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 brontosaurus, also known as a the “thunder lizard” had a massive body, a long swooping tail, and an unusually small head. It’s also about as real as the Loch Ness Monster.
In the 1870s, paleontology went through a period called the Bone Wars. During the Bone Wars, two paleontologists named Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope were trying to outdo each other by discovering new dinosaurs as fast as they could. The rivals were so desperate to destroy each other they intentionally sabotaged each other’s work by having dinosaur skeletons smashed before the other guy could dig them up.
In 1877, Marsh found a partial apatosaurus skeleton. It didn’t have a skull, so in 1883 he hastily completed the skeleton with the skull of another dinosaur, the camarasaurus. Two years later, his team found what they thought was a different dinosaur, but was actually just an apatosaurus with its proper head. Desperate to beat Cope, he quickly determined the complete apatosaurus was a new dinosaur called the brontosaurus. It wasn’t until almost 100 years later the truth was discovered by a group of Carnegie researchers. The brontosaurus isn’t a thing - it’s just an apatosaurus with the right skull.
According to an early 20th century paleontologist named George Wieland, the dinosaurs died off from eating too many eggs.
No, this doesn’t mean they were all poisoned to death by bad egg salad. It means carnivorous dinosaurs ate so many fertilized dinosaur eggs from other species that dinosaurs as a whole went extinct. While there is some evidence that some dinosaurs did prey on eggs and even hatched baby dinosaurs, there’s no evidence it happened at such a extreme rate that it brought the whole species to its collective knees.
The first dinosaur fossil to ever receive a name was the megalosaurus. Because it was the first, no one had a solid idea of what it would look like as an actual, living animal. In 1857, Samuel Goodrich came up with this bizarre, crocodile-like interpretation of the megalosaurus. The real megalosaurus stands upright, and looks much more like a common t-rex than a crocodile. While Goodrich can’t be faulted for being so far off from the modern interpretation, you have to admit, this drawing is pretty silly looking.
When most people think about dinosaurs, they think of gigantic, scaly lizard beasts like those in the Jurassic Park franchise. These images, while iconic, aren’t terribly accurate. Rather than lizards, dinosaurs most closely resemble birds.
That’s right, birds. According to evidence from fossils, dinosaurs were probably covered in feathers. Not only did dinosaurs have feathers, but they also had respiratory systems that work the way that birds’ respiratory systems work today. If you’re upset by this news because you think it makes dinosaurs look less bad-ass, take comfort in the words of paleontologist Robert Bakker, who describes the velociraptor as “the 20,000 pound roadrunner from Hell.”