It’s pretty scary to think that huge creatures used to walk our planet, especially when you learn that some were fierce carnivores (meat eaters). However, dinosaurs existed a very long time ago now, and the only evidence we have of their existence is through the fossilisation of their bones, footprints and more.
Fossilisation is where dinosaur remains are preserved over a period of millions of years, and it’s an extremely rare process. As such, whenever new dinosaur remains are found, scientists and dinosaur fans get very excited indeed!
Take a look at these 15 awesome dinosaur facts for kids.
1. The word ‘dinosaur’ originates from the Greek words ‘deinos’ (meaning terrible, potent and formidable), and ‘sauros’ (meaning lizard or reptile).
As such, the word ‘dinosaur’ actually means terrible lizard. Don’t let this confuse you though, dinosaurs are actually reptiles, not lizards. The word was coined by palaeontologist (a scientist that studies fossils) Sir Richard Owen in 1842.
2. Dinosaurs existed during the Mesozoic Era which covers three periods: The Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous.
The Mesozoic Era is also known as the ‘Age of Dinosaurs’, and spans between 252 million years ago to around 66 million years ago. While this makes them very, very old, jellyfish have been around longer than dinosaurs and are still around today!
3. It is believed that at the end of the Mesozoic Era period, dinosaurs were wiped out by a mass extinction.
We don’t know for sure what happened, but most scientists believe that dinosaurs were wiped out as a result of an asteroid colliding with Earth.
4. Dinosaurs lived all over the planet, with fossils being found on every continent.
Most of the dinosaur fossils found so far have been in North America, China and Argentina. According to the Paleobiology Database, nearly 2,000 fossils have been found in California alone.
5. Despite what you may think, most dinosaurs were herbivores.
Herbivorous means their diet consisted of plants. Meat eating dinosaurs, known as carnivores, hunted herbivores (or sometimes other carnivores). Alternatively, they scavenged for dead animals.
6. People who study dinosaurs and their fossils are known as ‘palaeontologists’.
Some people pursue palaeontology professionally, though some of the biggest discoveries were by amateur palaeontologists who just do it for fun as a hobby!
7. The most widely known dinosaur is probably the Tyrannosaurus Rex, or T-Rex.
The word ‘Tyrannosaurus’ originates from the Greek words for ‘tyrant lizard’, and ‘rex’ actually means ‘king’ in Latin, meaning Tyrannosaurus Rex essentially means ‘TYRANT LIZARD KING’!
8. The T-Rex walked on two feet, using its long tail to balance its huge head, and was a fearsome carnivore (meat eater!).
Based on fossils, it’s possible to estimate that the T-Rex was around 40 feet long and 20 feet tall!
9. One of the smallest known dinosaurs is a bird-like dinosaur known as the ‘Compsognathus’.
Like the T-Rex it walked on 2 legs (known as bipedal), and was about the size of a chicken.
10. While there are no official collective nouns for dinosaurs, herds, flocks and packs are all great words for describing a group of them.
Can you come up with your own fun word for a group of dinosaurs?
11. There were no marine dinosaurs, but there were marine reptiles, like the huge Kronosaurus.
The Kronosaurus was 30 to 35 feet long, with a long body and elongated head, propelling itself with four large flippers.
12. The ‘Troodon’ is considered as the most intelligent dinosaur.
It was small and bird-like, but had a huge brain considering it’s size, and also had grasping hands.
13. Scientists are almost certain that dinosaurs evolved into birds.
A lot of evidence suggests that birds evolved from small feather covered dinosaurs known as theropods.
14. The first dinosaur to ever be discovered and named was the ‘Megalosaurus’, meaning ‘big lizard’.
It was discovered by British naturalist called William Buckland, and was a carnivore with a length of 30 feet!
15. Because herbivorous (plant eating) dinosaurs were often hunted by carnivorous (meat eating) dinosaurs, they had all sorts of natural defences.
What Are the Best Dinosaur Museums in the World?
It’s hard to imagine the sheer size of dinosaurs without seeing them in the flesh (so to speak!). As such nothing beats getting up close and personal with some of the best dinosaur specimens that have been discovered so far.
The below list consists of what are highly regarded as the best museums for dinosaur lovers. Many of them also run a Dinofest every year, with tonnes of fun activities and exhibits focused entirely on dinosaurs, so be sure to check their event calendars!
- Fukui Dinosaur Museum – Katsuyama, Japan
- Iziko South African Museum – Cape Town, South Africa
- Natural History Museum – London, United Kingdom
- National Dinosaur Museum – Nicholls, Australia
- Zigong Dinosaur Museum – Zigong, China
- The Field Museum – Chicago, United States
- Royal Tyrrell Museum – Drumheller, Canada
- Museum für Naturkunde – Berlin, Germany
- Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences – Brussels, Belgium
- Wyoming Dinosaur Center – Wyoming, United States
- Fernbank Museum of Natural History – Georgia, United States
- The Dinosaur Museum – Dorchester, United Kingdom
Are dinosaurs coming back in 2050?
in 2016, the Adam Smith Institute stated that they believe humans will be able to recreate dinosaurs by ‘back-breeding’ from flightless birds. It’s an ambitious statement, but it is possible to achieve.
What is the first dinosaur?
It is believed that the Nyasasaurus Parringtoni is the oldest known dinosaur, dating back over 240 million years. The first dinosaur discovered was the megalosaurus, found by British fossil hunter William Buckland in 1819.
Did dinosaurs have feathers?
Some dinosaurs did have feathers. We know this due to well-preserved remains and fossils. So far, most examples of dinosaurs with feathers have been carnivores (meat eaters), that are part of the ‘theropod’ group of dinosaurs.
Does dinosaur DNA exist?
Unfortunately it’s unlikely we’ll ever find dinosaur DNA. This is because dinosaur fossils are immersed for millions of years in mud, dirt, minerals and water, and DNA molecules eventually decay. Studies show that DNA ultimately disintegrates after around 7 million years, and the last known dinosaur died over 65 million years ago.
Who was the last dinosaur?
A study by researchers at Yale University revealed that the Triceratops may have been one of the last dinosaurs alive. They found a horn in the Hell Creek formation of Montana that appears to be the ‘youngest’ dinosaur fossil discovered so far.