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Quiz about Dinosaurs or Dragons Faulty Fossil Findings
Quiz about Dinosaurs or Dragons Faulty Fossil Findings

Dinosaurs or Dragons? Faulty Fossil Findings Quiz


Fossils are difficult things to decipher, so it is no surprise that throughout history there have been many errors relating to paleontology. Here are ten examples of some famous flawed fossils.

A multiple-choice quiz by Daaanieeel. Estimated time: 5 mins.
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Author
Daaanieeel
Time
5 mins
Type
Multiple Choice
Quiz #
352,098
Updated
Dec 03 21
# Qns
10
Difficulty
Tough
Avg Score
6 / 10
Plays
374
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Question 1 of 10
1. Fossils have often been given as explanations for mythical creatures (notably dinosaur fossils for dragons in China). Which Mongolian ceratopsian herbivore, notable for lacking the horns typical of the family and for its distinctive frill, is one explanation for the origins of the griffin? Hint


Question 2 of 10
2. The brontosaurus, one of the most famous of dinosaurs, actually never existed. What is this sauropod now (correctly) known as? Hint


Question 3 of 10
3. The elasmosaurus was an ocean-dwelling plesiosaur of the Late Cretaceous. What mistake did Edward Drinker Cope make on its discovery? Hint


Question 4 of 10
4. The fossils of the Megalonyx jeffersonii were confused by founding father Thomas Jefferson to be the remains of a giant lion-like cat. The remains were later discovered to have belonged to an extinct species of which type of creature? Hint


Question 5 of 10
5. This herbivore, one of the first dinosaurs to be discovered and just the second to be officially named, has baffled scientists ever since its discovery. Perceptions on just what it looked like changed constantly; early on scientists thought they appeared like a lizard with a horn on its head (actually a thumb). Which duck-billed dinosaur is this? Hint


Question 6 of 10
6. When the tooth of the Nebraska Man was discovered, it was believed to be evidence of a missing link in evolution. The tooth really belonged to a relative of what type of creature? Hint


Question 7 of 10
7. The hypsilophodon's history is riddled with errors! Along with the misconception of its size and the apparent "fact" that it was armoured, where was the hypsilophodon originally believed to have lived? Hint


Question 8 of 10
8. With a name that means "egg thief", this dinosaur was discovered along with a nest of what was believed to be protoceratops eggs, leading scientists to believe they stole from other dinosaur nests. Later it was discovered that the nest was actually its own! What is the Late Cretaceous carnivore in question? Hint


Question 9 of 10
9. Herodotus almost became the first paleontologist as well as historian! In which famous ancient historical structure(s) did he discover the fossils of ancient single-celled organisms, which he dismissed to be the food of the builders? Hint


Question 10 of 10
10. A dinosaur with two brains? Surely not! Which famous dinosaur, easily identifiable due to its body plates and spiked tail, was believed to have two brains- one in the head and the other in the tail? Hint



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Quiz Answer Key and Fun Facts
1. Fossils have often been given as explanations for mythical creatures (notably dinosaur fossils for dragons in China). Which Mongolian ceratopsian herbivore, notable for lacking the horns typical of the family and for its distinctive frill, is one explanation for the origins of the griffin?

Answer: Protoceratops

Fossils may have inspired the arise of numerous mythical creatures, notably dinosaur fossils inspiring the dragon in China. Adrienne Mayor (a classical folklorist) proposed that protoceratops fossils may have been interpreted as the bones of a half-eagle half-lion (a griffin), a theory supported by numerous scientists. She said that fossils from the Gobi Desert (an area known for its large preserves of protoceratops and other beaked dinosaur fossils) of beaked quadrapods may have confused ancient Mongolians and caused the griffin myth to arise.

The protoceratops was an herbivorous Ceratopsian from the early Cretaceous Period in what is now Mongolia. It belonged to the protoceratopsidae family, which were part of the Ceratopsia group but were typically smaller (the protoceratops was about the size of a sheep). They had a very large and distinctive frill which may have been used for a number of reasons from protecting its neck to impressing other protoceratopses. They also lacked horns, something not common for those of its family.

The other three options are ceratopsids, but all three have the distinctive horn of the family. Also, none of them have had specimens discovered in Mongolia.
2. The brontosaurus, one of the most famous of dinosaurs, actually never existed. What is this sauropod now (correctly) known as?

Answer: Apatosaurus

Othniel Charles Marsh, a Yale University professor, first discovered the bones of a nearly complete apatosaurus in 1877. In 1879 he then discovered what he thought was a new species of Sauropod and called it "Brontosaurus", meaning "thunder lizard". It was later discovered that the apatosaurus was actually just a juvenile brontosaurus, and thus the brontosaurus was renamed to apatosaurus as it was the first to be named. Also, the skull that was put on the brontosaurus actually belonged to that of the camarasaurus, another Sauropod.

In 2015, a study completed by Emanuel Tschopp, Octavio Mateus, and Roger Benson concluded that the brontosaurus was separate to the apatosaurus and should be treated as a distinct genus. While this has some support, the matter is not conclusive, with other palaeontologists such as Michael D'Emic critiquing the conclusion.

The apatosaurus was a herbivorous sauropod from the Jurassic Period. Weighing in at about 23 000 kilograms (25 short tons) and with a length of about 23 metres (74 feet), it was one of the biggest land animals to ever walk the Earth. Its name comes from the Greek words "apatelos" (meaning "deceptive") and "sauros" (meaning lizard), so named because its chevron bones were similar to those of ancient marine reptiles known as mosasaurs.

The other three dinosaurs were also Sauropods but did not cause the brontosaurus confusion.
3. The elasmosaurus was an ocean-dwelling plesiosaur of the Late Cretaceous. What mistake did Edward Drinker Cope make on its discovery?

Answer: He placed the head on the wrong end of the skeleton

Edward Drinker Cope described the elasmosaurus in 1868 based on the fossil discovered in Kansas, USA by Dr. Theophilus Turner. He decided upon receiving the bones that the head belonged on the wrong end of the skeleton, giving the impression that it had a very long tail rather than a very long neck! This mistake was pointed out by many paleontologists, notably Joseph Leidy and Cope's rival Othniel Charles Marsh. Cope was, at the time, an expert on lizards (who have long tails and short necks), so this may have been the cause of this error, along with the fact that no plesiosaur of the elasmosaurus' size had been discovered at the time.

The elasmosaurus was a Late Cretaceous plesiosaur. The function of its long neck was to allow it to hide itself from schools of fish from below for easy snacking, although it did slow down its swimming considerably due to the centre of gravity focusing just behind its front flippers.
4. The fossils of the Megalonyx jeffersonii were confused by founding father Thomas Jefferson to be the remains of a giant lion-like cat. The remains were later discovered to have belonged to an extinct species of which type of creature?

Answer: Sloth

Colonel John Stuart sent Thomas Jefferson fossilized bones in 1796 for description from a West Virginian cave. After studying the bones, Jefferson published a piece to the American Philosophical Society titled "Certain Bones", stating that the bones most likely belonged to a species of cat, and theorized that the cat (with a lion-like appearance) was still alive somewhere. He named the beast the "Megalonyx", meaning "giant claw", due to the large claw he received. Later, in 1799, Caspar Wistar stated (correctly) that the bones actually belonged to an extinct species of ground sloth. He later proposed the name "Megalonyx jeffersonii" in 1822 in memory of Jefferson, and the name stuck after French zoologist Anselme GaŽtan Desmarest published it as such in 1822.

Jefferson's ground sloth (Megalonyx jeffersonii) was adopted as West Virginia's state fossil in 2008. It likely died out in the Late Pleistocene period after emerging in the Middle Plesitocene period. Its closest living relative is likely the two-toed tree sloth.
5. This herbivore, one of the first dinosaurs to be discovered and just the second to be officially named, has baffled scientists ever since its discovery. Perceptions on just what it looked like changed constantly; early on scientists thought they appeared like a lizard with a horn on its head (actually a thumb). Which duck-billed dinosaur is this?

Answer: Iguanodon

The iguanodon was first discovered in 1822 in England. Legend has it that the wife of doctor Gideon Mantell discovered the fossils of the iguanodon's teeth while her husband was seeing patients, but it has been debated whether this is true. Mantell at first he believed them to be the bones of a crocodile, but he changed his mind after realizing they were herbivorous teeth. After much debate amongst scientists, Mantell finally described the dinosaur in a piece written to the Royal Geological Society of London in February 1825, calling it "iguanodon", meaning "iguana-tooth". After more jumbled remains were discovered in Kent, he tried piecing them together and, amongst other errors, made the famous mistake of placing the thumb on the nose as a horn. This error had been corrected after more specimens were discovered. In 1878 one of the most major of fossil events took place when two Belgian miners accidentally uncovered about 38 iguanodon specimens. This discovery has helped scientists to describe the dinosaur greatly.

The iguanodon genus has gone through many changes in its reconstructed appearance throughout the years and remains one of the most intriguing dinosaurs. Early on, scientists believed them to look like giant lizards, before moving on to a bipedal reptile and then finally what it appears as today.

The iguanodon was a genus of large, duck-billed, herbivorous dinosaur. It walked mostly on four legs as shown by footprints but could support itself on two. Its spiked thumb was likely used for defence.

The other three dinosaurs are also duck-billed dinosaurs.
6. When the tooth of the Nebraska Man was discovered, it was believed to be evidence of a missing link in evolution. The tooth really belonged to a relative of what type of creature?

Answer: Pig

The Nebraska Man (Hesperopithecus haroldcookii) was first described by Henry Fairfield Osborn in 1922. Based on just one tooth discovered by a rancher, he believed it belonged to an ape which may have just been the missing link in evolution. However, after the discovery of other parts of the skeleton the tooth belonged to it was found it actually belonged to the prosthennops, an extinct type of peccary, which is of the suborder Suina to which pigs are also belong.

While the mistake might seem a bit irrational, peccary teeth and human teeth are actually quite similar in many ways, so it is no real surprise this mistake was made.
7. The hypsilophodon's history is riddled with errors! Along with the misconception of its size and the apparent "fact" that it was armoured, where was the hypsilophodon originally believed to have lived?

Answer: Up trees

In 1849 on the Isle of Wight the first hypsilophodon remains were discovered, and at first they were believed to belong to the iguanodon. In 1870, after getting his hands on a specimen discovered by William Fox, Thomas Henry Huxley published a description of the fossil, stating that it did not belong to an iguanodon but was a new species, and also gave it its name. This caused much debate as some still thought it was an iguanodon and, in 1874, its name was changed to Iguanodon foxii. John Hulke rejected this idea however, and in 1874 he even described the species as having armour like an ankylosaurus! There were many other mistakes riddled throughout the hypsilophodon's history- some paleontologists believed it would climb or even live up trees due to its hand shape. Some also believed they walked on four legs and some thought they were much bigger than they actually were.

With modern research, we now know hypsilophodon was a small Early Cretaceous herbivore or omnivore of the Ornithopoda order. It was quick, had a sharp beak to help eat plants and likely moved in large packs.
8. With a name that means "egg thief", this dinosaur was discovered along with a nest of what was believed to be protoceratops eggs, leading scientists to believe they stole from other dinosaur nests. Later it was discovered that the nest was actually its own! What is the Late Cretaceous carnivore in question?

Answer: Oviraptor

The oviraptor was a small carnivore of the Late Cretaceous. It had a toothless beak, was probably quite quick due to its size and build and likely had feathers. A specimen of the dinosaur was discovered with a lizard inside its stomach. Its name means "egg thief" in Latin as when it was discovered (in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia in 1924) it was discovered along with a nest of 15 eggs. These eggs were thought to belong to the protoceratops, of which there are notably large amounts of preserves in the Gobi Desert. It was thought to have eaten the eggs by crushing them with its beak (an idea Henry Fairfield Osborn presented). Upon later investigation it was discovered that the eggs did not belong to a protoceratops but were actually its own, meaning it was probably brooding them, not stealing them!

The other dinosaur species are of the same clade as the oviraptor.
9. Herodotus almost became the first paleontologist as well as historian! In which famous ancient historical structure(s) did he discover the fossils of ancient single-celled organisms, which he dismissed to be the food of the builders?

Answer: The Egyptian Pyramids

Sometimes referred to as the first ever historian, the Greek Herodotus was nearly the first paleontologist as well after observing fossils in the bricks of the Egyptian Pyramids. he dismissed them as being the leftover lentils the builders had eaten when making the structures. They were actually single-celled organisms of the past which were preserved in the sediment.

Herodotus didn't make the mistake twice though. Later (as recorded in his book "Histories"), he found shells in the mountains of Egypt. This time, he correctly hypothesized from these ancient shells that Egypt was once entirely under water and these shells were from that time.
10. A dinosaur with two brains? Surely not! Which famous dinosaur, easily identifiable due to its body plates and spiked tail, was believed to have two brains- one in the head and the other in the tail?

Answer: Stegosaurus

Stegosaurus fossils have been discovered all across the globe, from the US to China to Portugal. It was first discovered in 1877 in the Morrison Formation, Colarado, and was given its name in the same year by Othniel Charles Marsh. At first, Marsh believed the remains to belong to an ancient turtle because of its body plates (which he believed were laid flat on the body). Soon after his description after more and more fossils of the species were discovered, Marsh noted a hole in the hind-regions and stated the idea of a second bran in the tail which was used to control the lower part of the body. Later this idea has been disregarded and scientists believed this hole was likely the location of the "Glycogen body", which is an oval structure modern birds have, containing lots of glycogen. Some people even believed that the dino had a third brain, this one located in its back!

The stegosaurus, a steogsaurid from the Late Jurassic, is easily recognized by its body plates and spiked tail. While it is not known for sure what the plates were used for, some theories state that they were used for controlling body temperature. Others state they were for display more than anything else. Its spiked tail was probably used for defence. With specimens discovered worldwide, it must have been very successful in its time. That's impressive for a dinosaur with a walnut sized brain!

The other three dinosaurs were herbivores with something distinctive about them. The ankylosaurus is famous for its armour and clubbed tail, the triceratops for its frill and horns and the pachycephalosaurus for its bony head.
Source: Author Daaanieeel

This quiz was reviewed by FunTrivia editor WesleyCrusher before going online.
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