Dinosaurs have fascinated mankind since their existence was first discovered. As with all things scientific, however, simply being fascinated by something didn't mean our love was based in fact. We had no idea what we were talking about at all. There were some wildly incorrect things we used to believe about dinosaurs.
In fact, there are some pretty hilarious facts about dinosaurs we thought were real. Did you know scientists used to believe some dinosaurs had two brains, one of which was in their butt? It's also not true dinosaurs were killed by caterpillars, their own farts, or eating too many eggs. It's also surprising how many animals today evolved from dinosaurs - something else you probably didn't know. The biggest myth, though, is what dinosaurs really look like. So turn off Jurassic Park, throw away your brontosaurus memorabilia, and get ready to have your mind rocked by these totally wrong things we used to believe about dinosaurs.
The Elasmosaurus Had A Snake Neck
One of the first interpretation of the elasmosaurus was actually pretty cool looking, if totally inaccurate. Othniel Charles Marsh believed the elasmosaurus’s long neck was “snake-like” meaning not only did it look like a snake, but it had the same incredible range of motion. We now know that because the elasmosaurus had only 71 vertebrae in its very long neck, its range of motion was far more limited. It could only move side-to-side or up-and-down.
We also thought the elasmosaurus crawled out of the ocean to give birth on land, but because of its inability to move efficiently, it most likely just gave birth in the ocean.
The T-Rex Was A Scavenger
In 1993, paleontologist Jack Horner claimed the tyrannosaurus rex, usually known as a vicious predator, was actually a scavenger instead. Meaning, instead of hunting its own prey, it picked over corpses, kind of like a vulture. His evidence included the fact t-rex has huge nasal cavities making finding corpses easy, and that being enormous would be useful for chasing off other scavengers.
Neither of these facts eliminate the possibility the t-rex is a predator - being able to smell well helps with finding live prey too, and being huge comes in handy when attempting to murder and eat living beings. Meanwhile, not only do t-rexes have the strong jaws and razor sharp teeth perfect for taking down live prey, but there’s also a ton of fossil evidence suggesting other dinosaurs were in fact killed by them.
Horner doesn’t even take his own theory all that seriously. In his book, The Complete T-Rex, he says that “I’m not convinced that t-rex was only a scavenger. Though sometimes I will say so sometimes just to be contrary and get my colleagues arguing.”
Despite this, some people still believe the t-rex is more hyena than lion. Maybe this is because it’s more fun to think of a gigantic scary monster picking at leftovers than it is to imagine it chasing down prey.
All Dinosaurs Were Green And Brown
For some reason, most of the early paintings of dinosaurs were drab shades of green and brown. Up until recently, scientists didn’t know how to determine what color dinosaurs actually were from the fossil record, but that doesn’t explain the boring choice.
Although many of us still think of dinosaurs as looking like they’re wearing army fatigues, the truth is they’re much more vibrant. Because some dinosaurs have feathers, which unlike skin is actually preserved in fossils, scientists could analyze those feathers for traces of melanin. We now know that some dinosaurs have stripes and spots, and that they can be black, white, or even orange.
The Iguanadon Was A Quadruped
The iguanodon is a bipedal plant-eater that’s actually fairly sharp-looking. This oddly proportioned, bulky quadruped drawn by Victorian biologist Richard Owen looks less like an actual dinosaur and more like something out of Dinosauri, a knock-off version The Land Before Time. The real iguanodon stands on its two hind legs and looks way more menacing than this sluggish guy.