Dinosaur Facts Part III

The third of four articles answering questions about dinosaurs. This article covers the following issues: what dinosaurs ate, how fast dinosaurs could walk or run, dinosaur communication, and the smartest dinosaur.
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Dinosaurs (178)


What did dinosaurs eat?

Some dinosaurs ate lizards, turtles, eggs, or early mammals. Some hunted other dinosaurs or scavenged dead animals. Most, however, ate plants (but not grass, which hadn't evolved yet). Rocks that contains dinosaur bones also contain fossil pollen and spores that indicate hundreds to thousands of types of plants existed during the Mesozoic Era. Many of these plants had edible leaves, including evergreen conifers (pine trees, redwoods, and their relatives), ferns, mosses, horsetail rushes, cycads, gingkos, and in the latter part of the dinosaur age flowering (fruiting) plants. Although the exact time of origin for flowering plants is still uncertain, the last of the dinosaurs certainly had fruit available to eat.

How fast could dinosaurs walk or run?

Estimates of dinosaur speeds vary because several different methods are used to calculate them. One recent estimate suggests that an average person might have been able to to outrun an adult Tyrannosaurus (although you probably would not volunteer to try). The two basic approaches for estimating dinosaur speed are comparing to recorded speeds of modern animals of similar body size and build, and measuring distances between fossil footprints in a trackway and using these distances to calculate estimated speed. Walking-speed estimates for medium-sized bipedal (two-legged) dinosaurs vary from 4 kph to 6 kph, and peak running-speed estimates vary from 37 kph to 88 kph. The highest figure (88.6 kph) is the same as the peak speed of the currently fastest land animals, such as the North American pronghorn "antelope" (Antilocapra americana), and very probably is too high.

Did dinosaurs communicate?

Dinosaurs probably communicated both vocally and visually. The chambered headcrests on some dinosaurs such as Corythosaurus and Parasaurolophus might haved been used to amplify grunts or bellows. Defensive posturing, courtship behavior, and territory fights probably involved both vocal and visual displays. An angry Triceratops bull shaking his head at you, even silently, would have made himself very clearly understood!

Which was the smartest dinosaur?

Although there is no direct way to measure a dinosaur's intelligence, one of the few possible measures of intelligence might be a large brain in a small body. The genus that perhaps fits this description best was the Cretaceous bird-like dinosaur Troodon, which also may have had binocular vision (depth perception) and excellent eyesight and was built for speed. Even so, this dinosaur was probably not as "intelligent" as most modern birds and mammals.

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