Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Hafsa. Hafsa Wonders, “Are dinosaurs still alive?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Hafsa!
Isn’t the world full of interesting creatures? We enjoy spending time with cats and dogs at home. When we venture into the wild, we might see deer, foxes, and rabbits. A trip to the zoo reveals a whole new world of animals!
But what if we took a journey back in time? What would it have been like to live with dinosaurs? Walking to school would be much more interesting if seeing a Tyrannosaurus Rex was a possibility.
Alas, a disaster wiped out all the dinosaurs…or did it? Could there be dinosaurs still living with us here on Earth? Some experts say that, in a sense, dinosaurs are still alive today. They live on in the form of the animals that evolved from them.
What animals evolved from dinosaurs? We don’t see anything like a Stegosaurus walking around these days. Perhaps we’re focusing our eyes in the wrong direction, though. To find the descendants of the dinosaurs, experts would tell us to look up to the skies.
That’s right! Experts believe that birds evolved from dinosaurs. This isn’t an entirely new idea. In the 19th century, scientists found the remains of Archaeopteryx, a bird-like dinosaur. Since then, researchers have worked to bridge the gap between ancient reptiles and modern birds.
Archaeopteryx is very important to the scientific community. It had features of both dinosaurs and birds. Unlike birds, it had a full set of teeth. It also had a long tail and grasping claws at the end of its wings. But unlike dinosaurs, it had wings and reduced fingers. Many say archaeopteryx was the first bird on Earth. It lived 150 million years ago.
Over the last few decades, scientists have found fossils from other types of bird-like dinosaurs. They now firmly believe that modern birds came from dinosaurs. Specifically, birds evolved from a group of dinosaurs called maniraptoran theropods.
This group included many small, meat-eating dinosaurs. One example is Velociraptor. Do you know that name? If so, you may have watched "Jurassic Park” or "Jurassic World.” Unlike in the movies, the real Velociraptor was likely much smaller. It was also not nearly as fierce.
Experts have found a lot of evidence that birds came from these dinosaurs. For example, maniraptoran theropods also laid eggs. The way they did so was a lot like that of today’s birds. The eggs themselves even look like bird eggs.
Some of the strongest evidence, though, came from recent discoveries. Experts have learned that many of the maniraptoran theropods had feathers. For many years, birds were thought to be unique in that they had feathers. Scientists now know that dinosaurs had them, too, and may have also flown!
Do you see any other similarities between dinosaurs and birds? They may not seem much alike at first glance. But dig deeper, and you may find that they have more in common than you think. Maybe in some ways, people do live among dinosaurs after all!
Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1