Legendary dinosaurs that we imagined all wrong

Legendary dinosaurs that we imagined all wrong
[Cinema still: Jurassic Park III] Actor Sam Neill, as Dr. Alan Grant, encounters a group of raptors in Universal Pictures' "Jurassic Park III," in this undated promotional photo.
PHOTO: Universal Pictures

Famous beasts like Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor probably did not look the way we imagine them, and might not have behaved like it either

Like many children, I had a severe dinosaur phase. There was a period of my life when I cared more about prehistoric reptiles than pretty much anything else.

However, it turns out that much of what I thought I knew is wrong. That is because the prevailing image of dinosaurs has always been a little slow in catching up with current scientific understanding.

Until the "dinosaur renaissance" of the late 1960s, dinosaurs were always depicted as sluggish and lumbering. But experts realised that they had active lifestyles, and this slowly filtered through to the public - helped by 1993's Jurassic Park.

The past two decades have seen another major revolution in our ideas about dinosaurs, thanks to new fossils from China and advances in technology. But most of these findings have not seeped out into popular depictions of dinosaurs.

Here are some of the most famous dinosaurs, as scientists now think they were. It may seem a bit unfamiliar.


Let's begin with an idea that many have heard of, even if they are unwilling to accept it: some dinosaurs had feathers. Not just a few feathers here and there, but full coverings of plumage.

As early as the 1980s, some palaeontologists were suggesting that dinosaurs possessed feathers. Increasingly, fossils of primitive dromaeosaurids - the family to which Velociraptor belongs - were found with full feathered wings. Yet depictions of this iconic predator remained fairly traditional.

This all changed in 2007, when a US research team discovered "quill knobs" on the forearm bones of a Velociraptor fossil. These knobs are where wing feathers anchor, and provide conclusive evidence for winged, bird-like Velociraptors.

In fact, the dinosaurs immortalised as man-sized, pack-hunting monsters in Jurassic Park have been some of the most badly misrepresented.

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