In a gorgeously animated essay, Phillipp Dettmer‘s ever-insightful Munich design house Kurzgesagt (previously) explores what dinosaurs might have actually looked like versus what we’ve long understood them to be. To support this theory, they pointed out that most of our historical knowledge comes from fossils, yet due to the wet climate over much of the earth during the prehistoric era, many of the animals did not have an opportunity to be fossilized.
The totality of all fossils on earth is called the fossil record and it is the most important window on the past we’ll ever have. For a dead animal to fossilize a number of things must go just right: The right environment, timing and conditions. And then the fossil needs to survive for millions or hundreds of millions of years and then get back to the surface – and then be discovered before natural processes dissolve it. So it is kind of a miracle that we have what we have and know what we know.
They further explain that those fossils we do have on record don’t always tell the whole story, but modern technology is helping to clarify the past.
When we first found the skull of T. rex with its mighty teeth and probably the strongest bite of any land animal ever, we imagined a fierce and stupid beast. But modern scanning technology has revealed that T.rex had a larger brain-to-body ratio than some earlier giant meat-eaters. And it probably had very sharp hearing, vision and sense of smell and was in all likelihood not a stupid animal. …Likewise, while their horns and shields might have made Ceratopsids appear to be natural born fighters, they were probably much more than that.
Mostly, however, they lament how much we’ve lost as a society with their extinction.
How intensely amazing these creatures must have been. And what a loss it is to us that we don’t get to experience them first hand. What an even greater loss that there is so much we will never know about them and even more tragic, all the absurd and beautiful beings that disappeared without a trace. But such is life – time marches on without any concern for our feelings and the past expands with every moment that passes.