Three parasaurolophus

Did All Dinosaurs Live on Land?

Dinosaurs

In decades past, dinosaurs were distinguished from other reptiles of their time by the fact that they lived on land. There weren’t any dinosaurs that swam in the oceans like the fish-like ichthyosaurs, and there were no dinosaurs that flew like the leathery-winged pterosaurs. But discoveries over the past few decades have complicated the picture a bit.

While no dinosaurs evolved to live entirely in the water, many dinosaurs were accomplished swimmers. Claw scratches and other traces left by carnivorous dinosaurs in places like southern Utah have shown that theropods weren’t afraid of getting wet, and some dinosaurs — like the spinosaurs — may have been semi-aquatic fish eaters that spend much of their time around rivers and lakes.

Dinosaurs of the skies are a different story. We now know that birds are living dinosaurs, down the chickadee on the lawn, and some non-avian dinosaurs evolved their own ways of gliding and fluttering at the same time birds were taking off.

Where in the world did dinosaurs live?

Dinosaurs Live on Land
A recreation of an ancient forest in Eastern Asia–now in the Chinese province of Liaoning—where thousands of fossils have been found. 130 million years ago it was warm and dry. © AMNH

Fossils of dinosaurs have now been found on every continent, almost everywhere that rocks of Late Triassic, Jurassic, or Cretaceous rocks are exposed on the Earth’s surface. Because dinosaurs were (and in the form of birds still are) such a diverse group or animals, they probably lived in nearly every terrestrial environment. Their fossils, be they bones, teeth, or footprints, have been found in Mesozoic rocks that are geologically interpreted to have been deposited in deserts, savannahs, forests, beaches, and swamps.

The world was quite different

Dinosaur fossils have even been discovered in Antarctica and North America, but could they really survive polar conditions? During most of the Mesozoic, the world was quite different than our modern world. The global climate was much warmer, and polar ice caps probably did not exist. Also, the continents were not as widely separated by large oceans as they are today. Nonetheless, studies of ancient geography indicate that some dinosaurs that lived in Alaska, Antarctica, and even Australia lived very near the Earth’s poles. Even with the warmer climate, these dinosaurs would have experienced extensive periods of darkness, which would have drastically affected the food supply of herbivorous dinosaurs. Exactly how they adapted to these conditions, perhaps through hibernation or migration, remains a mystery because there is little scientific evidence that can be gathered to test these potential mechanisms.

Source: khanacademy.org and discover magazine

Also read: What Dinosaur Has 500 teeth?

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