I think that the fact that dinosaurs once roamed the earth is awesome. Sometimes when I’m walking down the street, I like to imagine what it would be like to see a Diplodocus walking down the other side.

Or, more realistically, a bunch of Diplodocuses. They move in herds

I like to imagine what would happen if a T-Rex burst of from the edge of a wooded park, how all the humans would scramble away like roaches. Imagine if your quiet, dull little business meeting on the 10th floor was interrupted by an Argentinosaurus smashing its head through the wall. Imagine that? That would really shake up your Tuesday.

“So, how are things looking next quarter?”

Point is, having dinosaurs around would make life so, so much better, except for the fact that we would likely never have been born. If you’re like me, then, you often wonder: why did the dinosaurs leave us?

God creates dinosaurs, God destroys dinosaurs, God creates man, man spends most of his day silently looking out the window, wishing dinosaurs were here

Most of you probably have some idea about why dinosaurs went extinct. Some of you might even have an idea that it had something to do with a meteor. Very few of you will know that it’s all Earl’s fault for building that wax fruit factory on the Bunch Beetles mating ground.

The finale of Friends would have been much more poignant if Joey had caused the end of the world.

You may believe all of that, but you would be wrong, not least of all because you believed a show with talking muppet dinosaurs was real life. Turns out that, much like your understanding of the line between reality and fiction, the events surrounding the extinction of the dinosaurs is a little blurry.




Now, there really was a big meteor that hit the earth, right around the time dinosaurs went extinct about 65.5 million years ago. Basically, 10 km wide meteor slammed into what is now Chicxulub, Mexico, by the Yucatán Peninsula, with a force 2 million times stronger than an atomic bomb.

Every small town has its hardships

This theory is supported by the fact that a layer of iridium, a metallic element found in meteors, is found in the fossil record at approximately 65 million years ago. The blast sent all sorts of debris in the sky, blocking out the sun and chocking the food chain from the bottom, eventually starving the animals that didn’t freeze to death. The animals that weren’t pulverized by a 100 megaton bomb from space first, that is.

This Dromaeosaurus, for example, seems pretty screwed

If you think that’s the only theory regarding dinosaur extinction, though, you’re wrong. Dead wrong. Because you know where else iridium is found other than meteorites?

Nope, guess again

If you guessed “right in the core of the earth”, congratulations! You’re 1 for 1. Know how that iridium might make it to the surface, aside from meteors?

If you guessed “morlocks”, you’re now 1 for 2

Volcanoes. And it happens that a bout of extreme volcanism occurred in India right around 65 million years ago, in a place now called the Deccan Traps. “Extreme Volcanism” would be an awesome name for a band.


Anyways, the eruptions spanned at least 30 000 years, and upchucked up enough iridium to cover the whole earth. These explosions pumped out enormous levels of debris and greenhouse gases, starting the same chain reaction of global climate change described above. Which probably wasn’t welcome news to any dinos that survived the meteor.

“Well, isn’t this lovely? First the meteor, and now we have volcanoes blocking out the sun. If it’s not one thing it’s another, ya know?”

Both the meteor and volcano theories posit that a cataclysmic event wiped out a bunch of species, while a bunch of other species slowly died out from the aftermath. It’s also possible that both the meteor and the volcanoes happened at the same time, speeding up the whole process.

Of course, any dinosaurs that survived all that were wiped out in a flood about 5000 years ago


You know what movie was great? Jurassic Park. Jurassic Park 2, less so. Jurassic Park 3 was total garbage. Jurassic World was fun though. Anyways, the plot of these movies hinges on bringing dinosaurs (or a close approximation of them) back from extinction. That’s just fanciful whimsy, right? Scientists couldn’t really bring back dinosaurs, could they?

They might be so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they wouldn’t stop to think if they should. Much like the creators of Jurassic Park 3

Actually, there is a long list of animals that could be brought from extinction, and the technology does exist. In fact, some species have already been brought back, through cloning or selective breeding. The problem with bringing a species back from the dead, though, is that you need some of their intact DNA, or a close enough analog from a modern phylogenetic cousin.

Another problem: zombie animals

DNA can only survive for a maximum of one million years or so, meaning we could only get the dinosaurs that didn’t make it on to Noah’s Ark. Also, all of that stuff about getting DNA from mosquitoes caught in amber and filling in the holes with frog DNA? Can’t be done, because the DNA in the mosquitoes is too degraded.

“Thanks for nothing, you vampire suck-fly”

So no, well probably never see a real, living dinosaur in our lifetimes. Sob.
OR WILL WE?!?!?!?!



Now, this whole article is predicated on the idea that dinosaurs are extinct. Well, guess what, they’re not. In fact, you can find them anywhere.

Okay, not anywhere

Technically, “dinosaurs” is a term for a clade of animals, most of which died in the previously described awful ways. However, not all subspecies went extinct. Theropods, a group of feathered dinosaurs, are theorized to have survived the Cretaceous period and evolved into different forms more suited for their new environment. The lineage persisted, and has evolved right up to this day. So what modern animals current represent the mighty and terrifying rulers of eras gone by?


Birds. Alan Grant was right, modern-day birds evolved from some species of dinosaurs, specifically, Theropods.  And if you think that Theropods were probably just some half-assed flappy proto-chickens, they weren’t. They included the most ferocious carnivores to ever walk the earth, including Spinosaurus (the bad guy from JP3), Deinonychus (the animal the velociraptors in Jurassic Park are based on), and the goddamn Tyrannosaurus Rex (Tyrannosaurus Rex).

They’ve kind of mellowed out over the years

That’s right, birds – from the singing sparrows to the chirping chickadees to the ducks you throw bread at – are direct descendants of the T-Rex. Think about that the next time you kick at a bunch of pigeons as you walk down the street.

Pigeons: disgusting crap machines 65 million years in the making

So, if you’re like me and wish dinosaurs were still around, look to the skies. There they will be, still living, harkening back to a time where they ruled the earth.


Here’s a final, scary thought – one scientist thinks he can bring dinosaurs back with the DNA of chickens. He’s probably wrong, but imagine he does it. Imagine we have dinosaurs evolved from chickens. They’re going to be awfully pissed off when they find out what we’ve been doing to their predecessors. And they may decide it’s time to change up who’s eating who for dinner.

Above: Public enemy #1

I would be so pumped.

Want to see a topic covered here? Write to Dan at dan@scienceninjas.ca.

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Dan Re