Prehistoric Animals


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Dinosaurs myth

Dinosaurs myths

The seemingly impenetrable mystery surrounding dinosaurs and their universe has acted as a powerful stimulant for the human imagination. Even though modern science has brought down many myths about dinosaurs, these animals of ancient times continue to work our imagination. Each civilization has its legends telling the story of fearsome monsters sometimes described in the form of dragons spitting fire. No wonder, then, that the first discoveries of gigantic fossilized bones filled the popular imagination with whimsical ideas of all kinds about the first human giants or the ancestors of elephants. If dragons are no longer in vogue, our fascination with giant reptiles has not diminished. It has been said that men's great interest in reptiles is similar to the reaction of other primates such as monkeys to snakes: they are wary of them. The fact that in many stories of the Middle Ages dragons are portrayed as snakes perhaps confirms this point of view. On the other hand, many civilizations have cohabited with large reptiles such as snakes or crocodiles in perfect harmony. But there are other reasons to believe that the first discoveries of fossils contributed, perhaps to the contact of the caravans of merchants who crossed distant regions, to spread fantastic legends on mythical animals. The advantage of this fascination for dinosaurs is that it can awaken in young people an interest in science by giving them the notion of the very distant past, the process of evolution and extinction of species.

Scrotum Humanum

Megalosaurus femur
Megalosaurus femur segment - First dinosaur fossil

When, in 1676, Oxford University professor of chemistry Robert Plot published the first description of dinosaur bones from Cornwall, he had no idea that this bone was that of a dead reptile. "The enigmatic femur," as he called it, seemed to leave him perplexed as to its origin. At that time, this kind of fossil generally passed for a vestige of human or giant animal that had perished at the time of the Flood. To assume that it came from an extinct animal species would have been heresy - implying that God was mistaken in creating useless or imperfect creatures. Plot believed at first that it was an elephant bone brought to England by the Romans, before concluding that it was a human giant's thighbone. It is now thought that this bone was a femur segment of Megalosaurus. The original fossil went astray, but Robert Plot's drawing in The Natural History of Oxfordshire, published in 1676, became a subject of speculation. In 1763, another British scientist, R. Brookes, published an illustration of the bone in question which he called Scrotum humanum because of its suggestive form. The legend of the dinosaur was on.

Smart animals?

It has been observed that the cerebral cavity of dinosaurs was small in relation to the size of the animal, but in reality it is not smaller than in reptiles of the same size. In some of the smaller theropods this proportion was the same as for the current birds. If the brain of the dinosaurs seems small, it is simply because their body is gigantic. Another legend wanted dinosaurs to have two brains. Many of them have hypertrophy of the neural tubes in the pelvis, so some hypothesized that given the small volume of the brain cavity, the pelvic cavity may have been occupied by a mass of nervous tissue that helped coordinate some of the functions that a larger brain could have. However, some living animals also present this hypertrophy of the neural tubes which breaks the myth of the two-brained dinosaur.

A current expression

Today, some archaic institutions or personalities of politics and literature, refusing to disappear, are sometimes treated as dinosaurs. This use thus refers to the long domination of these animals that lasted more than 150 million years in the Mesozoic era. We also know that they formed a very diverse order that coexisted with supposedly superior mammals. We have recently proved that dinosaurs have not disappeared. Those with wings now survive through their descendants represented by the 9,000 or so flourishing species of birds that exist today.