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What were dinosaurs?

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What were dinosaurs? Dinosaurs were reptiles that evolved into the most varied kinds of any living creature. They ranged from tiny bird-like animals to monstrous beasts that were the largest animals ever to live on land.

The dinosaurs survived for about 150 million years. They were not all the meat-eating killers familiar from films and books; neither were most of them gigantic creatures. In fact, most dinosaurs were peaceful, browsing animals about the size of modern farm livestock.

What do we know about how dinosaurs' bodies worked?

Although dinosaur remains are few, we know or can deduce quite a lot from their fossilized skeletons. For example, we can calculate a dinosaur's weight by studying its bones. Heavy animals have massive bones to support their weight, while swift-moving hunters us ually have very light, hollow bones. Muscles are firmly attached to bones, and although no trace of the muscles remains in fossils, the attachment points can be seen on the bones. These tell scientists how big the muscles must have been.

We know that a bulky digestive system is necessary to digest vegetable matter. The herbivores would have had massive barrel-shaped bodies, while carnivores would be slimmer. The shape of the teeth tells us what type of food the dinosaur ate.

Why did dinosaurs become so successful?

The main thing that distinguishes dinosaurs from other reptiles is the way their body is supported by their legs. The legs of ancient and existing reptiles stick out sideways, so the body drags on the ground for most of the time. It is raised briefly when the animal runs.

This is very obvious with crocodiles, which can run very fast for short distances. The skeletons of dinosaurs developed so the legs were beneath the body, raising the whole body off the ground. This allowed them to stand erect, and to walk and run with long strides. Predators developed that could run faster than more primitive reptiles, which soon became extinct.

Brachiosaurus Dinosaur

Brachiosaurus was a typical long-necked dinosaur with a barrel-shaped body and powerful legs to support its enormous weight. We can only guess at the structure of its internal organs, but the points where its muscles are attached to bones can be clearly seen, so it is possible to reconstruct its shape very accurately.

Were dinosaurs stupid?

How do you measure the intelligence of an extinct animal? What we can say is that the intelligence of dinosaurs must have been sufficient for their way of life - otherwise they would not have survived for millions of years. Some plant-eating dinosaurs certainly had very small brains in proportion to their size.

However, a large brain is not important in an animal which is too enormous to be attacked and has little to think about apart from grazing. On the other hand, some of the predatory dinosaurs had quite large brains, presumably because they needed to think quickly as they pursued their prey.

In comparison with their size, the brains of the smallest dinosaur predators were the biggest, because they needed to be agile and fast moving.

Tags: reptiles, dinosaurus

Category: Education  - ( Education Archive)

Date Added: 15 December '11

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