The Dinosaurs Rediscovered is the new book by expert palaeontologist Michael J. Benton, summarised perfectly by Steve Brusatte, author of The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: The Untold Story of a Lost World who says, ‘If you want to know how we know what we know about dinosaurs, read this book!’
1 Some dinosaurs had feathers that carried patterns of colourful stripes and blobs.
Feathers are made of a tough protein called keratin and they can be fossilised. Deep inside the feathers are melanosomes, capsules that contain the pigment melanin, and the shape of the melanosome tells us the colour of melanin, such as black, brown, grey, blonde, or ginger. These melanosomes are preserved beautifully in the fossils…
2. Tyrannosaurus rex had a bite force that was ten times more powerful than that of the biggest biter today, the Great white shark.
We can never go back in a time machine to test this, but we have modern engineering models. The researcher makes a perfect 3D digital model in the computer of a T. rexskull, and then subjects it to stresses and strains to work out what was possible. The engineering software is used to design aircraft, tower blocks and bridges, and it works. Therefore, it works for fossils too…
3. Equally though, T. rex could not gallop or run, but ambled along at a leisurely pace.
Palaeontologists had big debates over whether T. rexcould run or just amble along slowly. Engineering testing gives us the answer – it could walk briskly at best. If T. rexbroke into a run, it would break its legs. How do we know that? When you run, you express a multiple of your body weight – up to ten times -through the leg that hits the ground. Think of that for a 5-tonne T. rex!
4. Dinosaur babies all hatched from eggs, and they were tiny – a 1 kg baby vs. a 50-tonne mother.
The first dinosaur eggs were discovered 150 years ago, and since then hundreds of nests and eggs have been dug up. Some of them even contain the tin y bones of the unhatched baby inside. So, we can match the egg (and baby) to the parent dinosaur that laid the egg, and then work out the relative sizes of mother and hatchling baby.