Dinosaurs evolved from reptiles over 230 million years ago and were on Earth for about 65 million years before going extinct for reasons that aren’t exactly clear. For centuries, their fossils have fascinated people for a whole host of reasons, like their size, their ferocity, and the fact that they resemble mythical creatures.
10. The Apatosaurus’ Tail Could Break the Sound Barrier
The Apatosaurus, which lived about 155 to 159 million years ago, is commonly called a Brontosaurus, even though there is no such thing as a Brontosaurus. The mix-up dates all the way back to 1877, when the first Apatosaurus ajax fossil was found by American paleontologist Othniel C. Marsh. The first bones he found were juvenile bones and when he found adult Apatosaurus bones in 1879, he thought it was a new species and he called it Brontosaurusexcelsus. However, after a re-examination of the bones in 1903, it was concluded that the Apatosaurus and the Brontosaurus were the same species, and the older name would take precedent. However, by the time the error was discovered, the Brontosaurus was one of the most famous species of dinosaurs, so the incorrect name stuck.
The Apatosaurus was so famous because of its amazing size. They were about 70 to 75 feet long, so just imagine a seven story building turned on its side. They weighed close to 20 tons, making them one of the biggest land animals in the entire history of Earth. One interesting feature they had was their long tail that they used like a bullwhip. According to computer calculations, they could whip their tail so fast that it broke the sound barrier, creating a sonic boom. This would have made a cannon-like boom that would have been heard for miles. While it wasn’t an effective weapon, it would have been used as a warning or way to scare potential predators. They also would have stomped their feet on the ground, and if this didn’t crush attackers, the tail whip and the stomping would have made a lot of chaotic noise, hopefully scaring off any potential predators.
9. Ankylosaurus’ Club Tail Could Break a T-Rex’s Ankles
Ankylosauruses were herbivores that lived about 122 million years ago and went extinct about 66 million years ago. The Ankylosaurus was often potential prey for big predators, like a T-Rex, but luckily they developed several defensive traits. One of them was that they had bony armor plates that covered their body and the second was that it had a powerful clubbed tail, which was one of their most useful weapons. It was made of tightly interlocking vertebrae, and at the end was a bony ball.
With smaller tails, which were most likely found on younger Ankylosauruses, it would have hit its predators with the same amount of force as a bowling ball. However, bigger tails could have struck blows that were somewhere between 364 and 718 megapascals of impact stress, which is powerful enough to break a T-Rex’s ankle. Breaking an ankle could have been a serious problem for the T-Rex, because it’s not like they had medical professionals that could have helped them. If they could walk after the blow, their mobility could have been severely limited until it healed. If that’s the case, hopefully Ankylosaurus meat was a delicacy for the T-Rex because they sound like a lot of work to eat.
8. The T-Rex of the South was a Cannibal
To some people, it may not be shocking that dinosaurs were cannibals. After all, they were carnivorous animals that needed a lot of food to sustain themselves, so one dinosaur eating another dinosaur of the same species must have happened all the time, right? Well, the dinosaurs lived for 65 million years and amazingly, there is only one confirmed case of dinosaur cannibalism. If you compare that figure to humans, who have only spent about 0.003 percent of the amount of time on earth as the dinosaurs, one case of cannibalism is nothing. For example, there were at least two cases of cannibalism in Florida in 2016.
The confirmed case of dinosaur cannibalism involved the Majungasaurus, which lived in Madagascar from 70 to 66 million years ago and they were considered the T-Rex of the southern hemisphere. They were about eight feet tall, 23 feet long, weighed anywhere between a ton and a ton a half and they were the biggest predator living in the area at the time. That is why when researchers found the bones of a Majungasaurus with big serrated teeth marks in it, they concluded it had to come from another Majungasaurus, because there wasn’t another predator large enough to have left them. That finding suggests that, for unknown reasons, one Majungasaurus ate another.
7. The Triceratops Was a Herbivore You Didn’t Want to Mess With
The Triceratops horridus, which means “three-horned face,” was a herbivore, but it still wasn’t an animal you’d want to come across. They were 10 feet tall, 30 feet long, and they weighed four to six tons. While that is hard to visualize, something to give you a comparison is African elephants, which are the biggest living land animal, are about 8 to 13 feet tall, at most 25 feet long and they weigh about five to seven tons. So a Triceratops was comparable in size to a mid-size elephant.
Of course, the Triceratops’ most notable feature is its three horns. There were two above their eyes, and one above their mouth. When a Triceratops reached adulthood, the horns were three feet long and curved upwards. It was used to fight with other Triceratops over mates and territory. However, they were also used to fight off the apex predator that lived at the same time as them – the T-Rex. Evidence they would have been able to fend off a T-Rex was that a Triceratops fossil had a healed wound from a T-Rex’s bite, suggesting the Triceratops was able to fight off the dominant predator and lived long enough after the encounter for the bite to heal.
6. How Big was Big?
Dinosaurs had a rather large range in terms of size. The smallest known dinosaur, the Compsognathus, was about the size of a chicken. On the other side of the scale was the Argentinosaurus. Amazingly, these two ends of the spectrum lived in the same time period as each other, which was about 94 to 97 million years ago.
The Argentinosaurus not only holds the record for the biggest dinosaur, but it is also the heaviest and longest land creature to ever live. Despite being so massive, the Argentinosaurus started off small. Their eggs were about the size of coconuts and when they were born, they weighed a little more than 10 pounds. It took about 40 years to grow to their full stature, which was about 26 feet tall, and they were 121 feet long, which is as long as three school buses. They also weighed 100 tons, which is about as much as 12 African elephants. In order to sustain their size, they would have needed 100,000 calories a day, which is about 2,127 apples.
Perhaps the most impressive feat this animal could do was rise up and stand on its back feet. If some unlucky dinosaur, even huge carnivores, were to get underfoot, they’d be crushed to death.
5. Fastest Predator
The fastest known dinosaurs are believed to be part of a group of Theropod dinosaurs called Ornithomimids. One of the most famous subspecies is the Gallimimus bullatus, which are the ostrich-like dinosaurs in the first Jurassic Park movie. It’s believed that they could run 50 miles per hour. However, it’s unclear if the toothless dinosaur ate meat, so they aren’t exactly terrifying.
A dinosaur that was fast and terrifying was the Carnotaurus sastrei, which means “meat-eating bull.” It got its name because of the bull-like horns on its head, which it would have used to fight other Carnotauruses for mates and territory. Also, unlike the Gallimimus, the Carnotaurus was a pretty big animal. They were 13 feet tall, nearly 30 feet long, and weighed up to two tons. Despite being huge animals, they were incredibly fast thanks to their massive thighs, which were up to 15 percent of their body weight. According to calculations, they would have been able to reach speeds of 40 miles per hour. It would be like trying to outrun a car that is driving over the speed limit on a city street.
4. Mapusauruses: The Large Carnivores That Hunted in Packs
Knowing how dinosaurs behaved is kind of difficult because the only thing that researchers have to base their guesses on are fossil clues that are millions of years old. They just can’t go out into the wild and observe them. That is one reason they don’t definitely know if dinosaurs hunted in packs. While there is some evidence to suggest that a few species did live in packs, it’s unclear if pack hunting among carnivores was common or not.
However, one large carnivore that may have been a pack animal is the Mapusaurus roseae. Researchers believe this because in a quarry in Patagonia, they found more than half a dozen Mapusauruses bones. This would suggest that they at least lived together when they died.
This would have been bad for potential prey, because a Mapusaurus would have been dangerous enough to encounter one-on-one. For one thing, they were bigger than T-Rexes. They were nearly 41-feet long, 13-feet tall, and weighed about eight tons.
It’s believed that they lived together in order to take down the biggest dinosaur that lived in the area, the Argentinosaurus, which weighed 10 times more than the Mapusaurus.
3. The Utahraptor was Bigger and Scarier than the Velociraptor
According to the Jurassic Park franchise, Velociraptors were six-foot tall dinosaurs that hunted in packs. As intimidating as they were on screen, they were nothing like that in real life. While it’s possible they hunted in packs, they weren’t nearly the size depicted in the movie. They were more like the size of a small turkey; at most they were six-feet long from nose to tail and they weighed up 33 pounds. Instead, the movie Velociraptors are more based on the Deinonychus, which lived on earth over 25 million years earlier than the Velociraptor. It was about three feet tall and had a large hook claw on its foot.
What’s amazing is that the same month that the first Jurassic Park movie was released, the description of the biggest raptor ever found, called the Utahraptor ostrommaysorum or simply the Utahraptor, was published and it was similar in size to Jurassic Park’s raptors. The Utahraptor was about 23 feet long and about six-feet-tall, and they weighed 1,100 pounds. They also had long toe talons, which was 9.5 inches long. It would be used to tear flesh and to hold down prey while they chomped down on it.
2. The Biggest Carnivore
One reason that dinosaurs have captured the imagination of millions of people around the world, is because they seem like real life monsters. After all, that’s why the Jurassic Park franchise is so popular. Usually the T-Rex is billed as the most terrifying of these monsters. However, it wasn’t the biggest one. Unless other fossils are found, the current title for biggest carnivorous dinosaur goes to the Spinosaurus, which was the antagonist in Jurassic Park III.
There are at least two different subspecies of Spinosaurus and they lived about 112 million to 97 million years ago in the swamps of North America. While researchers know that the Spinosaurus was huge, bigger than both the T-Rex and the Gigantorous, they aren’t exactly sure how big it was because there are only incomplete fossils. On the low end, they would have been about 40 feet, but according to some projections they would have been to 59 feet long and weighed 7.7 to 9.9 tons. That’s as big as one-and-a-half school buses. They also had massive chests, so it’s likely that they spent most of their time in the water, similar to a crocodile.
Besides its awesome size, the most notable feature of the Spinosaurus is its bony sail on its back. In fact, that is where the beasts get their name, “spine lizard.” The sails were seven feet long and no one is exactly sure what they were for. The Spinosaurus would have been the top predator because of its size, yet it would have used it to make itself look even bigger. Others suggest that it was for mating.
1. Why the T-Rex is King of the Dinosaurs
The Tyrannosaurus rex lived in the late Cretaceous period, about 65 to 70 million years ago in modern western North America, from Alberta to Texas; although, there is some speculation that they were an invasive species from Asia. Their fossils were discovered in 1903, and in 1905 it was given its name, which means “king of the tyrant lizards.”
While it is not the biggest or fastest dinosaur, or even the largest carnivore for that matter, the T-Rex is the most famous and feared dinosaur. And there is good reason for that, because you probably wouldn’t want to come across one in real life. According to the most complete fossil, Sue, which is found at the Field Museum of Natural History, at its highest point, which was its hip because it walked hunched over, T-Rexes could be about 13 feet tall and 40 feet long, and weighed about nine tons. Despite their tremendous size, they were also pretty fast. Using their powerful thighs and tails, studies suggest that they would reach speeds of 10 to 25 miles per hour. According to the National Council on Strength and Fitness, on average, humans can run 15 miles per hour in short spurts.
Needless to say, if you just so happened to encounter a T-Rex, you better hope you’re on the faster side and the projections about T-Rex are correct on the slower end of that particular spectrum, because they had the strongest bite out of any land predator that ever lived. It could reach up to 12,814 pounds of force, which is about as much force as a medium sized elephant taking a seat.
Inside the mouth was a terrifying set of teeth. They were up to a foot long and serrated. However, they weren’t exactly sharp. They were wide and slightly dull. This was a way to deal with prey that was fighting against their death in the T-Rex’s mouth. They also had multiple types of teeth that all served different functions. The front were used to hold and pull prey, the teeth on the side tore flesh, and then the back teeth diced the flesh and forced it down the T-Rex’s throat.