Top 10 dinosaur facts you are just plain wrong about

THINK you know your dinosaurs? The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History reckons you probably don't.

In a time when the internet (and therefore our brains) are full of information, misinformation and bizarre pseudo-science about our planet's prehistoric giants, the internationally respected Smithsonian has come up with 10 things we are probably wrong about when it comes to "terrible lizards". 

1. Dinosaurs are losers

The word dinosaur has come to mean something lumbering, old-fashioned and ultimately doomed, a metaphor for failure.

On the contrary, dinosaurs were an exceptional evolutionary success, ruling the world for more than 150 million years - longer than any other land animal, and way longer than us.

2. They're not terrible. And they're not lizards.

For one thing, that's not what their name means. Although dinosaur is commonly (and even officially) said to be ancient Greek for "terrible lizard", it actually means "fearfully great (deinos) lizard (saurus)".

(Note for language geeks: "Deinos" is used in Homer's Iliad and is sometimes translated as "mighty" or "marvellous fearsome" about some pretty impressive but seriously scary dudes.)

And in any case, they were not lizards. They were a separate group of reptiles altogether. 


3. It all happened at once.

It's easy to think all the dinosaurs were around at the same time, but the Smithsonian points out that the distance in time between Tyrannosaurus and Apatosaurus (formerly called Brontosaurus) is more than the time between Tyrannosaurus and your parents, about 65 million years.

(Pro tip: Don't use this fact to call your parents dinosaurs.)

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Those terrible lizards who once ruled the Earth are back.

A week of prehistoric fun and activities has been unleashed as part of APN Australian Regional Media's Dino Week.
From Saturday, May 31, readers will be able to start collecting their very own double-page dinosaur posters - from tyrannosaurus rex to brontosaurus - with a different one available in papers each day until June 6.

Dino lovers can also learn fun prehistoric facts then put their knowledge to the test with a free quiz from June 2 to 8.

Participants can choose from easy, medium or hard questions to see how much they know about dinosaurs.

4. An asteroid killed them all.

Most dinosaur specialists accept that an asteroid hit the Earth off Florida at the end of the Cretaceous period, but some say dinosaurs were already in decline by then. The asteroid impact might have been the straw that broke the triceratops' back.

5. Mammals killed them all by making omelettes.

Mammals and dinosaurs were both around in the late Triassic but there is no evidence that dinosaurs went extinct because mammals ate their eggs.

6. We killed them all.

Despite a recent recurrence of a scientifically dubious claim, humans were not around when there were dinosaurs. Not by about 62 million years.

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Talk to a dino expert

To learn even more about these amazing beasts from the past, APN is hosting a live online chat with Queensland's own dinosaur expert, Dr Steve Salisbury. Dr Steve Salisbury is a senior lecturer at the University of Queensland and research associate of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in the US. His team's research focuses on the evolution of Australian dinosaurs and crocodilians, and the prehistoric world they inhabited. Steve conducts regular expeditions to central-western Queensland, The Kimberley, New Zealand and Antarctica. He will be fielding any prehistoric questions people have from Tuesday from 11am to 12noon.

7. Dinosaurs were cold-blooded. Or hot-blooded.

According to the Smithsonian, most specialists say dinosaurs were neither, but were "dinosaur-blooded", combining certain aspects of warm-bloodedness with a changing metabolism over the animal's lifetime.

8. All those big reptiles and stuff were dinosaurs.

Nope. Dinosaurs represented less than 10% of the 40 groups of reptiles from the Mesozoic Era. Even one of our favourites, the pterodactyl, doesn't qualify, according to the Smithsonian. Sigh.

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Get dinosaur posters with your newspaper

Every day for a week this paper will have a stunning colour poster of some of our favourite dinosaurs:

May 31 - Tyrannosaurus Rex
June 2 - Brontosaurus
June 3 - Spinosaurus
June 4 - Stegosaurus
June 5 - Pteranodon
June 6 - Gigantosaurus

9. Archaeologists dig up dinosaurs.

Well, only by accident. Archaeologists are basically interested in humans and they dig into the past 3-4 million years, tops. Paleontology deals with all fossils and covers the past 3.5 billion years.

10. Whatever you read in the latest dinosaur book or see on TV or in the movies must be true.

Come on. You don't really think that, do you? Except Godzilla; that one's true.*

*No it's not - Ed.

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