How big were dinosaurs?

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Some dinosaurs were very big! Compare the sizes of different dinosaurs to the sizes of familiar objects you see in your community.

What You Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Observation Chart (see below)
  • Pencil

Safety First!

Be very cautious around roads and parking lots with moving vehicles.

What To Do

  1. Find the length of a few dinosaurs by doing some research on the internet, at the library or in a museum of natural history and record your findings in your Observation Chart. You can find the size of many dinosaurs on the following website: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/dino-directory/name/d/gallery.html and in the following table:
Name Length
Compsognathus 0.8 m
Gallimimus 4 m
Centrosaurus 6 m
Albertosaurus 8 m
Stegosaurus 9 m
Ankylosaurus 10 m
Parasaurolophus 10 m
Tyrannosaurus 13 m
Brachiosaurus 23 m
Diplodocus 30 m

 

  1. While at home, at school or on a walk in your neighbourhood, look for various objects that could be the size of different dinosaurs. For smaller objects, you can use a measuring tape to determine their exact length or height.
Observation Chart
Dinosaur name Length   Observed Object
Diplodocus 26m is as long as 2 city buses put together
Dromiceiomimus 3.5m is as long as The width of the average road lane
    is as long as  
    is as long as  
    is as long as  
    is as long as  

What’s happening?

The word "Dinosaur" comes from the Greek meaning "Terrible Lizard". Scientists have studied dinosaurs since their fossils were discovered in 1841. Since then, over 900 different types of dinosaurs have been discovered. Dinosaurs lived on Earth for approximately 150 million years, from about 225 million years ago until about 65 million years ago, when they became extinct. Dinosaurs varied in size but they all had the following characteristics: had either two or four legs, had legs under their bodies, laid eggs, could not live in water, had no fur, had long tails, had small ears and are extinct. Also they could not fly. The flying creatures often mistaken for dinosaurs are actually in a separate class known as Pterosaurs (the “P” is silent).

What’s happening?

The word "Dinosaur" comes from the Greek meaning "Terrible Lizard". Scientists have studied dinosaurs since their fossils were discovered in 1841. Since then, over 900 different types of dinosaurs have been discovered. Dinosaurs lived on Earth for approximately 150 million years, from about 225 million years ago until about 65 million years ago, when they became extinct. Dinosaurs varied in size but they all had the following characteristics: had either two or four legs, had legs under their bodies, laid eggs, could not live in water, had no fur, had long tails, had small ears and are extinct. Also they could not fly. The flying creatures often mistaken for dinosaurs are actually in a separate class known as Pterosaurs (the “P” is silent).

Why does it matter?

Although dinosaurs are now extinct, if they were alive today they would take up a lot of room! In fact, a Tyrannosaurus Rex was approximately as long as seven people lying down in single file, and as tall as a three storey building. Because they were so big, dinosaurs would have needed a lot of food to survive. Based on this, some scientists believe that a major loss of plants and vegetation (among many other factors) could have contributed to the extinction of dinosaurs. After the extinction of dinosaurs, mammals continued to evolve and increase in population, eventually leading the way for humans.

Why does it matter?

Although dinosaurs are now extinct, if they were alive today they would take up a lot of room! In fact, a Tyrannosaurus Rex was approximately as long as seven people lying down in single file, and as tall as a three storey building. Because they were so big, dinosaurs would have needed a lot of food to survive. Based on this, some scientists believe that a major loss of plants and vegetation (among many other factors) could have contributed to the extinction of dinosaurs. After the extinction of dinosaurs, mammals continued to evolve and increase in population, eventually leading the way for humans.

Investigate further

  • Visit a science museum or archeological museum that has dinosaur fossils or models of dinosaurs on display. You can also take virtual tours of some museums through the following websites:
  • Search for fossils in rocks and stones when you go for walk. What kinds of fossils can you find?

For more information on this topic check out these Let's Talk Science resources:

  • How did dinosaurs leave fossils behind? (Hands-on Activities) - Using a toy dinosaur and some plaster of Paris, learn how dinosaur footprints could become fossils.
  • What is a Dinosaur? (Lessons) - Students use observing and sorting & classifying skills to learn that dinosaurs are extinct animals that share common characteristics.
  • How Large Were Dinosaurs? (Lessons) - Students develop their observation and comparing and contrasting skills as they explore the size of dinosaurs.

Investigate further

  • Visit a science museum or archeological museum that has dinosaur fossils or models of dinosaurs on display. You can also take virtual tours of some museums through the following websites:
  • Search for fossils in rocks and stones when you go for walk. What kinds of fossils can you find?

For more information on this topic check out these Let's Talk Science resources:

  • How did dinosaurs leave fossils behind? (Hands-on Activities) - Using a toy dinosaur and some plaster of Paris, learn how dinosaur footprints could become fossils.
  • What is a Dinosaur? (Lessons) - Students use observing and sorting & classifying skills to learn that dinosaurs are extinct animals that share common characteristics.
  • How Large Were Dinosaurs? (Lessons) - Students develop their observation and comparing and contrasting skills as they explore the size of dinosaurs.

Discovery