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Fossil Friday: Not the Ancient Lizards You Might Think They Are

Updated: Jul 10, 2022

Quiz (answers to quiz are at the end of this blog):

1) The word “brooding” when talking about dinosaurs refers to:

a) A way of leaning down to drink from a pool of water

b) A stage of behavior that teenage dinosaurs went through

c) A way of sitting on a nest without breaking the eggs

d) A way of laying inside of an egg that a baby dinosaur did just before hatching

2) Modern bird “teeth” are usually made up of:

a) Bone

b) Keratin

c) Plastic

d) Enamel

“What We Know About Dinosaurs Changes as Scientists Make Discoveries”

No one imagined hundreds of years ago that dinosaurs might actually be the ancestors of modern birds. With their narrow faces, sharp pointy teeth, and long tails, dinosaurs appeared to be more like lizards. Birds don’t even have teeth! More and more evidence has been found in recent decades that shows us dinosaurs are the ancestors of modern birds and are not related to lizards at all.

The word “dinosaur” means “great lizard” in ancient Greek (1) and believing dinosaurs are the ancestors of lizards is a misconception people have had for thousands of years.

Illustration of Dryptosaurus and Elasmosaurus, by Edward Drinker Cope, 1869 (A)

The illustration above was drawn in 1869 and was meant to be an accurate depiction of what dinosaurs might have really looked like. You can’t really blame the artist for making them look like giant lizards because everyone thought that at the time (2).

Since then, paleontologists have made discoveries that prove dinosaurs are not only the ancestors of modern birds, but they also had bird-like behavior millions of years ago. Fossils have even been found showing dinosaurs sitting on nests and “brooding” their eggs (that is a way of gently sitting on eggs and trying to help them hatch). Birds do this, but lizards don’t (3).

Scientists believe that modern birds evolved from a specific kind of dinosaur called Theropods. This is the family that includes Tyrannosaurus Rex and Velociraptors. Therapods are thought to have been completely covered in feathers (4). Imagine what a velociraptor would look like completely covered in feathers!

Concept of a Feathered Velociraptor posted by u/swatel on Reddit in 2017 (D)

Answers to Quiz:

1) The word “brooding” when talking about dinosaurs refers to:

c) A way of sitting on a nest without breaking the eggs

3) Modern bird “teeth” are usually made up of:

b) Keratin


Photographs courtesy of the following:

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