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Questions from August 1998
Q: ?Por que al Triceratops le dicen "Lagarto de garra terrible"?
from Gabriel P., Caguas, Puerto Rico; August 30, 1998
A: Triceratops name means "Three-horned head." Deinonychus is the dinosaur whose name means "Terrible claw lizard" because it has a huge, knife-like, retractible claw on each foot.
Q: Where did Triceratops live?
from Truett H., Rowlett, TX, USA; August 30, 1998
A: Triceratops fossils have been found in what is now the western United States and Canada. For more information on Triceratops, click here.
Q: I'm trying to find info on the Woolly Rhino. Do you know when it lived and what modern animal it is related to?
from Lauren B, Brunswick, GA, USA; August 28, 1998
A: I finally found it thanks to your persistence. Coelodonta, the woolly rhino, is from the Pleistocene epoch (which lasted from 1.8-0.1 million years ago) and survived the last ice age. It belongs to the family Rhinocerotids, which includes modern-day rhinos. This plant-eater had two horns on its snout, the lower one larger than the one between its eyes. It had long hair, small ears, short, thick legs, and a stocky body. Its fossils have been found in Europe and Asia. Its shape is known from prehistoric cave drawings! There's a good page on rhinos at the Animal Diversity web.
Q: Were there any turtle dinosaurs ?
from Alison S, Houston, TX, USA; August 28, 1998
A: No. Turtles are different from dinosaurs (they are anapsids, having no holes in the sides of their heads; dinosaurs and all other reptiles are diapsids, having two holes in the sides of their heads). Turtles evolved during the late Triassic period, roughly 220 million years ago, about the same time the dinosaurs evolved. Proganochelys is the oldest known turtle.
Q: How many types of fossils have you found?
from Jonathon W., Adelaide, S.A., Australia; August 27, 1998
A: Nothing new, only some already-known fish.
Q: What era did the ankylosaurs live in?
from Max W.; August 27, 1998
A: Ankylosaurs, the heavily armored dinosaurs, lived during the Cretaceous period. For more information on Ankylosaurs, click here. They included Ankylosaurus, Euoplocephalus, Nodosaurus, and many others.
Q: How old is a dinosaur until it gets old?
from Lyndon C., Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada; August 26, 1998
A: It varied - the larger dinos may have lived about 100 years, the smaller ones may have lived considerably shorter lives. Click here to go to the section in Zoom Dinosaurs about the dinsaurs' life span.
Q: Does the Muttaburrasaurus belong to the Ornithischian or Saurischian group of dinosaurs?
from Chris H., Sydney, NSW, Australia; August 26, 1998
A: Muttaburrasaurus was an Ornithischian and an Ornithopod, a plant-eating dinosaur about 24 feet (7 m) long, dating from the early Cretaceous period, about 113-97.5 million years ago. It had a large bulge on its long snout between its eyes and its mouth, a flattened thumb spike, hoof-like claws, and teeth that worked like shears. It is either an Iguanodontid or a Camptosaurid dinosaur. It was described and named by Ralph E. Molinar and Alan Bartholomai in 1981 from a fossil found in Queensland, Australia.
Q: Could there ever be a mummified dinosaur ever found , say maybe found under the snow in Antartica as there have been dinosaur remains found there?
from Ruth S., Glasgow, Ayrshire, Scotland; August 26, 1998
A: It's been too long for any animal tissue to survive, even in the driest conditions. Even the latest dinosaurs have been dead about 65 million years.
There is a type of fossil that is referred to as dinosaur "mummies", fossilized imprints of dinosaur skin and other features. These are not real mummies in which actual animal tissue is preserved, but fossilized imprints that look a bit like mummies.
Q: What is the name of dinosaurs that eat plants and meat?
from Sarah L., Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia; August 26, 1998
A: Any animal that eats both meat and plants is called an omnivore. People and birds are examples of omnivores.
Q: If you have a picture of Anurosaurus show it. If you don't,Whatever.
from Lyndon C., Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada; August 24, 1998
A: I've never heard of Anurosaurus and can't find any reference to it.
Q: Is there more or less water on the planet or is there about the same as when the dinosaurs were here as my dad says. He says that all the water that will ever be on the planet was made back then and can't be made or destroyed.Is this true?
from Alain F., Orlando, FL, USA; August 24, 1998
A: This is quite a complicated and controversial scientific issue. There is a new theory that there are comets composed of frozen water that are constantly bombarding the Earth. These "cosmic snowballs" have been seen by the visible imaging system of the Polar Satellite. These frozen comets vaporize in the atmosphere, adding water vapor to the environment. There is an interesting web site on this theory at http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr161/lect/comets/smallcomets.html .
If this theory is true then there was less water on Earth during the Mesozoic Era, when the dinosaurs lived. The Earth, however, was warmer during the Mesozoic Era than it is now. There were no frozen polar ice caps on Earth during most of the Mesozoic and this extra available water flooded a lot of low-lying land, forming shallow seas. Most of North America was under water for a lot of the Mesozoic.
Q: Is it possible to clone dinosaurs from dino DNA, like in the movie Jurassic Park?
from Ira P., Hong Kong, China; August 22, 1998
A: It is not very likely that any DNA could survive for at least 65 million years without disintegrating (losing most of its structure) - even if it were trapped in amber. This would make cloning a problem.
Q: If dinosaurs weren't extinct, will they attack humans like those in Jurassic Park?
from ?, Hong Kong, China; August 22, 1998
A: The large meat-eaters probably would, espcially if they were hungry, but the dinosaurs in Jurassic park were given more intelligence than the fossil evidence warrants and sometimes, a larger size (for example, fossil Velociraptors are about half the size of the ones in the movie).
Q: Besides their sizes and the places they lived, can you tell me the other differences between Velociraptor and Deinonychus?
from Ira P., Hong Kong, China; August 21, 1998
A: A major difference is when they lived. Deinonychus lived in the early Cretaceous period, about 110 to 100 million years ago (some estimate this range to be more like 99 - 93 mya); Velociraptor lived during the late Cretaceous period, about 85 - 80 mya.
Also, Velociraptor had a flatter snout than Deinonychus.
Q: Where can I found a complete and actualized list of dinosaurs ?
from Marc G., Clarens, Vaud, Switzerland; August 19, 1998
A: For a list a list of the major families of dinosaurs and many common genera, click here.
Q: What is a Bipedal?
from Campbell P, masterton, wairarapa, new zealand; August 18, 1998
A: Bipedal animals walk on two legs. Examples of bipedal animals include people, kangaroos, T. rex, Velociraptor, etc. (Bi means two and pedal means feet.)
Q: what is the name of the duck billed dinosaur?
from Tiffany S., woodhaven, ny, USA; August 18, 1998
A: There were a lot of different duck-billed dinosaurs, the Hadrosaurids, which included the family HADROSAURINAE and LAMBEOSAURINAE. They were all plant-eaters that had a toothless beak and many cheek teeth.
The Hadrosaurinae included species like Anatotitan, Edmontosaurus, Hadrosaurus, Kritosaurus, Maiasaura, Trachodon, Tsintaosaurus, and many others.
Lambeosaurinae were duck-bills with hollow, bony head crests and included species like Lambeosaurus, Bactrosaurus, Corythosaurus, Jaxartosaurus, Parasaurolophus, and many others.
Q: Everywhere I see, I read that pachycephalosaurus butted heads(like rams). But we learn in Physics that if the area of contact is very less, pressure is very high. So how is it that, pachycephalosauruses could butt heads as their head-domes are almost spherical in shape?
from Arvind S., Bangalore, Karnataka, India; August 18, 1998
A: Pachycephalosaurus' huge dome, with up to 10 inches of bone in thickness, may have been used for ramming rivals during mating and dominance combat, for attracting mates, and as a last-ditch self-defense against predators. The animal that could produce the most amount of force, and do the most amount of damage to its foe, would win the conflict. This would give an advantage to the animal with a spherical shape. A spherical shape is one way to increase the force that one can inflict while not damaging yourself (a pointed shape is another one that some other animals use).
There are other pachycephalosaurids, like Wannanosaurus, which may have had similar behaviors and was also very thick skulled, but had a flatter head.
Q: has anyone seen a living dinosaur ? how do scientists know that they once lived ? how many kind of dinosaurs were there?
from mukesh v, Durban, South Africa; August 17, 1998
A: No. dinosaurs went extinct millions of years before people existed - see the illustration below. Their fossilized bones are scatteread throughout the Earth. So far, about 600 dinosaurs species have been found, but there must have been many more.
Q: I'm interested in finding info about the newest dino. found I believe it was found in mexico.
from ??; August 16, 1998
A: The big news lately is the largest group of dinosaur trackways found in the Andes mountains in Bolivia, South America (near the town of Sucre). Although they were found in1996, they were just in the news a few days ago, and the analysis of the trackways has barey begun. There are hundreds of tracks that date from the late Cretaceous period, and include a lot of large sauropods, ankylosaurs, ceratopsians, Tyrannosaursus rex, Triceratops, and other as yet unidentified dinosaur. The tracks are up to 3 feet (1 m) long.
So far, the most surprising result is that the ankylosaurs were apparently travelling at a pretty fast rate, which is not what was expected, given their massive bodies, heavy armor covering, and stubby legs. Other ankylosaur trackways (there are only about a dozen worldwide) show slow locomotion, but these Bolivian ankylosaurs were relatively speedy, as were the sauropods.
The Swiss paleontologist Christian Meyer, who has been working at the site for a few months, says, "There is no comparable site in the world." The site covers 25,000 square meters in a limestone quarry, and parts of the track are at angles up to 70° from horizontal. The tracks were made on an ancient lakebed that had been pushed up along with the Andes mountains. The trackways are 440 miles (700 km) south of La Paz, Bolivia and are at an altitude of 900 miles (2,800 meters). Other fossils have been found at the site, including crocodiles, fish, and turtles.
Q: What are the dinosaurs That lived in Saskatoon?
from Lyndon, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada; August 15, 1998
A: I don't know about Saskatoon in particular, but Edmontosaurus, Thescelosaurus, Torosaurus, Triceratops, and Tyrannosaurus coprolites have been found in Saskatchewan. For more Canadian fossils, see this page.
Q: Could meat-eating dinosaurs chew their food?
from ??; August 15, 1998
A: No, but different theropods (the meat eaters) had different types of teeth. Some had knife-like teeth (like Giganotosaurus) that just sliced off meat that was then swallowed whole. Others, like T. rex, had thick, conical teeth that could crush the food, bones and all. No theropods had molar-like teeth that would be needed for chewing.
Q: Did Dilophosaurus really spit poison out of its mouth at enemies?
from Casey W.; August 14, 1998
A: Only in the movies. For more information on Dilophosaurus, click here.
Q: How many species of dinosaurs have been discovered so far?
from Donny Y., Silver Lake, Ohio, USA; August 14, 1998
A: There are about 330 described dinosaur genera, and many time that number of genera that probably existed but we haven't found yet - probably thousands. There are many times that number of dinosaur species that existed, only about 600-700 have been named, but some of these are doubtful (they may be juveniles of other species, examples of a different gender, or very large or small specimens of a known species).
Q: Did Parasaurolophus swim?
from Casey W.; August 14, 1998
A: Although Parasaurolophus had partially webbed fingers and lived in coastal and upland areas, there is no evidence that Parasaurolophus spent much time in the water. It used to be thought that its crest was used as a snorkel-like device, indicating that the animal spent much time in the water, but since the crest has no nostril at the top, this theory has been dismissed. Also, fossilized stomach contents have been found, consisting mostly of land plants. Again, this indicates that Parasaurolophus spent most of its time on land.
Q: What is the difference between ornithichians and saurischians
from Chris H., Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; August 14, 1998
A: The main difference is the hip structure - in particular, which way the pubis bone points.
- "Lizard-Hipped" dinosaurs (Saurischians) had a hip structure similar to that of lizards. Oddly enough, these "Lizard-Hipped" dinosaurs were the ancestors of the birds. The oldest known dinosaurs are Saurischians from the mid-Triassic period, about 230 million years ago. The Saurischians include:
- Theropods - bipedal carnivores like T. rex, Velociraptor, Compsognathus, and Deinonychus
- Sauropodomorphas - quadrupedal herbivores like Apatosaurus, Brachiosaurus, and Diploducus.
- "Bird-Hipped" dinosaurs (Ornithischians) had a hip structure that is similar to that of birds. The Ornithischian dinosaurs were vegetarians and included plated, armored, and horned dinosaurs. Example of "Bird-Hipped" dinosaurs include:
- Ornithopods - Hadrosaurs (Maiasaura, Parasaurolophus), Hypsilophodontids, Iguanodontids, Fabrosauria (=lesothosauria, primitive ornithopods).
- Marginocephalia - Ceratopsians (Triceratops, styracosaurus, etc.), Pachycephalosauria (Stegoceras, Pachycephalosaurus, etc.)
- Thyreophora (or Enoplosauria) - Stegosaurids, Ankylosaurids.
Q: Why did the big dinosaurs have such small brains?
from Michael K., Silver Lake, Ohio, USA; August 13, 1998
A: Good question. The large dinosaurs were essentially giant lawn mowers. They didn't have to do much in life but eat all day and occasionally reproduce. They were so large that predators weren't much of a problem, so a large brain wasn't necessary for survival. They lived for millions of years and probably died out when food sources (available plants) were depleted. A larger brain wouldn't have helped much in this respect.
Predators that have to hunt to eat need large brains in order to find and then catch prey. Large plant-eaters don't need that much brain power, they just graze on plants. Small plant-eaters need more brains in order to avoid predators.
Q: WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST DINOSAURS.
from JAMES P., PHILADELPHIA, PA, U.S.; August 13, 1998
A: The biggest dinosaurs were sauropods; they were gigantic, slow-moving, tiny-headed, cow-like plant-eaters from the late Jurassic and the Cretaceous period. They had very long necks which were useful for reaching wide (and tall) swatches of vegetation. The lengthy neck was counterbalanced by a massive tail. These sauropods are the largest land animals ever discovered:
- Supersaurus - 134 feet long (41 m)
- Argentinosaurus - 115-130 feet long (35-40 m); 80-100 metric tons
- Seismosaurus ("Earth-shaking lizard") - 120+ feet long (37 m); +80 tons
- Ultrasauros - 100+ feet long (30 m), +80 tons
- Diplodocus - grew up to 90 feet long (28 m).
- Brachiosaurus - about 85 feet long (26 m), 40 feet tall, and weighed 70-80 tons.
Q: How many dinosaur bones are there in the world and how big are some of the bones? What is the biggest dinosaur in the world? How many dinosaurs where there in the USA.
What was the biggest raptor in the world? How much did the T-Rex weigh? How much did T-REX eat?
from Thomas D., Poughkeepsie, NY, USA; August 12, 1998
A: One of the largest dinosaur bones ever found was the shoulder blade of Supersaurus, a giant sauropod. It was over 6 feet tall and a couple of feet wide. It was found in1972 by James Jensen in western Colorado, USA. Huge sauropod femurs (leg bones) are also larger than people. I don't know how many bones have been found.
The biggest dinosaur is probably Seismosaurus, about 135 feet long. T. rex weighed about 5-7 tons. For more information on T. rex, click here.
Q: HOW DID WE COME TO KNOW ABOUT THE EXSISTENCE OF DINOSAURS AND IN WHICH YEAR DID THEY EXIST? WAS GODZILLA REALLY THAT TERIFYING AS SHOWN IN THE MOVIE?
from AARUSHI J., LUDHIANA, PUNJAB, INDIA; August 12, 1998
A: People first discovered dinosaur (Megalosaurus) bones in England in 1676. The term dinosaur was coined by the English anatomist Sir Richard Owen in 1842. He named large extinct reptile fossils dinosaurs, meaning "terrifying lizards" (in Greek, deinos means terrifying; sauros means lizard). The only three dinosaur fossils known at the time were Megalosaurus, Iguanodon, and Hylaeosaurus, very large dinosaurs.
Dinosaurs lived from about 225 to 65 million years ago. Godzilla is a fictional animal - it never existed.
Q: Which dinosaur was the :
from Dhruv S., New Delhi, Delhi, India; August 10, 1998
A: 1. Compsognathus,
2. Tallest is probably Ultrasauros,
longest is probably Supersaurus,
3. troodontids and dromaeosaurids (for example, Troodon),
4. Sauropodamorphas (for example, Massospondylus),
5. Perhaps the large ankylosaurs, like Ankylosaurus,
6. bird-like bipedal carnivores (theropods) like Gallimimus.
For more information on extreme dinosaurs, click here.
Q: What kind of rock are most fossils found?
from Lyndon C., Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada; August 9, 1998
A: Most fossils are excavated from sedimentary rock layers. Sedimentary rock is rock that has formed from sediment, like sand, mud, small pieces of rocks. Over long periods of time, these small pieces of debris are compressed (squeezed) as they are buried under more and more layers of sediment that piles up on top of it. Eventually, they are compressed into sedimentary rock. It is made of strata, or layers. The layers that are farther down in the Earth are older than the top layers.
For more information read the section on fossils or the glossary entry on sedimentary rock.
Q: I would like some information about Amargasaurus. Also, could I see a picture, if you have one. Thank You.
from Rocky M., San Antonio, Texas, USA; August 7, 1998
A: Amargasaurus (named from La Armaga, a canyon in Argentina where the fossil was found) was a sauropod from the early Cretaceous period (about 131-125 million years ago). This plant-eater was about 33 feet (10 m) long and had 2 rows of spines growing out along its backbone along its neck, body, and tail. These spines may have had a covering of skin forming a sail. If so, this sail might have been a thermoregulatory structure, used to absorb and release heat, for mating and dominance rituals, and/or for making it look much larger than it was to predators.. Otherwise, the spines may have been useful as protection. Amargasaurus was a quadruped (it walked on four legs), had a small head, a long neck and a very long tail.
As to classification, Amargasaurus was a (saurischian ("lizard hipped" dinosaurs, the ancestors of birds), a sauropodomorph (long-necked, long-tailed plant-eaters who walked on four legs), a sauropod (very large herbivores), and a member of the Family Diplodocidae (peg-toothed sauropods, which included Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Seismosaurus, Supersaurus, and others).
Q: Was Oviraptor a type of Velociraptor?
from Brendan C., Tully, NY, USA; August 5, 1998
A: No, but they were both theropods, Tetanurae, Coelurosaurids, and Maniraptors - so they are pretty close relatives. Velociraptor was a Dromaeosaur (the smartest group of dinosaurs); Oviraptor belonged to the family of Oviraptors.
Q: who came up with the term 'dinosaurs'?
from noorreha s., Bukit panjang, Singapore; August 3, 1998
A: The term dinosaur (deinos means terrifying; sauros means lizard) was coined by the English anatomist Sir Richard Owen in 1842. The only three dinosaurs known at the time were Megalosaurus, Iguanodon, and Hylaeosaurus, very large dinosaurs.
Q: What was the reason for their extinction?
from ???; August 3, 1998
A: See the section in Zoom Dinosaurs on extinction or the glossary entry on the Alvarez Asteroid Theory.
Q: I read an article about 3-4 years ago that had as its premise "Birds came first" and that dinoaurs actually evolved from birds. Do you have any information on this theory? Thank you.
from Irene Q., West Palm Beach, FL, USA; August 3, 1998
A: The earliest known dinosaur (the Eoraptor) evolved during the mid-Triassic period, about 228 million years ago. The earliest known bird, the Archaeopteryx, evolved millions of years later, about 150 million years ago during the Jurassic period. This chronology makes the theory you heard about seem impossible.
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