Dinosaurs may be extinct, but apparently humans are actually the ones behind the times. New research shows popular perceptions about the infamous Tyrannosaurus rex are outdated by half a century. YNN's Tamara Lindstrom takes a look at these puzzling misperceptions.
TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. -- Its sheer size had Tyrannosaurus rex topping the list of popular dinosaurs when it was discovered in the early 20th century. And, its ferocious reputation has kept it in the public's imagination.
Warren Allmon, Paleontological Research Institute Director says, "They've grown up looking at books and going to museum exhibits and so forth that show the way paleontologists think T. rex. looked. And yet, the overwhelming number of them draw T. rex. the way T. rex. was drawn 100 years ago. So, that just boggled our minds."
The idea of a lumbering, tail dragging T. rex. has long been replaced by a ferocious carnivore built for speed. But for some reason, the highly evolved humans are slow to catch on.
Allmon says, "It's not just posture. It’s a sense of activity. It's a sense of high metabolism. Even for some people, ideas about intelligence."
The old ideas about T. rex. died out in the 1960's. But a new study shows that 72 percent of college kids are sticking to the outdated model.
Allmon says, "It has nothing to do with science education. It has to do with chicken nuggets."
The researchers found dinosaur-themed foods, toys, and even Barney influenced popular ideas about the T. rex. more than any textbook or scientific image. The study is not so much about how people are wrong; but, why they aren't picking up on new discoveries.
Allmon says, "This chemical is toxic, or we know that this causes that disease, but the public hasn't learned it. And textbooks are notorious for being decades behind what current science is. Everybody's always known these things, but this is a nice example of it, to kind of investigate where people get their information."
The T. rex. deserves his due. Allmon says, "Dinosaurs are now viewed as much more active and sophisticated, well adapted organisms. As the saying goes, they ruled the earth for 140 million years."
So, they must have been doing something right.
As for educating the public on the correct ideas about dinosaurs and other discoveries, Allmon says that's what the museum is there for.