinosaur carcasses searching for meat before the wet season buried the remaining bones and preserved them as fossils. 

  • T. Rexes Probably Hunted In Packs

    T. Rexes Probably Hunted In Packs
    Photo: Herschel Hoffmeyer / Shutterstock.com

    Scientists have long assumed that the Tyrannosaurus rex was a lone predator. But researchers who analyzed fossils discovered at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah suggested that T. rexes might have gone out hunting in groups. The scientists, who published their results in the journal PeerJ, wrote that "tyrannosaurids [the family of dinosaurs that includes T. rexes] are hypothesized to be gregarious, possibly parasocial carnivores engaging in cooperative hunting and extended parental care."

    They came up with their theory based on studying the remains of at least four tyrannosaurids found near each other in the same Utah bonebed, most likely transported there by a flood. Although the scientists don't know for sure whether the dinosaurs perished "in a mass-mortality" scenario or "were transported from disparate localities," analysis of various physical and chemical elements suggests their deaths "were not widely separated in time."  

     

     

  • The Reaper Of Death Is The First New Tyrannosaur Discovered In Canada In 50 Years

    Researchers with the University of Calgary and the Royal Tyrrell Museum revealed what they claim to be the first new tyrannosaur species discovered in Canada in 50 years, called the Thanatotheristes degrootorum - which combines the Greek translation for "reaper of death" with the name of the couple who found the fossils, the DeGroots. Jared Voris, a PhD student, found the skull fragments at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, and he concluded they did not match any known species of tyrannosaur, in part because of unique "vertical ridges along the upper jaw line." 

    The fragments Voris discovered were found near the Bow River by in 2010. Voris' thesis advisor, Darla Zelenitsky, said the new species predates the T. rex by 12 million years, and is therefore the "oldest known tyrannosaur discovered in Canada." 

    This Thanatotheristes appears to be its own distinct species, rather than an ancestor to the T. rex, and Voris speculates it could have been "8 meters long with an 80-centimeter skull." 

  • The T. Rex Had A Major Growth Spurt As A Teenager 

    The T. Rex Had A Major Growth Spurt As A Teenager 
    Photo: Zissoudisctrucker / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    A study released in Science Advances magazine January 1, 2020, alleges the T. rex grew into its full size during adolescence, rendering the existence of the Nanotyrannus, or pygmy tyrannosaur, invalid. Scientists have previously proposed a smaller T. rex lived alongside the giant predators after examining two tyrannosaur skeletons from the Cretaceous period with a similar body structure. The new research, which used osteohistology (the study of bones) to analyze the same samples, studied their growth curves to identify their age, revealing they were "immature individuals 13 to 15 years of age, exhibiting growth rates similar to extant birds and mammals, and that annual growth was dependent on resource abundance." 

    Paleontologist Steve Brusatte, who reviewed the study, said most scientists are unfamiliar with the growth rates of the T. rex aside from the fact that they "had to grow fast to go from... hatching" out of an egg to approximately 19,000 pounds. Because the two fossils examined by researchers previously thought to be an entirely new species of pygmy dinosaurs are actually adolescent in age, it is likely the T. rex began to grow more rapidly during its teenage years depending on the available food sources.