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How Can We Know Anything about Dinosaurs?

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Written by   504
1 year ago (Last updated: 5 months ago)

How to Gain Knowledge about Dinosaurs

Apart from birds, dinosaurs have been extinct for millions of years. What we have are mainly footprints and petrified bones, how can we really know anything about them?

Since we cannot go back in time to study them, we must rely on deductions and inductions based on the various remnants. Although birds have changed and differ from classical dinosaurs in certain ways, our knowledge of birds helps us as well. The rest is logic.

Of course we cannot reach anything better than plausibility, but mostly that is what science deals with. A fact is always a fact at the present level of knowledge. When new knowledge is gained, truths and facts are sometimes replaced by new truths and facts. That is very clear in palaeontology; the last 30 years have totally changed our view of dinosaurs. That depends mainly on two things: more and more varied findings, and new forensic methods. CT Scans, for instance, have revealed new facts about the bone structure of these animals.

The evidence we have can be put into four distinct groups: Anatomy, Bone Histology, Footprints, and Soft Tissue.

Anatomy

Dinosaur anatomy (based on bones and skeleton) and biomechanics, can tell us about their construction and movement. This also leads to certain conclusions about their metabolism.

Bone Histology

Bone histology, the analysis of bone structure on a microscopic level, tells us about how and how quickly their bones grew and how the bone structure changed while they grew. This, as well, reveals things about their metabolism.

Their bones, which grew very quickly, were highly vascularised and the structure changed as they grew. This is not reptilian, but mammal- and bird-like. It's the bone structure of an animal which had internal heating, a warm-blooded animal.

Humans also have bones that are constantly changing – they are remodelled – based on external factors. If you strain the bones they grow stronger.

Footprints

Certain aspects of how they moved can be concluded from footprints and trackways - both how they moved physically and with respect to social behaviour and mating. Obviously, some dinosaurs were social.

Dinosaur footprint in sandstone. Photo: Steppinstars/Pixabay. (CC0/Public Domain)

Soft Tissue

Important evidence is provided by imprints of soft tissues on bones, and on a few occasions preserved soft tissues. One important result of such findings is that it is now beyond all doubt that many dinosaurs had feathers. Another is the reconstruction of neural anatomy, the anatomy of a dinosaur brain.

Feathers

What was the original purpose of feathers? Among contemporary animals, only birds have them and for them feathers is a precondition for flying. However, flying cannot have been their original purpose, because all traits develop gradually and little feathers are worthless for flying. Probably they were developed as isolation, to limit loss of body heat. When they were already well evolved, they came to be a tool for flying.

The presence of feathered dinosaurs is another evidence supporting that they were at least to some extent warm blooded. Feathers help to prevent loss of body heat to the environment, but they would be a great disadvantage to an animal who would need to catch heat from the environment.

Birds & Dinosaurs

Birds are a subset of Dinosauria. They descend from a group of dinosaurs called Theropoda, a group including the famous Tyrannosaurus Rex. However, the species leading to birds was probably of limited size.

Many characteristics of birds existed already with the Theropoda, evolved there or earlier. No doubt, we can learn a great deal about Dinosaurs in general, and Theropoda in particular, by studying birds - or at least by comparing dinosaur findings and conclusions about dinosaur findings with what we know about birds.

Dinosaur Variety

It is easy to forget how large the dinosaur variety was. They came in many forms and sizes, and evolved over a huge time. Surely, they were not all the same; what we know about one or some species might be wrong for others.

Tyrannosaurus skeleton. Photo Eiji Kikuta/Pixabay. (CC0/Public Domain)

Tyrannosaurus Rex is not only the most famous dinosaur species, it is also the most thoroughly studied, and the one we have most knowledge about. Large dinosaurs were the first whose bones were found and this, the largest ever land-living predator, thrilled human imagination, which made it popular. It was, indeed, a formidable animal - fast, strong, armoured with the best vision of all land-living animals ever, and probably at the top of intelligence of its world. It was a Theropod and very closely related to birds.

Copyright © 2020 Meleonymica/Mictorrani. All Rights Reserved.

(Lead image and the two black dinosaur skeletons by OpenClipart-Vectors/Pixabay. (CC0/Public Domain)

Related article: "To Revive an Extinct Dinosaur - Is it at all Possible?"

Here you can find my articles about Palaeontology.

If you are interested in Evolution & Paleontology, a topic including Dinosaurs, join my community "Natural Science (1c4e)".

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Comments

I have no idea about how scientist study dinosaurs. I'm amazed. How can something we see everyday are used to study those gigantic beings? I love how you write your articles. Simple, easy to understand, and direct to the point.

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1 year ago

Doctor Mictorrani how did dinosaurs got extinct?

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1 year ago

Nobody can know that for sure and there are several unanswered questions involved, but the most plausible theory at the current level of knowledge is that it was a result of a meteorite hitting earth, and its environmental and climatic consequences. I know there is a great interest in that specific question so I will a write a post about that in a few days.

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1 year ago

Yep that is the most pissible theory we got till now. Mostky from the fossile and eits remain they have discover and from the study the hav found

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1 year ago

Ok thanks. Isn’t it that humans genetic blue print is combination of different galactic creatures such as reptilians, various et and whatnot and that the earth is a spaceship itself.

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1 year ago

As you say it, it sounds a bit speculative (although that doesn't necessarily mean impossible). All organisms have all their ancestors in their genetics. It is just that many genes are inactivated. How much galactic material there is or can be is questionable.

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1 year ago

Really a very interesting article, thanks for writing it!

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User's avatar Axi
1 year ago

You're welcome!

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1 year ago

"Birds and Dinosaurs" subsection of your article has answered the question. In Geology, the principle of Uniformitarianism states:" the present is the key to the past". What we see in birds today really gives evidence for the existence of Dinosaurs in the past. Thanks.

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1 year ago

You are an observant reader, @Olad.

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1 year ago

化石ちゃん

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1 year ago

Wow!! So much information in one article. I came to know some knowledge about the morphology of dinosaurs.

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1 year ago

Glad you liked it!

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1 year ago

Of course. Now i have some adds from your articles according to my previous articles about dinosaurs. This article is impressive. Go ahead

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1 year ago

Wow what a great article you wrote! I loved reading this one and the remark "A fact is always a fact at the present level of knowledge." How easily we forget about that fact and how hard we find it to accept new facts. 👍🏻💕

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1 year ago

Yes, that is true. People rarely think of that even so-called facts can change. Just one single discovery can change everything we thought we knew. About anything.

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1 year ago

So true. School is a great example of that. Enjoy your day. 💕

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1 year ago

Nice article. I have watched lots of dinosaur movies and to be honest I am glad they are on extinct lolz. Well they sound really interesting though

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1 year ago

If they hadn't been extinct, we most probably would have never evolved. Mammals existed throughout the whole dinosaur era, but remained small and primitive. They got their chance when the dinosaurs disappeared. And yes, dinosaurs are interesting.

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1 year ago

Wow really? Maybe God made them go extinct so as to give us a chance to come out and evolve and multiple round the world

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1 year ago

It is said that chikne is also linke to dinosurus fsmiky as per according to thier geological time scale. And theire fsmiky link

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1 year ago

It is a little bit difficult to understand what you mean here, if it is if chicken have links to the dinosaur family, the answer is yes. Chicken are dinosaurs. All birds are Theropod dinosaurs, a line that survived and evolved to what we know as birds.

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1 year ago

Yes that was whati mean to say. They are all bird family. I learn it during my colege years so just sharing

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1 year ago

I have no idea about how scientist study dinosaurs. I'm amazed. How can something we see everyday are used to study those gigantic beings? I love how you write your articles. Simple, easy to understand, and direct to the point.

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1 year ago

This dinosaurs they look at thier bone samples and merge them together because we all know that bones can last in the grounds for millions of years withought diminishing to much

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1 year ago

Most bones are destroyed. It is the exceptions we can find, and it is petrified bones then.

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1 year ago

Ahh this is so cool- never knew dinos were close to mammals much less being the predecessors of birds (had a hard time believing the chicken being the closest relatuve to the t-rex even now because it just doesn't seem to add up and I've never seen gene sequencing comparisons to even want to believe just yet)

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1 year ago

Well, this is mainstream in palaeontology today, it shouldn't be too difficult for you to find more literature about it.

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1 year ago

I left all desire for paleontology when i became a chemist 😅 but this is rekindling my curiosity though. I'd probably start reading up again when i finish my current research

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1 year ago