What Did Dinosaurs Really Look Like? You’d Be Surprised.

The Jurassic Park movies are a well-known and still thriving franchise. As children, many of us would’ve watched the giant, prehistoric beasts in the movies with awe and horror. Until now, we have accepted the portrayal of dinosaurs in these movies as factual. What if I told you you were wrong?

Movies and popular culture depict dinosaurs as massive, reptilian beasts. They often look like predecessors of animals such as the monitor lizard or Komodo dragon. But, in truth, dinosaurs are predecessors of a completely different animal. One that is quite an unlikely candidate for the enormous, vicious beast we have in mind: the humble bird.  

New research has pointed to many dinosaurs having bird-like features and characteristics, as well as feathers. Scientists used high-powered lasers to reveal unknown details about these animals. The research can possibly give us insight into the origin of flight that is thought to have evolved 150 million years ago. Michael Pittman, from the University of Hong Kong, undertook this study and mentions its importance in understanding the origin of birds. 


The dinosaur featuring in this study as well as several others is the Anchiornis. It may not be as popular as the T-Rex or the triceratops but we know a lot more about this creature than its relations. 

The first Anchiornis fossils were found in China, in 2009, and subsequently, 200 more specimens have been found. In 2010, an in-depth analysis of its preserved feathers led to the discovery of the colours of the Anchiornis. 

Pittman and his co-authors uncovered many more details in their study. Even though soft tissue is generally not preserved along with fossils, microscopic amounts are often found on the fossils. Researchers obtain the samples for analyses and apply a technique called laser-stimulated fluorescence to the fossil specimens to reveal several features and details.

Palaeontologists have pieced together what the Anchiornis really looked like using all the new information revealed in this study as well as various other studies. 

This is what the Anchiornis might have really looked like [source].

In addition to the Anchiornis, scientists have carried out studies and analyses on several other dinosaurs in order to piece together what they might have looked like. 


This is a picture of what the Compsognathus was originally visualised as [source].
This is a more accurate idea of what the Compsognathus may have looked like [source].

The actual Compsognathus had very short feathers as opposed to reptilian scales and its feet and hands resembled that of a bird. 


This is a picture of what the Spinosaurus was originally envisioned as [source].
This is a more accurate depiction of the Spinosaurus [source].

The Spinosaur used its long jaw for fishing and it mostly lived underwater. It can be compared to modern-day aquatic birds such as the crane. 


This is a picture of what the T-Rex was thought to be [source].
This is a closer rendition to what the T-Rex actually looked like [source].

The T-Rex actually carried itself more horizontally as opposed to upright, quite similar to a bird. There is also scientific consensus, based on analysis done on close relatives, that the T- Rex was covered in feathers. 

Scientists have conducted a lot of research and studies to get an idea of what these magnificent beasts truly looked like. Full reconstructions are difficult since body parts like soft tissue and feathers don’t often survive the preservation process, only bones or fossils do. Despite these difficulties, we have a clearer idea of what dinosaurs looked like now than we did a few years back, and the trend will continue as we uncover more fascinating details about these creatures.  

Written by Avvari Sai Divya

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