This is a Golden Age of dinosaur discovery!

Survivors: Dinosaurs lived on Earth for over 165 million years © Alamy

Can we learn anything useful from studying dinosaurs? Using new technology, scientists have learnt about them in the last 50 years than ever before. But some say it’s pointless research.

What’s happening

Over 160 million years ago, a massive creature roamed the Earth.

The ground trembled beneath its scaled feet. Its huge tail swept from side to side behind it. Its eyes looked around beadily for prey.

Today, we know it as the Megalosaurus. It is one of the first dinosaurs ever discovered.

Find out more

Palaeontology is the study of prehistoric species. And since Megalosaurus was discovered in 1676, it has changed a lot.

Today, scientists know about more than 700 species of dinosaur, and they still find about 50 new species every year.

This is down to technology. Researchers use machines to study tiny, delicate fossils. Earlier this year, they learnt about a dinosaur the same size as a bee.

Scientists are also learning about dinosaurs in more detail. Using chemicals, they can guess what dinosaur eggs might have looked like. They can even tell us if a dinosaur had feathers, and what colour they were.

One scientist from Yale University says we live in a ‘Golden Age’ of dinosaur discovery.

But can we learn anything useful from them?

Some say…

Not really. It may be fascinating to find out about creatures from the past, but it doesn’t teach us much we can use today. We should spend our time and efforts learning about all the living creatures. New technology should be used to protect species that are alive now and struggling. Learning about extinct species is just a fun hobby.

Others think…

Of course, it is! Learning more about dinosaurs helps us understand how species evolve and survive. With new technology, we can find out even more. We cannot hope to protect species now without knowing how dinosaurs survived. They survived and thrived for nearly 165 million years. We can learn a lot from them.

You Decide

  1. Would you rather go back in time to see a dinosaur, or meet creatures from the future?

Activities

  1. Draw a picture of a Megalosaurus and label it with useful information.

Some People Say...

“Dinosaurs may be extinct from the face of the planet, but they are alive and well in our imaginations.”

Steve Miller, American comic book artist

What do you think?

Word Watch

Prey
An animal that is hunted and killed by another one for food. Megalosaurus probably hunted and ate smaller dinosaurs.
Megalosaurus
In Greek, the name means “great lizard”. It was first discovered in a quarry in Oxfordshire. The dinosaurs were so well known that Charles Dickens mentions them in one of his novels.
Prehistoric
The period of time before humans appeared on Earth is known as prehistory, or prehistoric times.
Species
A group of animals, plants or other living things that all have characteristics in common. Humans are a species, for example.
Fossils
The remains or trace of a living animal or plant from a long time ago. Fossils are found buried in earth or rock.
Golden Age
The most flourishing period in the history of a nation, art form, or, in this case, science.
Thrived
Did well at something. Dinosaurs not only survived, but they were the strongest predators on the planet.

Subjects

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