Here at Safari Ltd®, we produce over 80 prehistoric creature figures, including over 50 different types of dinosaurs. Our figures are extensively researched for maximum accuracy, and we've won the Prehistoric Times Dinosaur of the Year award six of the last seven years. Additionally, our Iguanodon was just voted Best Prehistoric Animal Toy Figure by Dino Toy Blog...so you know we get serious about a day like today.
So let’s talk dinos! First, what is a dinosaur? Good question. Many people tend to think of flying reptiles like Quetzalcoatlus or aquatic reptiles like Kronosaurus as “dinosaurs”, but these prehistoric creatures actually weren’t all that closely related to actual dinos. Actual dinosaurs belonged to a group of reptiles called archosaurs. This group also contains pterosaurs and crocodiles, but what separates dinosaurs from the rest is their hind legs – they are held upright, below the body, instead of splayed out to the side.
|Giganotosaurus, one of the largest Theropods||Psittacosaurus, a herbivore with a parrot-like beak|
While we’re on the subject of what is and isn’t a dinosaur, we’d like to take this opportunity to clear up some common misconceptions. Many people, when they hear the word “dinosaur”, still picture the slow, plodding beast with its tail dragging along the ground. But despite the prevalence of this perception, researchers have known this was not the case since the 1970s. We now realize that dinosaurs were active, relatively quick, and in many cases smarter than we originally believed.
|Coelophysis, an early Theropod||Velociraptor, shown with feathers|
You may also think that all dinosaurs went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous Period more than 65 million years ago, and it's true that many of them did. But a small group of dinosaurs survived the event that caused the extinction of their cousins. You may see some of these dinos every day, but you probably refer to them as “birds”. Yup, it turns out that modern day birds are actually direct descendants of Theropod dinosaurs! So the next time you hear that mockingbird singing or that rooster crowing, remember that their ancestors were some of the most fearsome looking creatures that ever existed.
|Archaeopteryx, the first dinosaur discovered with feathers||Microraptor, a bird-like Theropod|
Which brings us to our third misconception. You might envision dinosaurs as scaly reptilian beasts, with skin similar to that of a lizard or a crocodile. And it’s true that there are some skin impressions left in the fossil record that reflect this. However, we now know that many of these creatures were covered in feathers, just like their modern day descendants. It’s been known since the 1800s that some dinosaurs, like Archaeopteryx, were feathered like birds. But recently more and more evidence has been uncovered, showing that this feature may have been more the rule than the exception. Feathers have been discovered on small predators like Microraptor, Velociraptor, and larger Theropods like Yutyrannus, a relative of the T-rex. This means that it’s possible the most famous dinosaur of them all, Tyrannosaurus, may have been covered in feathers!
|Yutyrannus, an early tyrannosaur known to have feathers||Tyrannosaurus rex, shown with feathers|
Remember, while you’re celebrating dinos on this most excellent Dinosaur Day, to show them some respect by imagining them as they truly were: not as sluggish, cold-blooded, tail-dragging giant lizards, but as fabulous feathered super-birds who were quick-witted and quick on their feet.
Bernie’s Bonus Fun Fact: Before the scientific study of dinosaurs, their bones were often believed to be the remains of mythical creatures. In ancient China, they were believed to be the bones of dragons.