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Word Count: 960
The word dinosaur conjures up images of gargantuan now-extinct beasts that ruled the Earth long ago holding a reign of horror for about one hundred sixty million years and then mysteriously vanishing with only their bones as evidence of their existence Dinosaur reaches deep into our minds and drags out nightmares from monster myths What is the truth about dinosaurs that underlies the awe that covers them What does modern science have to say about the dinosaurs Are they truly obsolete long-extinct relics of a more primitive and experimental stage in the history of life or is there more to the Dinosauria than meets the eye Dinosaurs are animals that evolved into many sizes and shapes They were and are quite diverse and often one person will think of an animal like a long-necked Brachiosaurus while another person will think of a large fierce meat-eater like Tyrannosaurus Rex It should be clear then that the term dinosaurs or the scientific version Dinosauria is describing a diverse group of species with widely different styles of living Dinosaurs were one of several kinds of prehistoric reptiles that lived during the Mesozoic Era the Age of Reptiles Humans have undoubtedly been finding dinosaur fossils for centuries As long ago as 300 AD a Chinese scholar wrote of the discovery of dragon bones And some experts now believe that giant creatures of Greek and Roman mythology may have had their roots in fossil finds But it was really less than two hundred years ago that scientists began to grasp the scope and significance of these ancient creatures Although dinosaurs fossils have been known since at least 1818 the term dinosaur deinos means terrifying sauros means lizard was coined by the English anatomist Sir Richard Owen in 1842 The only three dinosaurs known at the time were Megalosaurus Iguanodon and Hylaeosaurus very large dinosaurs The largest dinosaurs were over one hundred feet 30 m long and up
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