The 2015 release of Jurassic World has resulted in a cultural revitalization regarding interest in dinosaurs. Not only are our movies returning to the ancient eras, but books, video games, and tv shows have also begun to have increased popularity regarding the ancient beasts. But dinosaurs are long gone, right? The closest things we have to dinosaurs now are crocodilians, monstrous river creatures that were around when dinosaurs existed, but aren’t dinosaurs themselves. Instead, they’re reptiles.
The myth of still-living dinosaur has existed for thousands of years. Ancient Africa has stories of the mokele-mbembe, a sauropod (long-necked) dinosaur that lives in the Congo River Basin. Loch Ness has the famous story of Nessie, the plesiosaur, which is an ocean-dwelling fish eater. Many ocean monsters are told are being liopleurodons, or mosasaurs, or even megalodons. They thrive in our novels, in our movies, and in our imagination. But deep down, everyone knows that dinosaurs are gone and that it’s all just wishful thinking, right?
Did you know that dinosaurs do still exist? A subset of dinosaurs called theropods are still alive and well today. In fact, you see them every day. And no, I’m not being facetious or bending rules. Birds are the living relatives of dinosaurs, and some scientists even consider them to be dinosaurs themselves.
You might be yelling at me that birds don’t count, and maybe you’re right. Dinosaurs, as we picture them, are very much long gone, but the fact remains that the very birds we are surrounded by, flitting through the air and singing spring songs, are simply dinosaurs in smaller form. In fact, the velociraptors are one of the closer relatives to our current form of birds. T-rex, too, but that’s from way up the family tree. The two-legged carnivorous dinosaurs that you picture when you think of scary dinosaurs are the great-great-great-great-great grandpas of your KFC bucket. You ate a dinosaur, and therefore you should feel proud.
It’s becoming a well-known fact that dinosaurs once had feathers. They also had the light bones of birds, similar tissue, the same eggs, and even might have displayed similar behavior as living birds today. Birds, often known for having relatively small brains for their skulls, share a striking similarity with velociraptors, who also had tiny brains. According to Scientific America, the velociraptor had a skull the size of coyote, but a brain the size of a pigeon. Not so noble sounding now, are they? Don’t worry, the velociraptors that we see in the Jurassic movies are all wrong. The real velociraptors are about the size of, well, a coyote.
Now you know. The noble dinosaurs that once roamed the earth actually still do, but they’re less noble and more tasty. Or, are they? Imagine Thanksgiving with a T-rex leg to go with the mashed potatoes. Next time someone says that dinosaurs are all gone you can give them a look, lift your chin, and tell them that they’re wrong. Technically. And, really, that’s all that matters in the end.