Why were dinosaurs so big? What did they eat, and how did they raise their young? Here's a list of the 10 most frequently asked questions about dinosaurs, with links to additional information.
1. When Did Dinosaurs Live?
Dinosaurs ruled the earth longer than any other terrestrial creatures, from the middle Triassic period (about 230 million years ago) to the end of the Cretaceous period (about 65 million years ago). Here's a more detailed look at the Mesozoic Era, the period of geologic time comprising the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
2. How Did Dinosaurs Evolve?
As far as paleontologists can tell, the first dinosaurs evolved from the two-legged archosaurs of the Triassic period (these same archosaurs also gave rise to the very first pterosaurs and prehistoric crocodiles). Here's an overview of the reptiles that preceded the dinosaurs, as well as the story of the first dinosaurs.
3. What Did Dinosaurs Look Like?
This might seem like an obvious question, but the fact is that depictions of dinosaurs in art, science, literature and movies have changed radically over the last 200 years--not only their features and posture, but also the color and texture of their skin. Here's a more detailed analysis of what dinosaurs looked like.
4. Why Were Dinosaurs So Big?
The biggest dinosaurs--sauropods like Diplodocus and theropods like Spinosaurus--were bigger than any other land-dwelling animals on earth, before or since. How did these dinosaurs attain such enormous sizes? Here's an article explaining why dinosaurs were so big.
5. How Did Dinosaurs Raise Their Young?
It took decades for paleontologists just to figure out that dinosaurs laid eggs; they're still learning about how the average theropod, hadrosaur and stegosaur raised its young. First things first, though: here's an article explaining how dinosaurs had sex, and another one on the subject of how dinosaurs raised their young.
6. How Smart Were Dinosaurs?
Not all dinosaurs were as dumb as fire hydrants, a myth that has been perpetuated by the spectacularly small-brained Stegosaurus. Some representatives of the breed, especially theropods, may have attained near-mammalian levels of intelligence, as you can read for yourself in How Smart Were Dinosaurs? and the 10 Smartest Dinosaurs.
7. What Did Dinosaurs Eat?
Depending on their proclivities, dinosaurs pursued a wide variety of diets: mammals, lizards, bugs and other dinosaurs for meat-eating theropods, and cycads, ferns and even flowers for sauropods, hadrosaurs and other herbivorous species. Here's a more detailed analysis of what dinosaurs ate.
8. How Did Dinosaurs Hunt Their Prey?
The carnivorous dinosaurs of the Mesozoic Era were equipped with sharp teeth, better-than-average vision and powerful hind limbs; their plant-eating victims evolved their own unique set of defenses, ranging from armor plating to spiked tails. This article discusses the offensive and defensive weapons used by dinosaurs.
9. Where Did Dinosaurs Live?
Like modern forms of life, the dinosaurs of the Mesozoic Era occupied a wide range of geographical areas, ranging from deserts to tropics to polar regions. Here's a list of the 10 most important habitats prowled by dinosaurs (as well as pterosaurs, marine reptiles, mammals and birds) during the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
10. Why Did Dinosaurs Go Extinct?
At the end of the Cretaceous period, the dinosaurs disappeared off the face of the earth virtually overnight (though, in fact, the process of extinction may have lasted for thousands of years). What was powerful enough to wipe out such a successful population of terrestrial animals? Here's an article on the K/T Extinction Event, as well as 10 Myths About Dinosaur Extinction.