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Artistic License – Paleontology

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He's got a chauffeur who's a genuine dinosaur.

"Many people (including some scientists!) are confused about what is or isn't a 'dinosaur'. They think that flying pterodactyls or fin-backed Dimetrodon or seagoing plesiosaurs or woolly mammoths are dinosaurs. THEY ARE WRONG!"

Dinosaurs are pretty cool, which is why they are frequently seen in fiction. However, creators do not always prioritize historical or scientific accuracy when dealing with these prehistoric creatures in works. As such, dinosaurs often appear in the wrong time period, along with humans (unless appropriate), possess special abilities that they otherwise would never have had, or are treated as pets or friendly characters.

In Real Life many of the most commonly-recognized dinosaurs lived in different habitats, continents or time periods. Some prehistoric creatures, like pterosaurs and plesiosaurs, are technically not even considered dinosaurs. Fortunately, some educational programs attempt to avoid these pitfalls.

Subtrope of Artistic License – Biology. See Everything's Better with Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs Are Dragons, Slurpasaur, Dumb Dinos, Raptor Attack, Ptero Soarer and Living Dinosaurs. For mistakes pertaining to dinosaurs today, see Artistic License – Ornithology.

Compare Dinosaurs, Stock Dinosaurs (True Dinosaurs), Stock Dinosaurs (Non-Dinosaurs), and Prehistoric Life.

Common Inaccuracies In Media

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    Paleontology in General 
  • Every 1950s monster film with a Prehistoric Monster. Partly due to Science Marches On, but other times because laziness (especially when a Slurpasaur is involved).
  • On that note, any work claiming that prehistoric reptiles like dinosaurs, pterosaurs and marine reptiles were all "giant lizards". Out of all Mesozoic megafauna, only mosasaurs, the Late Cretaceous lizard Palaeosaniwa and snakes like Sanajeh (snakes are technically lizards) fit that description; dinosaurs and pterosaurs were as far from being lizards as it was possible to be while still remaining saurian reptiles; in fact lizards (including snakes) are further away on the evolutionary line from dinosaurs than birds (and crocodylians) are. The relationships of marine reptiles like ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs to other reptiles are less certain but they were certainly not lizards.note 
  • Prehistoric animals being shown as much larger than they really were.
  • Anachronism stewing is endemic with popular depictions of paleontology, whether it is humans using Triceratops to plough fields, or depicting T. rex and Stegosaurus living alongside each other, despite the fact that they never would have met in real life. In fact the time between Tyrannosaurus and Stegosaurus is significantly greater than that of Tyrannosaurus and human beings.note 
  • Paleoart Memes is a term used to describe when artists assume previous artistic depictions are 100% on point and copy it despite the fact that a large portion of it was speculation. That one picture or interpretation become the status quo despite the fact there is no proof of that characteristic. This has not only plague the public perception but even the Paleontology community itself. Recently there have been steps to avoid this in Paleoart.
  • The act of "shrinkwrapping"; more prevalent in late 1980s-mid 2000s paleoart, shrinkwrapping is basically when artists draw dinosaurs with thin skin that the bones continue to show through, as if their skin has been draped over their bones and there's nothing in between. For comparison, almost no animal in the modern day, including birds and crocodilians (the animals most closely related to dinosaurs) looks like a walking anatomy diagram, so we can be pretty sure that dinosaurs and their neighbors definitely had much more meat on their bones than that. Lately, people have been avoiding this more often. To sum up just how WRONG shrinkwrapping would look, this ugly thing is what a domestic cat would look like if it was reconstructed with only minor additions of skin and flesh on the skeleton, completely ignoring fur and soft tissues.
  • Confusing paleontology and archaeology. Paleontology studies remains of past life forms (and their activity). Archaeology studies past human cultures. It doesn't help that paleo and archaeo both mean "ancient".
  • It’s a common held belief that the discovery of Megalosaurus and Iguanodon was the first documented fossil finds; the truth is they weren’t. Mosasaurus, Megatherium, Pterodactylus, ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs were all found before them as far back as 50 years. It isn’t any less significant considering they were the first dinosaur finds and arguably where paleontology really took off note ; they were just not the first fossil discoveries.
  • Complete fossils are not found most of the time; occasionally we find really well preserved skeletons, which is more common for smaller animals, but for bigger animals most of the time it’s just bits and pieces. This is the reason older prehistoric animal reconstructions look drastically different from today. They only had so much to work on back then compared to the massive amounts of fossils we have today.
  • The fossils at museums are not always the original specimens; sometimes they are, but even then models are often used to fill in the blanks (see above). Most of the time it’s reconstructions of the bones rather than the bones themselves. This has to do with how fragile a lot of the fossils are.
  • Any time a fossil find is called a "prehistoric crime scene". Yes, paleontology and forensics have a few superficial similarities, but, leaving aside the fact that predators, by definition, do not commit murder, paleoecology is not just about "who killed whom". A fossilised animal may have died from any number of causes, from disease, drowning or even old age, rather than predation, and the layout of a fossil site can reveal far more about a local environment than just the animals in it, from the plant life to the temperature to whether it was by a lake, river or sea.
  • People often mess up classification of extinct animals; for example, calling all dinosaurs birds. To put this in perspective, this is like saying all mammals are apes. Birds are a subgroup of dinosaurs, not the other way around.
  • Cryptozoology is prone to this
    • Any time someone claims that any types of large animals actually survived and is out there. While it is true we have found some creatures that we thought went extinct but actually survived (most famously coelacanths), it is very unlikely we wouldn’t know about the really large ones like plesiosaurs, megalodon, Gigantopithecus, and various other prehistoric animals.
    • Thanks to Science Marches On a lot of accounts of these animals don’t add up in hindsight. For example the Loch Ness monster has plenty of eyewitnesses claiming that the animal got out of the water and walked on land. The problem is we now know plesiosaurs simply couldn’t do that. Another is Bigfoot which is sometimes theorized to be a Gigantopithecus, even though Gigantopithecus most likely did not walk upright like Bigfoot.
    • Additionally, such animals used as potential explanations for cryptids hinge on the notion that the animal in question has never changed due to evolution for thousands or millions of years. While it isn't impossible for an animal to remain relatively unchanged over tens, or even hundreds of millions of years, it's relatively rare. This would be especially true when said cryptid is reported in an environment that is radically different than the environment it is said to have evolved in. For instance, while the giant ground sloth Megatherium lived in grasslands and open plains, the Mapinguari of Brazilian folkore, whom some Cryptozoologists theorize is a Megatherum is said to exist in swamps and rainforests. Such a creature would have to radically alter its feeding habits and behavior to the point where it would probably look only tangentially familiar to a Megatherium. And that's still a less radical change than the notion that a megalodon could go from open ocean hunter to a deep-sea fish and remain unchanged.

    Evolution in General 
  • A lot of people think evolution equals improvement, that’s not entirely true. While evolution can improve an animal's survivability and success (just look at us humans) it can also lead to Crippling Overspecialization. One examples is the saber-tooth cats, They evolved their sharp teeth and strength to overpower and cut through animals hides. unfortunately this made them too slow to capture more agile prey once their main food source died out.
  • Any time prehistoric animals are shown to be evolutionary dead ends that deserved to die out. A lot of this comes from earlier works in paleontology up until the Dinosaur Renaissance. Now that we know a lot more about evolution and the history of Earth this is seen as a shallow assumption especially comparing it to dinosaurs. If anything, dinosaurs are probably one of the most successful animal groups to ever live, dominating the earth for about 165 million years, only being replaced by mammals due to a random and sudden global catastrophe, and still existing today as birds.
  • The idea that of evolution is simply strong survive and the weak die out. While stronger animals usually benefit in the short term, in the long term a lot of those weaker animals last a lot longer, This is because being smaller they need less food to survive, are more adaptable and don’t suffer from Crippling Overspecialization. In fact when things start to get tough a lot of animals will get smaller over generations. When mass extinctions occur, it is invariably the "weakest" animals that survive. No animal above 25 kg in size survived the K-Pg extinction, for instance.
  • Evolution isn't just about competition. Natural selection takes any strategy that works, and that includes cooperation. Everything from the mitochondria in our cells (which were originally bacteria-like organisms that infected our ancient, single-celled ancestor) to ants farming aphids to clownfish living in anemones is literally living proof of this. There's even a word for it: symbiosis, specifically mutualism (both benefit) and commensalism (one benefits, the other doesn't mind) which are the positive sides of symbiosis. Predation and parasitism would be the common antagonistic flavours.

    Dinosaurs in General 
  • Anything being called a dinosaur that isn't: Pterosaurs such as Pterodactylus; giant sea reptiles such as plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs and mosasaurs; pre-dinosaur reptiles like Scutosaurus; synapsids such as Dimetrodon (which were not, strictly speaking, even reptiles, but proto-mammals); any modern reptiles (even closely related extinct giant species like Deinosuchus or Megalania); fish or, Darwin forbid, mammals.
  • Anything being called not a dinosaur that is, such as Archaeopteryx or modern birds. Birds being regarded as different from dinosaurs is acceptable for 1980s/1990s works, but not today.
  • Cold-blooded dinosaurs and pterosaurs. Particularly, dinosaurs are often depicted as being slow, sluggish and unable to function let alone survive in cold climates, when there's evidence that some genera thrived just perfectly in snowy environments (which are often said not to have existed in the Mesozoic era). Even the anatomy of dinosaurs and pterosaurs suggests dinosaurs led active, endothermic lifestyles.
  • Dinosaurs dragging their tails along the ground. An old idea, essentially derived from "Well, crocodiles do it, so they must have". In fact, dinosaurs walked with their tails held rigid. This early misconception led to the academically approved vandalism of several dinosaur skeletons, to the point of even breaking the bones of some to make the tails drag as desired.
    • Dinosaur tails are often shown to be extremely bendy as if they are made of rubber. In real life, dinosaurs had relatively stiff tails, and the bipedal ones even used them for balance. However, some studies have suggested stegosaurids have a higher tail dexterity than previously thought.
  • Dinosaurs having the wrong postures. Most notable examples are long-limbed bipeds like Tyrannosaurus walking in a tripodal stance with an upwards-slanting spine and quadrupeds like Triceratops having sprawled limbs like lizards. Dinosaurs couldn't walk with a sprawled posture; their weight mandated that they walk with their legs straight under them, because no muscle could support it sprawled. Bipedal dinosaurs with long limbs and tails held their spines parallel to the ground; if they walked in a tripodal stance, they would suffer strain or even dislocation in their joints.
  • Dinosaurs only colored grey, green or brown. Another ancient trope derived from the "they were just huge crocodiles" line of reasoning. Crocodilians are grey, green or brown because they are adapted as semi-aquatic ambush predators that depend on camouflage, but in fact, most reptiles today have a wide range of skin colorations and rely heavily on visual communication (having a wider spectrum of color vision than mammals). It is likely that at least some dinosaurs had vibrant colors and patterns. That is not to say no Mesozoic dinosaurs were comparatively drably colored, but brightly-colored representatives probably weren't rare.
    • It was once thought the coloration of dinosaurs would be something that could never be truly known. A few years ago a method to figure it out was discovered at long last. What had been assumed to be just dirt or bacteria in fossils turned out to be preserved melanosomes, which could be compered to the melanosomes of living animals to figure out the color they would have been when the animal was alive. There now is complete and highly accurate restorations of the colors and patterns of several dinosaur species, an extinct penguin, and another bird (incompletely), with more currently being researched. Several of them have turned out to have vibrant colors.
  • Dinosaur eggs will often be shown as gigantic, often over six feet tall. In reality larger eggs require thicker shells, but the shell has to stay air-permeable. This limits the size of porous calcium carbonate eggshell for dinosaurs and recently-extinct large birds to about 15 liters in volume and 35 centimeters in diameter — not much bigger than a basketball. No larger eggs have ever been ever found. Eggs from less rigid materials were even smaller. Not to mention that a six-foot egg would also be implausible due to the Square-Cube Law. Funnily enough, the largest dinosaur egg known was laid by a bird that went extinct less than a millennium ago: Madagascar's elephant bird (Aepyornis maximus).
  • Dinosaurs and pterosaurs with an unnatural number of fingers, toes and/or claws. Archosaurs (the broader group in which dinosaurs, pterosaurs, crocodilians and their relatives belong) by default have four toes on the back feet, and five on the front feet, but only three of which have claws (as seen here); therefore all dinosaurs can only have this amount or less (the other extreme is some advanced titanosaurs, which have no fingers, toes, or claws, their limbs end in fleshy stumps). The most common errors include giving Tyrannosaurus too many fingers, giving herbivores too many claws, and giving pterosaurs too many elongated fingers and too little wing claws (or too many wing claws in the case of nyctosaurids, which are known for lacking those).
  • The belief that an ice age killed the dinosaurs. Not only were they dead for 60 million years before the start of the ice age, but the time immediately following the dinosaurs' extinction was actually substantially warmer.
  • The popularity of the film Jurassic Park led to a pan-medial explosion in use of the term "Jurassic" to describe the dinosaurs' time period. Actually, the Jurassic Period only comprised the middle third of the dinosaurs' era (in between the earlier Triassic and later Cretaceous), which in its entirety is called the Mesozoic. This was lampshaded frequently in Michael Crichton's original novel; probably because he didn't want to seem scientifically illiterate but wasn't about to give up such a cool name.
  • The Age of the Dinosaurs is often depicted as a dark, impenetrable jungle from end to end. In fact, the Mesozoic was a vast span of time encompassing a huge range of temperatures which, while all warmer than today, led to a plethora of different climates. The Early Triassic, thanks to Pangaea, was one huge desert, while the Late Cretaceous, the time of T. rex, was surprisingly cold and may have seen snow in some areas. Many time periods in the Mesozoic, such as the Mid-Jurassic and Mid-Cretaceous, do fit the tropical stereotype, though many of the plants we associate with the tropics are flowering broadleafs and so didn't come to dominate the landscape until the age of the dinosaurs was nearly at an end.
  • Dinosaurs constantly making noise such as roaring and shrieking. Needless to say real animals don't vocalize nearly as much. Evidence currently suggests that dinosaur vocalizations were potentially more like those of crocodilians than the complex vocalizations of many modern birds (which make them with a specialized organ known as a syrinx, so far unique to birds). Depictions of T. rex having a Mighty Roar is more Rule of Cool than based on any evidence. Still, that doesn't mean the sounds it actually made wouldn't have freaked you out.
  • It's increasingly likely that dinosaurs had lips that covered their teeth so when their mouth was closed the teeth would not be visible like in lizards or mammals as opposed to the exposed teeth of crocodiles (or this compared to this). By extension this is also probably true for ancient crocodile relatives that lived on land, with the modern lipless condition being a derived trait.
  • It’s often said that we have no idea what killed all non-avian dinosaurs; the truth is we are pretty sure that the meteorite was the final nail in the coffin for them, though it was the climax to a lot of other events beforehand (See below).
  • A lot of people think it was just the meteorite that killed the dinosaurs, but really it was just the end for a really bad day for them. The Cretaceous saw a dropoff in the number of dinosaurs, usually blamed on the changing climate and other factors. It’s often speculated if the meteor had hit at any of the time the dinosaurs would have been able to bounce back, but the mini-extinction they were enduring at the time meant that the meteorite was their final end (except the birds of course).
  • It would be logical that dinosaurs might have shed their old skin as all reptiles (including birds, which are technically reptiles) do it, but expect this to be portrayed as molting large patches of skin in the same manner as snakes or lizards. In real life, dinosaurs would have shed individual scales like crocodiles, especially given that birds molt this way (feathers are modified scales after all, plus the scales on birds' feet and legs are shed as well).
    • Technically speaking, the "scales" of dinosaurs (and, by extension, archosaurs in general) are not actual scales like on lizards and snakes but rather scutes.
  • Dinosaurs do not perform autotomy with their tails and regenerate them like lizards, in contrast to how some works portray.
  • Dinosaurs having pronated hands i.e. the palms of the hands facing backwards toward the body. In real life, dinosaur hands faced each other like a person about to clap. If they tried to pronate their hands, they would break their wrists as a result.

    Theropods in General 
  • Whenever a theropod's skull is drawn without the antorbital fenestra, which is a common occurrence in animation and illustration. Also, the antorbital fenestra is often mistaken for the eye socket, which results in certain theropods like Tyrannosaurus being portrayed with a shorter snout than in real life.
  • Not all theropods held their spines parallel to the ground. The reason for horizontal stances in theropods is due to the center of gravity being placed in their hips coupled with long hindlegs. Theropods with more upright stances such as therizinosaurs and penguins tend to be top-heavy with shorter hindlegs. Some paleontologists concluded that Spinosaurus had this sort of posture because of its short hindlegs.
  • The popular depiction of theropods with their teeth sticking out of their jaws is actually, according to recent research, also inaccurate. The very fact that their teeth had enamel indicates theropods had reptile-esque lips covering the teeth; enamel needs to be kept moist to protect the teeth from rotting. The very function of lips is to protect enamel-coated teeth from rotting, so since dinosaurs had enamel-covered teeth...well, they certainly had lips. However, this claim has been challenged in 2017 by the discovery of a Daspletosaurus skull with detailed preservation of the jaw bones, which studies found to be more analogous to crocodilian jaws than lizard jaws. However, some paleontologists disagree with this, claiming that said preservation does not indicate lack of lips.
  • Some people think all theropods were carnivores. Many were, but some (like therizinosaurs) actually ate plants, or at least had an omnivorous diet (like ornithomimosaurs). And of course today’s theropods, birds, include many herbivores, like ostriches, swans and turkeys.
  • Improbable feathering in coelurosaurs. Some of the most common errors are giving too sparse a coat, wrong types of feathers, and giving them the wrong wing shape. In maniraptoriformes (the group that includes dromaeosaurs, ornithomimosaurs, and birds, among others), the primary feathers (the outermost feathers on the wings) emerge from the second finger so that it and the third finger are covered, but it's very common to reconstruct them without primaries or with the primaries emerging from the wrist or third finger.

    T. rex 
Main Page: Tyrannosaurus rex
  • Any time Tyrannosaurus rex is depicted with three functional fingers or more.
  • Tyrannosaurus making a loud thud when it walked, when its feet most likely had fatty pads to silence it's tread and make it inconspicuous to it's intended quarry.
  • Tyrannosaurus emitting a mammalian roar. Neither birds nor crocodilians can emit roars, so tyrannosaurs almost certainly couldn't roar either.note 
  • Any time T. rex is spelled "T-rex" or some variation thereof (even "T. Rex" is unacceptable). T. rex is an abbreviation for the scientific name Tyrannosaurus rex, just like E. coli is an abbreviation for Escherichia coli, so the hyphen is not applicable. Scientific names are given with genus capitalized and species not, and are traditionally italicized.
  • T. rex hunting fully-grown giant sauropods. Although sauropods did exist in North America during T. rex's period, none have been found in the bonebeds that bear Tyrannosaurus fossils. Most of its prey, as confirmed in the fossil record, is comprised of hadrosaurs like Edmontosaurus and ceratopsians like Triceratops. Theropods with crushing jaws and puncturing teeth (like T. rex) are more specialized in hunting armored prey.
  • Referring to T. rex as a carnosaur. Before the 1990s, "carnosaur" was a blanket term for any large, hulking theropod, like T. rex, Allosaurus or Albertosaurus. But today, thanks to fossil evidence, we now know that carnosaurs were a distinct group that centred around Allosaurus and its relatives (sometimes called allosauroids instead due to Carnosauria’s historical baggage), and that T. rex was in fact a freakishly large coelurosaur, a member of the same group that includes raptors, ornithomimosaurs, and birds.
  • Tyrannosaurs (and occasionally other saurischians) with short, box-shaped heads that have a squared-off snout. This is generally very prevalent in animation and illustration, and is good sign that they didn't care, as no known dinosaur had any head that even looked close to this.
    • Similarly, tyrannosaurs are often depicted with heads that are smoothed over on the top, lacking the keratinous crests or bosses they most likely had in real life.
  • Tyrannosaur arms described as weak. Short, yes. Weak, no.
  • Tyrannosaurs having shallow-rooted teeth. Unlike the teeth of other theropods, which have roots the same length as the crown, tyrannosaur teeth have roots that are twice the length of the crown. This enables tyrannosaurs to grip onto struggling prey and not have their tooth fall out all the time.
  • Either portraying tyrannosaurus as having crocodilian scutes, lizard-like scales, or smothering it in a heavy coat of feathers. Neither is correct, thanks to a 2017 paper, which suggested the majority of the body had miniscule scales, similar to those seen on a bird's feet (small amounts of very sparse feathers, however, are not out of the question.) The scales are so small, the skin would look naked at a distance, though the facial region probably had thick dermal armour, a feature yet to be incorporated into mainstream culture.
  • Tyrannosaurus' vision being based only on movement. This was popularized by Jurassic Park, despite the original novel explaining that the motion-based vision was the result of the frog DNA used to recreate the park dinosaurs. It's actually believed that T. rex had excellent vision, probably better than humans and even that of modern birds of prey like hawks.
  • Sue is often mistaken as the first T. rex found. It’s the most completely-preserved T. rex but it wasn’t the first. The first one was found 85 years before then.
  • The oft-stated myth that chickens are the closest living relative of T. rex. Really, Tyrannosaurus isn't any more closely related to chickens than to any other modern bird species.
    • Even worse, that T. rex evolved into chickens. The group that includes the modern chicken and other fowl (the Galloanseres) were already around at the time, long since diverged from the tyrannosaur line. It should also be noted that, however many feathers a T. rex may or may not have had, it really wouldn't look at all like a chicken or any other bird.

    Raptors (Dromaeosaurs) 
Main Page: Raptor Attack
  • Whenever raptors (aka dromaeosaurids) are depicted as scaly, lizard-eyed dragon men with claws. This is Science Marches On for works before the late 1990s, but is inexcusable in the 2000s. While it is debatable whether all coelurosaurs (such as T. rex) were feathered, there is no debate about the raptors. And no, raptors were not just Jurassic Park-style scaly monsters that had been tarred and feathered; they had wings, tail-feathers and feathers surrounding their eyes. If you saw one from a distance, or even with its mouth closed, you would mistake it for a large, predatory bird. Which is exactly what it was.
  • Whenever Velociraptor is depicted as resembling Deinonychus. Deinonychus was a roughly wolf-sized predator that lived in North America, while Velociraptor was a dog-sized lone predator that lived in Mongolia. The confusion is quite deliberate, and can be laid at the feet of two individuals: paleontologist/paleoartist Gregory Paul, who placed them in the same genus (the guy has some fairly idiosyncratic personal views on taxonomy) and Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton, who liked the name Velociraptor so much he didn't care if Paul was literally the only paleontologist on Earth who considered them the same. When creating "Velociraptors" for the first Jurassic Park film, the crew used Deinonychus as a model even as they kept the wrong name in the script(since it sounded cooler and more iconic to them), and one of the most enduring public misconceptions about dinosaurs was born.
  • The form of the raptor's hands is often shown wrong. While real raptors had hands which paralleled each other and were wing-like in appearance, most raptors in media have paw-like hands, as shown here.
  • Utahraptor being portrayed as an oversized Deinonychus in post-2014 works. Utahraptor is now known to have a bulky body, shorter legs and tail, and procumbent jaws.
  • Referring to the famous "two-clawed raptor" Balaur bondoc as a dromaeosaur. While it was initially believed to be a very unusual member, notably having only two fingers instead of three, further studies have now reclassified it out of Dromaeosauridae and plonked it right into Avialae, containing modern birds as well as some primitive, toothed avians. Note that both Dromaeosauridae and Avialae are within the broader group Paraves, meaning that despite appearances, Balaur was not actually moved very far on the family tree!

  • Spinosaurus with an allosaur or tyrannosaur-like skull and four-fingered hands. Science Marches On for works from before the late 1980s, but otherwise unacceptable.
  • Also, any spinosaurid that is depicted as an entirely terrestrial predator. All evidence of spinosaurid meals found consists of fish, a young planteating dinosaur (Iguanodon), and a fish-eating pterosaur (either caught while fishing or scavenged on the shore). As a rule, any theropod with non-serrated teeth is not a sauropod killer, because sauropods require a very specific hunting method. While it is still very likely they could have ambushed other dinosaurs by attacking like a crocodile, killers of sauropods and armored dinosaurs, they were not.
  • Now some new Spinosaurus fossils make everything pre-August 2014 inaccurate. For reference, it had hilariously short legs and was more aquatic than previously thought. Just how short the legs were, however, is unclear. However, some paleontologists have expressed skepticism over this model, suggesting the short-legged fossils might be either chimeras or from a different species. Additionally, the assumption that it was quadrupedal is not based on any definitive evidence. Any and all known information on Spinosaurus is in flux at the time of this writing, but it seems it most likely was semi-aquatic and had short legs albeit still bipedal, since the arms are unable to support constant quadrupedal movement on land since it can't pronate its hands.
  • Spinosaurus (or any other spinosaurid) with its nostrils at the end of its snout. Spinosaurids have their nostrils farther back on the snout, which helped them breathe as they fished or submerged their jaws in the water.
  • Portraying Baryonyx without the enlarged claw on its first finger, despite said claw being where the genus got its name from.
  • Spinosaurids are usually portrayed without the triangular crest above the eyes. Alternatively, they would have two Allosaurus-like crests, which was invented by Jurassic Park III.
  • The two crests above Spinosaurus eyes are actually located further front to the snout, and as such some depictions actually have the eyes far too front, in the wrong set of fenestrae!

  • Carnotaurus (or any other abelisaurid) with tyrannosaur or allosaur-like arms. They had ridiculously small arms that were actually invisible as they lay flush against the body and probably completely useless.
  • Any time Carnotaurus is shown with a full covering of feathers. Despite the increasing evidence that most theropods had feathers, Carnotaurus is the only theropod that we have any definitive proof of no feathering thanks to a really well-preserved fossil with skin impressions. Or at least not on most of its body; a sparsely-feathered Carnotaurus still wouldn't be out of the question.
  • Any time Ceratosaurus is portrayed with only one horn, namely just its trademark nasal horn. Ceratosaurus actually had three horns, including two small ones over each eye. These horns were also fairly laterally-flat and resembled blades, in contrast to the broad horns that befall most depictions.
  • Egg-stealing Oviraptor. Yes, its name means "egg stealer", and oviraptorosaurs appear to have been omnivorous, but it is unacceptable if eggs are stated to be the main or only source of their diets. The name was chosen by Roy Chapman Andrews, who discovered Oviraptor in 1924 near a nest of eggs, but even he felt it might be misleading. Discoveries of related species since then have pretty much confirmed that those eggs were the Oviraptor's, and she/he was likely brooding them, not stealing them.
  • Oviraptorosaurs without feathers. They were so heavily feathered that they were essentially indistinguishable from modern birds. They even had beaks.
  • Oviraptor refers only to a single, poorly preserved specimen unearthed by Roy Chapman Andrews in 1924. Subsequently discovered "Oviraptors" have all eventually been placed in separate genera, usually Khaan, Conchoraptor or Citipati. Restorations of "Oviraptor" tend to be based on these other, less well known dinosaurs.
  • Thanks to John Sibbick, Avimimus was often portrayed as a flightless clone of Archaeopteryx, namely as a bizarre lizard-bird hybrid complete with a mouth full of teeth. Avimimus actually had a short head with a toothless beak and, like any other oviraptorosaur, was practically identical to modern birds.

  • The flightless bird Gastornis being portrayed as a carnivore in post-2014 works. Calcium isotopes in the bones of Gastornis have confirmed it was a herbivore, not to mention it lacks other predatory features such as sharp talons (based on footprints discovered in 2012) or a hooked beak. With that said, treating it as a harmless gentle giant because of this info is also a case of artistic license, as given its large size and powerful beak, it was very likely not a bird you would want to mess with, any more so than the equally herbivorous ostrich or cassowary.
  • The dodo is popularly described as stupid; in fact the dodo was a member of the pigeon family, which is noted for its intelligence. The reason it died out was because it had no learned fear of humans and no defence against introduced species, particularly rats.
  • Any post-2006 work that depicts phorusrhacids (aka, the famous "terror birds") with clawed hands like those of non-avian theropods. This came from the fact that the North American genus Titanis had unusually bent wings that initially suggested this. However, it was pointed out that seriemas, the terror birds' closest living relatives, have similarly bent wings, and still lack wing claws.

    Other Theropods 
  • Depicting allosauroids as being able to easily kill completely armored dinosaurs such as ankylosaurs, an impossible feat since they have weak bites and cutting teeth. Hence this is why tyrannosaurs are more built for attacking armored prey. These two groups are opposite ends of the specialization spectrum.
  • Any time Allosaurus is depicted looking like a three-fingered, downsized Tyrannosaurus (i.e. bulky body, no brow horns).
  • Frilled, venom-spitting Dilophosaurus. The venom was made up by the Jurassic Park novel, the frill by The Film of the Book and there is absolutely no evidence for either.

    Sauropods in General 
  • Whenever sauropods are depicted up to their necks in water. This is more commonly seen in older depictions, because paleontologists initially couldn't believe that such huge creatures could exist without being supported in water. However, we now know that sauropods could not breathe in such a situation, and so it is thankfully a slowly dying trope. In fact, studies on the flotation dynamics of sauropods show that they would have floated unsteadily on the water surface rather than walk along the bottom were they to take a dip beyond wading depth.
  • As mentioned above, the very belief that sauropods were too heavy to exist on land. We now know sauropods have light yet powerful skeletons with air-filled chambers, which allowed them to grow at such a large size while stabilizing their weight.
  • Sauropods chewing their food. They couldn't; they didn't have cheeks or chewing molars. In fact, their long necks were only possible because they didn't need to chew- no chewing means no big jaw muscles, ergo small, light head, ergo long neck.
  • Sauropods having their nostrils on the top of their heads. This is because of their nasal openings being positioned on the apex of the skull, which led to the idea that the nostrils were placed there and thus were used as snorkels or to help them breathe as they ate. We now know the nostrils were placed lower down near the tip of the snout.
  • Sauropods with elephant feet. In actuality, most had one visible claw on each front foot, and three claws on each hind foot. Some had clawless front feet.
  • Sauropods singing like whales is unlikely.

  • Confusing Brontosaurus with Apatosaurus. Before 2015, people were most likely to call an Apatosaurus a Brontosaurus; however, these days it could just as easily be the other way around. Up until 2015, anyone remotely versed in palaeontology would have told you that the word Brontosaurus had as much scientific meaning as the word "unicorn", since the creature never existed. Rather, the name, meaning "thunder lizard", was given to a misidentified older specimen of Apatosaurus. Why and how the word "Brontosaurus" survived is too complicated to explain quickly (in essence, big egos), but regardless, the Rule of Cool knows no statute of limitations, and the Thunder Lizard persisted to this day. And it turned out that was lucky, because in 2015 studies of Brontosaurus skeletons led scientists to conclude that yes, Brontosaurus was its own genus after all, and so the name was brought back from legend into natural history. It's still wrong to use it for all sauropods though.
  • As noted in the comic books section below, the common story about Brontosaurus being just an Apatosaurus reconstructed with Camarasaurus-like head was in fact incorrect even before 2015 revision of Apatosaurus, as the synonymization of Brontosaurus with Apatosaurus was an issue unrelated to the original incorrect restoration of Brontosaurus excelsus. Also, even when both genera were synonymized, their type species Apatosaurus ajax and Apatosaurus/Brontosaurus excelsus were retained as distinct species; just because they were classified in the same genus for a while doesn't mean they were the same animal - just like, say, assigning lions, tigers, jaguars and leopards to the single genus Panthera doesn't mean they are all the same animal.
  • Any time Brontosaurus or Apatosaurus are portrayed with longer, thinner necks and more lightly-built frames than in real life. Apatosaurine sauropods are known for having a heavy build with very thick necks. And because the necks were so robust they might have been used for fighting, and the placement of the cervical ribs suggest the presence of thickened pads or keratinous spikes.

    Other Sauropods 
  • As noted above, referring to any sauropod as a Brontosaurus or even an Apatosaurus, unless, of course, it actually is one. Brachiosaurus and Diplodocus are both common victims of this.
  • Brachiosaurus with a diplodocid-like body. Brachiosaurids (or at least those for which forelimbs & tails are known) have longer forearms and shorter tails. In fact, Brachiosaurus got its name ("arm reptile") for having longer forelimbs than hindlimbs.
  • Diplodocids with shorter tails like that of a brachiosaurid. Their tails were actually very long and whip-like.
  • Brachiosaurids being able to rear up on their hind legs like other sauropods is unlikely, because their center of gravity was too far from their hips. It was also probably unnecessary, because the increase in height they'd gain from it would be minimal compared to other sauropods.

  • Whenever Stegosaurus is said to have a walnut-sized brain and a second brain in its hip.
  • The plates of Stegosaurus were arranged alternatively in real life, but good luck seeing a portrayal with this arrangement. Usually the plates would be paired or, in the most extreme example, arranged in a single row. Said plates will also be misshapen, often as triangles or half-circles as opposed to pentagonal.
  • Any time Stegosaurus is portrayed with the wrong number of tail spikes, from lacking any to having up to eight. Said tail spikes may also be too short, when the fossil spikes shown they were at least 60-90 cm (2 to 3 feet) longnote .
  • Any depiction of Stegosaurus that has a fat body, a dragging tail, a stubby neck, and splayed limbs. This is excusable if this is seen in older portraits, but not in modern ones.
  • Stegosaurus with an unrealistically long neck. While its neck wasn't exactly short (according to a recently-discovered young adult named "Sophie", which is the most complete specimen to date), it was far from the sauropod-like necks some depictions portray it with. Although Miragaia, a long-necked stegosaur, was discovered in 2009.
  • It's been recently established that the plates of stegosaurs were covered in horny sheaths, based on well-preserved tissues on the plates of Hesperosaurus, which would make the portrayals of Stegosaurus with skin-covered plates unlikely. This would also mean the plates could not have turned red by flushing blood, as Walking with Dinosaurs demonstrated.
  • Also, stegosaurs using their plates as armor. While some studies suggest the plates were covered in horn, they are still irregularly placed for protection and keep the animal's sides unprotected. Instead, stegosaurs more likely used the chainmail-like scutes underneath their skin as protection against predators. Although the plates may have impeded a predator from attacking the stegosaur's back or leaping onto it.
  • Any time Stegosaurus is portrayed as being too slow and sluggish to defend itself from predators. Stegosaurs have front legs shorter than their back legs; while this limited their speed, it put the center of gravity in their hips. This enabled stegosaurs to rapidly turn their bodies around, giving them opportunity to strike predators with their tails and keep them away from their weak spots. It helps that Stegosaurus lived alongside swift, fleet-footed predators such as Allosaurus, so maneuverability would have been necessary for its defensive mechanism to be more effective in spite of its size and bulk.
  • Stegosaurus having feet like an elephant or a rhino. In real life, stegosaurs have five toes on each forefoot, four of which being slightly long (though only two possess claws) while the fifth is hidden underneath the skin, and three short toes on each hindfoot.

  • Triceratops with a gigantic frill. While it possessed one of the largest skulls of any land animal, its frill was relatively short especially by the likes of Chasmosaurus or Pentaceratops.
  • Styracosaurus with no frill and the long spikes protruding from the nape. And to a lesser extent, it may be depicted with long, Triceratops-like brow horns (there was a ceratopsian that sort of looked like that—Medusaceratops—but don't expect to see it even in a documentary).
  • Ceratopsians are often victims of being confused for other ceratopsians. Often putting whatever head on to whatever body and calling it whatever (usually Triceratops) or just giving it a completely made up and inaccurate skull because it would look more cool.
  • Ceratopsians did not look the same throughout their lives, we once thought this but thanks to new discoveries We now know their heads generally changed over the course of of their lives. In fact some are debating whether ceratopsians like Triceratops and Torosaurus were the same species.
  • It has been said that ceratopsian horns were not used for combat as they were too brittle and might not have been pointed enough to gore through flesh, plus they might not have been able to charge into its opponents as the skull would break upon impact. These both conflict with the fact that when the animal was alive the skull would have been reinforced by strengthening tissues and the horns would have also a layer of keratin, better shaping them for combat and preventing bone breakage.
  • Basal ceratopsians with no quills or feathers. In Real Life, they had a lot of quill-like integument on the tail, particularly Psittacosaurus which was preserved with them. It is debatable whether the advanced ceratopsians have them, though.
  • Big ceratopsids having feet like rhinos, hippos, and elephants. In actuality, they had four long toes on each hindfoot, one of which dangles uselessly, and five on each front foot, two of which don't support the weight and lacking claws, either.
  • Pachyrhinosaurus with a horn on its nose. Pachyrhinosaurus is known for lacking one.

  • Hadrosaurs with visible fingers that may or may not be webbed for swimming. Their fingers were actually embedded underneath skin, bounded into a single thickened "hoof" built for walking on dry land.
  • No, hadrosaurs were not aquatic animals. They are especially hit with this misconception because certain hadrosaurs resemble ducks (hence their nickname "duckbilled dinosaurs") and a very erroneous misconception that land plants were too tough for them to eat. They were land animals like modern day cows or bison.
  • Adult hadrosaurs (or similar ornithopods such as Iguanodon) being perpetually bipedal. Young hadrosaurs start off walking on two legs, but as they grew their forelimbs became stronger while their hind legs became less robust forcing them to walk mainly on all fours. They would only become bipedal when rearing up or running. However, there are some large ornithopods which probably would have been mainly bipedal, like Mantellisaurus note , Camptosaurus and Muttaburasaurus note .
  • Hadrosaurs being too weak to defend themselves from predators. This is due to the misconception that if dinosaurs have horns, sharp teeth, claws, tail clubs, or spikes then they are guaranteed to be dangerous, and hadrosaurs have none of those things. But given large ornithopods have muscular bodies and powerful tails, it would be hard to imagine they would be defenseless in real life.
  • Related to the above inaccuracy, hadrosaurs being drawn with skinnier bodies than they would have had in real life.
  • Tsintaosaurus having a unicorn's horn-like crest in post-2013 works. We now know its crest pointed backwards and had rhomboid facets on the upper part.

    Other Ornithischians 
  • Ornithischians having lizard-like mouths, with lips instead of a beak and no cheeks.
  • Ankylosaurus is often depicted with the wrong body shape, such as resembling a tortoise with a club tail, lacking the two horns that point backwards from the back of its head and the two others below that point downwards and back, or being too thin in width. Its armor is hardly portrayed correctly, namely having big spikes along its sides, sharpened osteoderms, and the oval scutes all being the same size. Its tail club will also be incorrectly shaped, either two-lobed like on Euoplocephalus or having spikes protruding from it like a mace note .

Main Page: Ptero Soarer
  • Plenty of works featuring a pterosaur will use the generic term pterodactyl (usually reserved for the short-tailed pterodactyloid pterosaurs or the genus Pterodactylus) for any kind of pterosaur. Also, said pterosaur is likely to be highly inaccurate, not closely resembling any known species.
  • Pterosaurs launching bipedally. Forgivable if it's Science Marches On, inexcusable otherwise. Also, pterosaurs being bipedal in general.
  • Pterosaurs carrying prey off with their feet, which are often inexplicably transformed into eagle-like talons. Sometimes they would even use them to perch.
  • Much like with raptors, pterosaurs are common victims of nudism in media, lacking pycnofibres or fur-like structures that all pterosaurs were coated with in life.
  • Any time female Pteranodon are portrayed looking the same as the males, being just as large and having long crests. Real Pteranodon had Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism, with the females being shorter than the males and having short crests or no crest at all.
  • Quetzalcoatlus and any other azhdarchid being vulture-like scavengers or seagull-like fish-eaters in post-2008 works.
  • Portraying Pteranodon with teeth. This is a particularly egregious example since the animal's name literally means "toothless wing".

    Aquatic Reptiles 
  • Plesiosaurs, the long-necked sea reptiles, almost always have bendy necks. In some old books, they are even described as "snake-like". In reality, their necks were relatively stiff and had limited mobility, though they were far from being ramrod-straight.
  • Plesiosaurs or any other marine reptiles coming onto land to lay eggs, as we now know they would die if they tried this and instead gave live birth, probably practising parental care.
  • Mosasaurs with dorsal fringes and no tail flukes.
  • Liopleurodon, thanks to Walking with Dinosaurs, is often thought to be bigger than it actually was. It was 7 meters long not 25, which they show in the documentary. The biggest pliosaur we know about was Pliosaurus funkei (aka "Predator X"), which was 13 meters at best. The Liopleurodon in "Walking With Dinosaurs" was based on the "Monster of Aramberri", a very incomplete specimen found in Mexico in 1985; early reports had suggested that it was a juvenile and 18 m in length, leading to speculation of how big it could get as an adult. Despite being initially identified as a Liopleurodon, the Monster has since lost that designation and is currently unclassified.

  • Crocodilians are not descended from dinosaurs. While fairly closely related to true dinosaurs, crocodylomorphs (including extant crocodilians) are in fact a different type of archosaur.
  • People often think crocodiles and alligators lived alongside Mesozoic dinosaurs, but they didn’t. It is true that crocodyliforms existed for about as long as the dinosaurs have, and that close relatives to today's crocodiles and alligators, like Deinosuchus and Sarcosuchus, lived alongside them and filled the same niches, but the crocodilians we see today didn’t appear until 55 and 37 Million years ago, respectively.

    Megalodon Shark 
  • No, megalodons were not a hundred feet long. Since the only fossils we have of them are their, admittedly big, teeth, reconstructions of megalodon have varied wildly in both size and shape over the years, but most palaeontologists agree that megalodons probably were between 45 and 60 feet long. Additionally, whether or not megalodon is a great white relative is also in dispute, so its common depiction as a giant great white is likely, if not wrong, than at least partially inaccurate. Some have argued that, due to its larger size, megalodon may have required a different body form and likely more resembled a whale shark or basking shark than a white.
  • Megalodons did not eat dinosaurs. They're actually a relatively recent species, evolving about 23 million years ago and only dying out about 2.6 million years ago, meaning our hominid ancestors just missed them.
  • Despite what incredibly stupid fiction or outrageous hoaxes may tell you, no one has found even the tiniest shred of evidence that megalodons are still alive.
  • Any time "megalodon" is spelled as capitalized ("Megalodon" or even "Megalodon"). It's commonly thought to be a genus name, but is actually a species name (the full scientific name is Carcharocles megalodon).

    Other Fish 

    Synapsids in General 
  • There is some confusion about what actually classifies a synapsid.
    • Some use "synapsid" to describe only the early ones like Dimetrodon. In reality this term also includes mammals of today like us.
    • The name "mammal-like reptiles" isn’t an accurate description of early synapsids. This term was once in wide use, as the term "reptile" was used to refer to any amniote (land vertebrate that either lays hard-shelled eggs or gives live birth) outside of mammals and birds (in addition to fossil taxa closer to amniotes than to modern amphibians), but in modern nomenclature paleontologists prefer to define taxonomic groups based on phylogeny (evolutionary relationships) rather than phenetics (superficial similarities). Under modern phylogenetic definitions, "reptile" is only used to refer to modern reptiles (lepidosaurs, turtles, and crocodylians) and the animals more closely related to them than to mammals, thus synapsids of any kind are no longer considered to be reptiles. A more accurate term for non-mammalian synapsids would be stem-mammals or proto-mammals. However "mammal-like reptile" is still used in some circles.
  • Any time early synapsids are shown with dinosaur or reptile anatomy and lacking the more mammal like features. Dimetrodon suffers heavily from this, a lot of times being shown as just a lizard with a sail on it’s back. A real Dimetrodon (and other basal synapsids) might have had naked skin like a mammal's coupled with pseudo-scales (of a completely different structure than those of true reptiles) on the underside.
  • In 2012, neural spines of Dimetrodon were reported to be commmonly bent at the tips, indicating that the tips may have been exposed. As such, it became a bit of a paleoart meme to depict Dimetrodon as having only half a sail. However, what the study had actually concluded was that while the extreme tips of the spines indeed were exposed, the rest of the spines (about nine-tenths of it) were covered in a sail, and such would have looked much more like the traditional depiction.
  • Synapsids being depicted with scaly skin like a lizard or crocodile. While it's debatable what body covering they had, it's unlikely that they had osteoderms. A preseved specimen of the skin impressions of Estemmenosuchus (a strange therapsid resembling a cross of a hippo and a moose) revealed it to have smooth leathery skin, covered in pores that may have housed skin glands similar to mammals of today. (However, it's unclear whether this trait was common on all therapsids, or if others indeed had hair and Estemmenosuchus secondarily lost its fur.)
  • Early synapsids being shown living alongside dinosaurs like T. rex. While the mammals of course survived, a lot of the earlier synapsids at best only made it to the Triassic and didn’t live alongside the dinosaurs of the Jurassic and Cretaceous. The few stem mammal groups that did survive past the end of the Triassic (certainly tritylodontids, tritheledontids, and docodonts, questionably dicynodonts) are unheard of in fiction and probably would have been more or less indistinguishable to a layman from a true mammal.

    Mammals in General 
  • Any medium (including a few documentaries) that suggests that mammals either didn't evolve until after dinosaurs died out or had barely done so when they did. In fact, mammals coexisted with the dinosaurs throughout most of the Mesozoic and may be present in the fossil record as far back as the Late Triassic, which would make them almost as old as the dinosaurs.
  • Conversely, any medium that suggests that non-avian dinosaurs coexisted with giant extinct mammals, such as mammoths, sabertoothed cats, or neanderthals. The largest mammals alive during the Mesozoic, or age of the dinosaurs, were about the size of opossums. They didn't start getting big until the dinos weren't around to clog their niches.
  • That said, the idea that all mammals during the time of dinosaurs were insignificant shrew-like animals that only lived in their shadow is now considered not completely true, as recent finds suggest that they evolved a wide variety of forms during the Mesozoic, including aquatic species, gliding species, burrowing species, grazing species, arboreal species, and even species that ate dinosaurs. Very small dinosaurs.
  • There is a misleading belief that the mammalian form is somehow "superior" to the dinosaurian, and that mammals are inherently more successful and adaptable. In fact, dinosaurs, in the form of birds, currently outnumber mammal species by nearly two to one, and many species, such as crows and parrots, are of comparable intelligence to primates. Indeed, mammals only became dominant over dinosaurs after literal cosmic intervention wiped out most of them, and had it not occurred, it's likely non-avian dinosaurs would still rule the Earth today.
  • There is a tendency (largely carried over from earlier times) to refer to extinct mammals as "X [insert modern mammal's name here]." For instance, referring to a Smilodon as a "sabre-toothed tiger", Thylacoleo as the "marsupial lion", or the thylacine as the "Tasmanian wolf" or "Tasmanian tiger". The marsupial predators of Australia were not at all closely related to wolves, lions, tigers or indeed any other placental predators.

    Sabre-toothed cats 
  • Referring to sabre-toothed cats as "saber-toothed tigers". Machairodontines, or true sabretooths, were an entire subfamily of cats that were no more closely related to the pantherines (tigers, lions, leopards and jaguars) than they were to the felines (pumas, cheetahs, lynxes and domestic cats).
  • Any time saber-toothed cats are depicted with long Panthera-like tails. Primitive saber-toothed cats have proportions similar to non-sabertoothed cats, including shorter canines and long tails. As they become specialized, their fangs grow longer, but so do their necks and front legs, while their hind legs become shorter, giving them a loosely hyena-like profile, and their tail becomes stubby like in a bobcat. Smilodon, the most famous sabertooth cat, is also the last in the series and the one where these features are the most exaggerated. Biomechanical studies have shown that this configuration is better to knock down and hold the prey on the ground before "stabbing" it with the fangs in a meaty, well irrigated area. If Smilodon and co. attacked without securing the prey with their paws first, as they are often seen in fiction, their fragile sabers could break in half.
  • Any time sabretooth cats are fast and agile. They were actually among the slowest predators in Real Life, relying on ambush and strength, not speed or agility. Sabretooth cats could never chase prey. The one big exception to this is Homotherium, the scimitar cat, but it rarely shows up in media anyways.
  • Smilodon, a strictly American genus, placed in any other continent, and often long after every other sabertooth had gone extinct there.
  • Similarly, Smilodon living in a snowy environment alongside woolly mammoths, despite ranging farther south in warmer climates. The South American species S. populator was known to have lived in a savannah-like environment which spread much of the Amazon was during the Ice Age. On the other hand, the North American species S. fatalis would have seen snow during winter, given California's colder climate at the time.
  • Every sabertooth (as well as similar synapsids such as the thylacosmilids and the gorgonopsids) is always portrayed as having their sabers exposed, despite many genera having huge jaw extensions which their teeth fit inside, suggesting they kept their sabers hidden inside their mouths. Smilodon is most likely an exception to this due its sabers extending far below the jawline.

    Mammoths and Mastodons 
  • Mammoths were not the ancestors of modern elephants. Asian elephants are more related to mammoths than to African elephants, but mammoths were direct ancestors of neither.
  • Mammoths were not all woolly. There were several species of mammoths, the woolly one (Mammuthus primigenius) being only one of them, and it is possible that others were as naked as elephants because they lived in warmer climates. Mammoths appeared in the Pliocene, roughly at the same time as hominids, and the woolly mammoth was the last of them, evolving its thick pelt as protection against the cold, from ancestors that were "naked" instead of the other way around.
  • Mammoths were not all prehistoric. The last ones died out in Wrangel Island, Siberia, around 1700 BC, when the Egyptians were already building pyramids, though no one knew of them at the time.
  • Mastodons looking the same as mammoths, despite being shorter and stockier and having a low-domed skull.
  • Mammoths and mastodons are regular victims of Bigger Is Better, to the point that "mastodontic" is a synonym of "gigantic" in some languages. There were some truly gigantic mammoths and mastodons: the Steppe Mammoth, Mammuthus trogontherii, was the fourth largest land mammal ever, and one of a handful that routinely surpassed the four meters on shoulder height. It was only itself surpassed by the Indian straight-tusked elephant Palaeoloxodon namadicus and the giant Tertiary rhino-giraffes Paraceratherium and Dzhungariotherium. However, the species usually depicted in media, the woolly mammoth and the American mastodon, were actually smaller than living elephants. In fact, one theory about the American mastodon's extinction is that it was displaced by a newly arrived immigrant to the Americas - the moose.

    Other Proboscideans 
  • Referring to elephants or any elephantine creature as a "pachyderm". Despite being cute, the name is now completely outdated and should be forgotten (it arguably would have been if Dumbo hadn't remained so popular). It originally referred to a taxonomic group that included elephants, rhinos and hippos. But now, thanks to anatomical and genetic evidence, we know that, other than being placental mammals, these animals have literally nothing to do with one another. In fact, rhinos are more closely related to horses and tapirs than they are to elephants, and hippos are more closely related to whales.note 
  • If the gomphothere Platybelodon ever makes an appearance, it will usually be portrayed with a big, flap-like trunk to match with its famous shovel-like lower jaw. In real life, Platybelodon and its similar-looking relatives most likely had long, flexible trunks like modern elephants. The flappy trunk might have been due to the outdated belief Playbelodon was a swamp-dweller using its lower tusks to scoop up food, before its teeth were found to have wear patterns suggesting it ate tough plant material as opposed to soft water plants note . Thus, if Platybelodon was a terrestrial browser, it would have required an elephant-like trunk to grasp branches while it used its tusks to cut up the tree.
  • The term "elephant" being used for any extinct proboscidean, such as mastodons and gomphotheres, despite being in different families. Conversely, there's also mammoths being treated as separate from elephants despite the fact that, being in the Elephantidae family, they technically are elephants.
  • Deinotherium has been recently portrayed with a shorter trunk, due to deinothere skulls lacking attachment marks for trunk muscles. But since it's been discovered elephants don't have these marks either, it's seems more likely that Deinotherium and its kin had long trunks as well. Especially given while their necks are longer than those of elephants, their legs are also longer meaning they would have difficulty kneeling (and therefore unable to drink). It should also be noted Deinotherium has a large nasal bone suggesting it had a powerful trunk, and a longer trunk would endure more strain than a shorter one.

  • No, humans did not "evolve from apes". Humans and modern apes share a recent common ancestor from which they diverged. But that even that statement is actually inaccurate; humans have not diverged from apes- humans still are apes. Modern genetic classification defines the family Hominidae as including not only humans but all "great apes" (chimps, orangutans, bonobos and gorillas). Works from before the 80s or so restrict Hominidae to humans and use the now-discredited Pongidae for the other great apes.
    • There is a lot of confusion about what "evolve from apes" means. Neither "ape" nor "monkey" is a taxonomic term, but everyone has a general idea of what an "ape" or "monkey" looks like. Distant human ancestors include animals that an average observer would describe as an ape or a monkey. Humans don't descend from any modern, currently existing ape or monkey, however. We don't descend from chimpanzees, or gorillas, or macaques.
  • Despite what certain pictures may tell you, humans did not evolve from chimpanzees either. Recent finds like Ardipithecus have suggested that chimpanzees' quadrupedal posture is in fact a highly derived form, and that the ancestral "missing link" may look more like us than them.
  • There is no archaeological evidence that early man used clubs; in fact, the earliest spears are thousands of years older than the earliest clubs. And while many early humans definitely sheltered in caves, there is no way that they all did. Caves are rare, and unlikely to be found on ice age steppeland. Most early men sheltered in huts, much like modern day hunter gatherers.
  • Neanderthals are not the ancestors of modern humans. While the genetic relationship between humans and neanderthals is somewhat complicated (nearly everyone not from Africa has a little neanderthal DNA in their makeup), neanderthals were a specifically Eurasian species that evolved to live in the harsh northern Ice Age climate. Modern humans may have interbred with neanderthals when they reached their territory, but they did not evolve from them, since they first appeared in Africa, and no one in Africa has any neanderthal DNA.

    Other Mammals 
  • Cave bears will usually be portrayed as carnivores in the media, when their dentition and isotope analysis suggest they were herbivores. That said, they probably would eat meat if the opportunity arises much like the giant panda.
  • Any time Gigantopithecus is portrayed walking upright like a human, mainly in order for it to associate with Bigfoot. While Gigantopithecus is only known from teeth and jawbones, its close relationship with modern apes, particularly the orangutan, strongly suggests it walked on all fours (it was once thought to be very closely related to humans, but this seems to be incorrect).
  • Similarly, whenever a Megatherium, or giant ground sloth, appears, expect it to be in a perpetual upright stance. In real life, while they would rear up from time to time in order to browse, their limb structure suggests ground sloths walked on all fours.
  • Megatherium is often portrayed with a horse-like head or a dog-like nose, and the oldest portraits even gave it a tapir-like trunk. But since today's sloths have pig-like noses or just two forward-facing nostrils, it seems most likely Megatherium and the other ground sloths have those kinds of noses as well.
  • Andrewsarchus was initially thought to have been a relative of mesonychids due to similarities in teeth and skull, and Walking with Beasts perpetrated this portrayal. Recent studies have shown it was actually an artiodactyl closely related to entelodonts as well as hippos and cetaceans; it would have most likely looked more like a pig with the head of a wolf as opposed to simply a wolf with hooves. With that said, its exact appearance is currently impossible to clarify since it is only known from the aforementioned teeth and skull.
  • Glyptodonts are often portrayed withdrawing their heads into their shells like turtles, which they couldn't in real life. They were actually more like ankylosaurs, having body armor that covers only the topside of the body leaving their undersides unprotected.
  • The giant short-faced kangaroo Procoptodon being portrayed hopping as a mode of transportation just like its modern-day relatives. In real life, Procoptodon was unable to hop due to its weight and instead walked bipedally like a human would.

  • Thanks to them being Big Creepy-Crawlies the giant arthropods of the past (particularly the Carboniferous, the era of big bugs) suffer a lot from the Prehistoric Monster trope. Some of them were predators yes, but some were pretty harmless herbivores. Arthropleura is probably the biggest victim of this; despite the fact it was a herbivore a lot of works involving it show it as a scary predatory animal.
  • Speaking of Arthropleura, thanks to Rule of Scary they are sometimes shown as being centipede like in shape even though they more resembled millipedes.
  • Portraying eurypterids (sea scorpions) only as scorpions that know how to swim. For one thing the creatures came in more shapes and sizes than just scorpion-like., For another they had several differences, most notably their tails didn't have stingers. And while they’re closely related to scorpions and other arachnids, they are not part of the arachnid group. In fact one of the closest known ancestors to scorpions, Brontoscorpio, an actual aquatic scorpion, isn’t actually part of the eurypterid (sea scorpion) order. Classification can be weird sometimes.
  • Portraying Megarachne as a Giant Spider any time after 2005. This was one of the big issues with Walking With Monsters—the show was in mid-production right when it was discovered that Megarachne wasn't actually a spider. They couldn't remove it from the show, so they kept it in and just called it a "Mesothelae", a hypothetical member of a primitive spider group.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Lampshaded in Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, when the characters land in "Scientifically Inaccurate Prehistoric Abenobashi".
  • Gantz is a partial aversion. Its raptors (actually aliens masquerading as raptor models in a museum) are notably covered in feathers (or maybe fur, but we'll be optimistic). On the other hand, the T. rex shoots fireballs... well, they're aliens.
  • Genesis Climber MOSPEADA subverts this trope: Stick and Ray fall into an underground cavern, where they see a mishmash of various kinds of creatures from different periods, including Dimetrodons, apatosauri, and tyrannosaurs. At first, Ray mentions that something "seems odd" about it, but he can't put his finger on it. Later, he realizes that the dinosaurs are a spattering of dinos from different periods, and the 'cavern' is actually a laboratory where the Inbit are trying to determine the form of life best suited to their "new" planet.
  • Dragon Ball features characters who either have the ability to fly or have a flying device with them. Convenient enough, there are some pteranodons or other prehistoric fliers around. Is someone still unable to fly? No problem, just bring in the T. rex. To be fair, Dragon Ball has a whole lot of other weird stuff so that the pterosaurs and such fit right in. Given that there are also canon dragons wandering around, it's likely it's just a Rule of Cool alternate Earth. Not featured in the manga, in the anime though? There are the same dinosaurs...on Namek. Which could be intended to imply that Kami brought them with him to Earth. Though given the relatively small size of his spaceship, he could only have brought eggs.
    • Another error is Toriyama's design of the Tyrannosaurus—first off, it has what look like horns on its head—now there MIGHT be tiny brow ridges over its eyes, but the design he used is completely off. Secondly, Tyrannosaurus had tiny arms with two fingers—he seemed to have based the arms on Allosaurus. And fourth, it is much too big. Tyrannosaurus would be 12-13 meters long (42-45 feet) and 4 meters high (13 feet), yet are drawn nearly 20-30 meters long and 10 meters tall.
  • One Piece has at least one island with dinosaurs, not that this is out of place given the rest of the world. It's surprisingly more biologically accurate than Dragon Ball Z's dinosaurs.
  • Averted in the Gaiden chapters of Saiyuki; what looks like a rampaging T. rex is proved to be genetically engineered to do just that by the Big Bad.
  • Pickle in Baki the Grappler. Holy heavens. Again, Itagaki Keisuke takes his "almost realistic extreme martial arts manga" and reminds us that it's a "freaking Rule of Cool extreme martial übermensch manga", with Pickle, the Jurassic man. Revived after being found frozen kicking a T. rex in the mouth.
  • You Are Umasou has tyrannosauroids that shift from tripod stance to horizontal stance, the now dubious genus "Titanosaurus", a really bendy-necked elasmosaurid, and a mosasaur with a dorsal fringe, as well as a bit of Anachronism Stew and Misplaced Wildlife. On the other hand, it has feathered maniraptors, hadrosaur nesting colonies, migrating herbivores, pack-hunting tyrannosauroids (a questionable speculation), and snow-roaming dinosaurs.
    • The purple Chilantaisaurus (according to the book and second episode of the animated series) trying to eat Umasou in this scene has a rather interesting case in which it may be hand waved. It is depicted with bull-shaped horns, and yet at the same time no decent skull material of the animal was found yet (although its skull may be no different than other carnosaurs and could have stubby horns).
      • Although because of the horns, some viewers refer to it as a Carnotaurus. Never mind that it has huge arms and claws, which Carnotaurus lacked (and Chilantaisaurus did have).
  • The first Doraemon movie (and its remake) refers to a plesiosaur as "Nobita's dinosaur". Not that the franchise doesn't have other examples (Science Marches On aside).
  • In Cage of Eden, creatures from different points in history, who all lived in very different habitats, live in the island where the characters are marooned at. Justified since it is later revealed that the monsters are but man-made clones.

    Comic Books 
  • Subversion: In Runaways, Gert has a pet genetically engineered dinosaur named Old Lace. Everyone calls her a "raptor" and she does look exactly like a Jurassic Park raptor (Identified as a Velociraptor in the film, but very similar to the the later-discovered Utahraptor). However, as soon as Victor joins the team he points out that it is a Deinonychus, and raptors as depicted in Jurassic Park do not exist. Old Lace is still incorrectly depicted as featherless, but is nonetheless referred to as a real species with a plausible (for time-traveling, Mad Scientist-filled comic books) reason for existing. Also,
    • Played straight: During the Runaways/Young Avengers crossover, the young supers find themselves hit by a mini-blizzard. While the humans quickly shrug it off, Old Lace is rendered practically catatonic, and almost dies, because she's "cold-blooded". However, it was John Ostrom's study of Deinonychus which largely brought on the "Dinosaur Renaissance", which drastically altered the scientific and popular conception of dinosaurs. This renaissance has ultimately resulted in, at the very least, a consensus that some dinosaurs (such as Deinonychus) were closer to modern, warm-blooded birds than to modern, cold-blooded reptiles, physiologically speaking.
    • It's also worth mentioning that Old Lace wasn't "born" in any sense, but was genetically engineered in the 83rd century. Anything odd about her appearance or physiology pales in comparison to her having a telepathic link with Gert.
  • Subverted in a Batman comic. During the Knightfall storyline, Batman and Commissioner Gordon find a dead man inside the skeleton of a dinosaur. Gordon calls the dinosaur a "Brontosaurus" before being corrected as Apatosaurus by a curator, who tells them the story of how the skull of one dinosaur matched the head of another and the other way roundnote , giving its "two-head" clue about the culprit: Two-Face.
  • Though the prehistoric beasts in this Batman comic seem to be robots of some sort, allowing for some errors, there is one completely unforgivable mistake: they misspell the word "dinosaur"!
  • Cadillacs and Dinosaurs... look at the title. If you're expecting accuracy from a series involving dinosaurs coming back several hundred years in the future, why are you even bothering?
  • According to one Chick Tract, the dinosaurs escaped the great flood by getting on the Ark with all the other animals. Unfortunately, the flood destroyed much of the plant life, and the reduced oxygen levels made them sluggish and slow. They were ultimately hunted into extinction by human hunters who considered "dragon meat" to be a delicacy.
  • A lesser-known Spider-Man villain is "Stegron the Dinosaur Man", a ripoff of more stalwart villain The Lizard. The rather-too-conveniently-named Dr. Vincent Stegron steals the lizard formula from Curt Connors and (somehow) infuses it with dinosaur DNA, transforming himself into a half-man, half-Stegosaurus creature... which also has a taste for human flesh and is often depicted with sharp, pointy teeth. Stegron's plots have included:
    • Bringing dinosaurs back to life from their skeletons in museums, despite the fact that dinosaur skeletons in most museums are A) held together with wire, and B) are fibreglass replicas of fossils, which are bone-shaped rocks, or C) even if they're the authentic article, are bone-shaped rocks. Rock contains remarkably little genetic material (i.e., none).
    • Attempting to free the world for dinosaurs by having hundreds of humans in New York conveniently start acting more animalistic and killing each other... using a magic piece of meteorite that he found in a jungle. A particularly glaring error in that story arc (as if the main plot weren't glaring enough) was where a modern lizard is regressed by exposure to the meteor and turns into a Velociraptor. Lizards are not descended from dinosaurs, nor are they closely related to them. If it had been a mutated pigeon, it would have been reasonably accurate, relatively speaking, but for a lizard it's on the same scale as showing a human somehow "regressing" into a water buffalo or a dolphin. Given that Stegron himself is weakened by the cold and speaks in Sssssnake Talk, the writers clearly assumed dinosaurs were typical reptiles.
  • 150,000 years ago, the title character of Rahan (a very well known caveman in France) encounters dinosaurs and sees them as survivors of a very distant past. It's really not as outlandish as some of the other examples on this page.
  • The entire storyline of Dinowars revolves around dinosaurs escaping into space to avoid the ice age, growing into a highly evolved civilization, and then returning to Earth to reclaim what is rightfully theirs.
  • Dr. Dinosaur in Atomic Robo claims that "mammal energies" traveled back in time and granted him super-intelligence while wiping out all the rest of the dinosaurs, and then he built a time machine out of rocks, fronds, and crystals to travel to the present and get revenge. His inaccuracies (such as lack of feathers and presence of a larynx) are largely justified however, when Robo points them out and dismisses Dr. D's story as absurd, assuming he's just a genetic experiment based on a Jurassic Park dinosaur rather than a real one. In general, it's a Running Gag that Dr. Dinosaur works his science entirely by Achievements in Ignorance, which means his appearance is more or less in keeping with it.
  • In one of Hamilton Comics' Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers early issues, Bulk and Skull are seen being Power Rangers, with Skull as Ranger with a Brontosaurus theme. However, Billy points out that it's incorrect and that it would be more scientifically correct "Apatosaurus". Skull, however, thinks it's a hilarious pun and ends up knocking Bulk over in the process.
  • Marville #4, oh boy. For starters, it is set on the "Jurassic Park", not "Period".
  • In Tyrannosaurus Rex , while there's dinosaurs and humans living together, the raptors are coated in feathers.
  • Horácio from Monica's Gang. A vegetarian baby T-Rex. Also, on Monica's Gang we have the Cavern Clan. Just imagine the Flinstones without all the American Sitcom situations to turn into something normal for prehistoric cavemen... like hunting dinosaurs.
  • Jack Kirby did a very brief series called Devil Dinosaur that was clearly about having fun more than being accurate. There's a friendly "devil beast" (theropod of some sort; it's probably for the best it isn't identified) fighting against ferocious ceratopsians and a carnivorous Iguanodon (what.), while coexisting with cavemen.

    Eastern Animation 
  • There is a Soviet cartoon called Mother For Little Mammoth. It is about the eponymous mammoth who thawed out in our age searching for his mom. He finds one, an elephant in Africa. A truly happy ending, except one of the traits by which she accepts him is the fact that, like her, he has big ears — and the mammoth is pictured with such. Now, an elephant's big ears are heat sinks — mammoths didn't need nor have them.
    • Big ears on mammoths might not be out of the question, particularly if it's a species that lived in warmer climates. The problem is that the mammoth in question is a woolly mammoth, which definitely did not have big ears.

    Fan Works 
  • The World of the Creatures plays with the trope throughout. The story takes place in the mind of someone obsessed with paleontology. As such, dinosaurs show up frequently. In many cases both accurate dinosaurs - such as a fully-feathered Utahraptor - and inaccurate ones like the featherless raptors of Jurassic Park appear side by side.

    Films — Animated 
  • The "Rite of Spring" sequence in Fantasia may be one of the Trope Makers here. It shows off a random cross-section of prehistoric life in the space of a few minutes. In part, it's Science Marches On: it is proudly announced that this section is Based on a True Story.
    • 25 years later, the Disney Imagineers created a Primeval World diorama for the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair, with many of the individual scenes apparently inspired by Fantasia. This diorama, which is currently installed at Disneyland in California, is a slight improvement on the film — the first scene shows dimetrodons in a Coal Age forest of giant horsetails (and giant dragonflies), and then moves to a Jurassic swamp with some generic sauropods, followed by scenes featuring Pteranodon, Triceratops, and Struthiomimus (all Late Cretaceous, although the precise ages differ somewhat). So far, so good; the sauropods look ridiculous and should not be munching water weeds in a swamp, but that can be put down to a combination of 1960's paleontological ignorance and artistic license. But then the final scene depicts a Stegosaurus battling some large carnosaur beside a violent lava flow. If the carnosaur is supposed to be a T. rex, as the narrator usually states, why does it have three fingers per hand, and what is the stego doing in the Cretaceous? You could ignore the narrator and assume that the setting has reverted back to the Jurassic for some reason, and the stego is fighting an Allosaurus... but that doesn't explain why stego has five tail spikes on its thagomizer. Sigh.
      • Walt Disney has stated that the carnivorous dinosaur fighting the Stegosaurus is a Tyrannosaurus. Paleontologists told him that T. rex should only have two fingers, but he declined because he thought people wouldn't recognize a Tyrannosaurus with only two fingers.
  • Extremely evident in Disney's Dinosaur, which had dinosaurs from the Jurassic and the Triassic period interacting with Cretaceous-period dinosaurs. In an effort to show that the writers had done some research, they included a Carnotaurus as the main predator — too bad Carnotaurus lived in South America, while all the other dinosaurs were North American species, and furthermore were several times bigger than in reality. There was a Hand Wave when one character was astounded that the carnotaurs had come "this far North" (which doesn't work, since North and South America was separated by a sea at the time), and the Brachiosaur character was explicitly stated to be the only one of her species left. The main character had also been adopted by lemurs, when most mammals were superficially rat-like then. Also, iguanadons originally had their beaks, but Michael Eisner insisted that the dinos be able to talk, so the beaks were replaced by speech-friendly lips.
  • When consulting paleontologists for Ice Age, the writers were reluctant about putting dodos in. They were told "Whatever, just please, no dinosaurs". Though there was a dinosaur in the film, it was frozen in ice, presumably for millions of years. Let's just hope those same paleontologists haven't seen the third installment...
    • Somebody should have told them that Dodos (and for that matter, all the other birds) are dinosaurs...
  • The Land Before Time. Pity the professors of geology and paleontology who have small children at home, because all the errors in these films will indeed make a paleontologist weep. The original movie can be considered relatively accurate for its time (Anachronism Stew aside, and then only for stegosaurs and pelycosaurs), at least as far as dinosaur depictions in popular media are concerned. But the sequels and TV series zig-zag this trope several times, with notable aversions including the anatomically correct (if improbably large) Liopleurodon from "Journey to Big Water" and Ruby the Oviraptor having feathers.
  • Rex from Toy Story is a green plastic Tyrannosaurus rex with three fingers on each hand instead of two like in real life. Justified, since he's a toy T. rex, which is often portrayed incorrectly, and a cheap knock-off from a small company that went out of business and was bought by Mattel in a Thanksgiving auction, at that.
  • We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story features Anatosaurus, which is indeed a bona fide member of the duckbill group. Sadly, the duckbill is shown with a long bony crest on the back of its head more reminiscent of a Saurolophus or Parasaurolophus than a smooth-headed "Anatosaurus"... The Pteranodon is even worse, having a long tail and being bipedal. And she is mistaken for a bat, which might be a lampshading of how ridiculously bat-like her wings are.
  • Dino Time 3 D is not meant to be a biologically accurate film, but they did have one redeeming trait: a feathered baby Tyrannosaurus.
  • The Good Dinosaur features dinosaurs together (such as Apatosaurus and Tyrannosaurus) that lived in different eras. The official explanation is that the movie is an Alternate Timeline of a almost-modern day where dinosaurs did not become extinct after a meteor strike 65 million years ago, but some of the dinosaurs depicted had gone extinct a hundred million years before that event. Not to mention the several anatomical inaccuracies (Apatosaurus being confused for Brachiosaurus, Styracosaurus having the horn arrangement of a Triceratops, raptors not having enough feathers, pterosaurs walking on their knuckles and one of them resembles a Nyctosaurus with teeth and wingclaws, etc.).
  • The animators of The Missing Link (AKA B.C. Rock) evidently chose to completely forgo realism in favor of Rule of Funny. Aside from having humans, dinosaurs and prehistoric mammals coexisting, many of the animals are completely made up. Examples include a single-legged being with a trunk, an underwater elephant that lives in a giant shell and at least two humanoid (but non-human) species: the bottom-heavy "No-Lobes" and a tribe of feral Catgirls.
  • It may come as a surprise that Communism, being scientific and that, would provide an example of the trope. Yet, the short GDR DEFA animation "Steinzeitlegende" ("Stone Age Legend") has a cart-pulling dino.

  • According to the song "Walking in Your Footsteps" by The Police, the mighty Brontosaurus walked the Earth 50 million years ago. In reality, the most recent Brontosaurus remains are nearly 150 million years old, and the extinction of the dinosaurs occurred 66 million years ago.
  • Iron Maiden's "Quest for Fire" mostly retells the story of the eponymous movie... except for the (hilariously overblown) opening line "In a time when dinosaurs walked the earth..." It should be noted that this was probably the band being funny, as they are history buffs and would know about things like this.
  • Danny Saucedo's song "Dinosaur Bones" from the album Drawings of Dinosaurs includes a line about pterodactyls flying in "the Pleistocene sky." By the time of the Pleistocene epoch, pterosaurs had been extinct for nearly 64 million years.
  • The music video for Fat Boy Slim's Right here, right now obviously has no pretense to be an accurate portrayal of human evolution. For one, it begins 350 billion years ago, but it shows nothing but multicellular animals, which didn't evolve until about 600 million years ago.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • An early series of FoxTrot comic strips had Jason filming a dinosaur movie, with his pet iguana Quincy as the dinosaur. He called the film "Iguanadon Terror", even though Quincy looked nothing like an actual Iguanodon (Jason was aiming for something like a Dimetrodon, though when asking if Quincy could pass for a dinosaur he was told that Quincy only looked like an iguana with a fan taped to its back).
    • A later strip had Jason doing a claymation movie called "Mesozoic Park"; he pointed out that Jurassic Park was mostly about dinosaurs from the Cretaceous period.
    • In another strip, he was seen writing a letter explaining the brontosaur/apatosaur controversy to a cookie manufacturer that used the former term in the "Fun Facts" of their dinosaur cookie boxes. He then immediately tries to blackmail them into sending him free cookies.
    • Another strip perpetrated the giant Liopleurodon meme started by Walking with Dinosaurs.
    • Played for Laughs in one Sunday strip, where Jason claims Pachycephalosaurus might have hypnotized its predators because its head was so similar to Talosians (despite the fact Talosians have a very large brain whereas pachycephalosaurs are famous for having thick skull roofs which is where they got their name from) and that dinosaurs went extinct because of time-travelling big-game hunters.
  • Bill Watterson, the author of Calvin and Hobbes, admits that his earliest strips involving dinosaurs were pretty embarrassing. After doing some research, and getting as excited about dinosaurs as Calvin, his drawings of dinosaurs became more and more accurate and realistic (as an aside, tellingly, most fantasy sequences in Calvin and Hobbes are drawn in a more realistic way than Calvin's day-to-day life). If you have a collection of Calvin and Hobbes anthologies, note that by around 1994, it's obvious that Watterson invested in a Gregory S. Paul book for anatomy and in a set of "Jurassic Park" action figures for posing and staging. One strip involved such realistic dromaeosaurids that they would scare small children. It didn't help that Calvin was talking about them eating small children. The little freak!
    • Shortly after that strip, Jurassic Park came out, and Watterson stopped putting dinosaurs in the strip for a time so that they wouldn't be negatively compared to the CGI.
    • Watterson doesn't let accuracy get in the way of Rule of Cool. Say it with me: ''TYRANNOSAURS IN F-14s!''
      Calvin: "This is so cool!"
      Hobbes: "This is so stupid."
    • Despite Calvin normally having a callous disregard for scientific accuracy, this trope is amusingly subverted and lampshaded when Calvin and his parents visit a natural history museum. Calvin's mom asks him (in that typical way that moms do when they're trying to encourage their kids to talk about something they like) to tell her about the Stegosaurus statue outside. Calvin goes into a long (and scientifically accurate) explanation of the most likely habits and characteristics of Stegosaurs, until his mom tries to humor him further by asking if the T. rex and the Stegosaurus used to fight each other, leading to this outburst:
      Calvin: Of course not, Mom! The Stegosaurus lived millions of years before the T. rex! Jeez, try not to embarrass me when we go inside, okay?
    • An in-universe case of artistic license occurs when Calvin has an Imagine Spot of himself discovering the fossil of a new theropod, the Calvinosaur. It's as big in comparison to a T. rex as a T. rex is to a human being. The sort of monster any kid would love to give his name to.
  • B.C., perhaps one of the most egregious examples of a newspaper comic that has both dinosaurs and humans. Incidentally, though the creator, Johnny Hart, was a self-proclaimed Christian fundamentalist, the scientific shortcomings seem to be less because of his beliefs and more for Anachronism Stew Played for Laughsnote .
    • After Hart's death in 2007, the strip started to feature dromaeosaurids, which are as usual featherless and no different than the ones in Jurassic Park. One strip did, however, point out how birdlike it was in an amusing way.
  • Alley Oop, starting in 1932, with his pet, Dinny. Before Television!
  • The Far Side had many strips that showed or implied dinosaurs and cavemen living at the same time. However, the strip describing the "thagomizer" has been endorsed by actual paleontologists for giving a name to a certain part of stegosaur anatomy, even though it implied that said part posed a danger to primitive hominids. Gary Larson has said that he is well aware of the anachronism and while part of him justifies the cartoons on the Rule of Funny, part of him feels very guilty about using this trope, especially given the high regard in which he is generally held by the scientific community.
  • One Beetle Bailey strip implies that life has existed on land for only five million years.
  • Dilbert features Bob the Dinosaur, who interacts with modern humans rather than cavemen. At least one strip has implied that he woke up after hibernating for millions of years.
  • Pearls Before Swine lampshades this in a strip where Pig writes in his report on paleontology that "Dinosaurs and humans lived together many, many years ago". Goat calls him out on it explaining dinosaurs and humans were separated by millions of years, which led to this exchange.
    Pig: What do I do with this chapter on The Flintstones?

  • Invoked to the hilt in Gottlieb's Caveman, where the player maneuvers the caveman to hunt brontosaurs and pterodactyls while avoiding the Tyrannosaurus rex.
  • Unsurprisingly, The Flintstones doesn't take "artistic license" with paleontology as much as it recklessly abandons it.

  • Karl Pilkington from The Ricky Gervais Show often makes mistakes when it comes to pre-historic life (as he does with everything else), referring to how they lived with dinosaurs and other "facts" he picked up from fictional works. Ricky repeatedly tells him he's wrong and that he's either picked this up from The Flintstones or 10,000 BC and mistaking it as fact.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Prior editions of Dungeons & Dragons handle the various species of dinosaur better than it does mythology, even pointing out the differences between the Velociraptor and the Deinonychus. They still list Pteranodon and Elasmosaurus under the same catchall of "dinosaurs", though; in the Fourth Edition, however, they are renamed Behemoths. Plus still allowing the Quetzalcoatlus and Elasmosaurus to swallow humans whole (note: not only could they probably never do that without dislodging their entire lower beak, but a Quetzalcoatlus with a human in its gut would probably be too heavy to fly).
    • They honestly go in a lot of different directions with this, depending on the edition. At one time, dinosaurs were classified as Beasts (a different creature type from Animals, in much the same way that humans are Humanoids and most invertebrates are Vermin).
  • Genius: The Transgression features a Bardo based on discredited theories of the Hollow World, which seems to be filled with every paleontological mistake ever made, such as brontosaurs (no, not apatosaurs, brontosaurs), the old Victorian notion of what an iguanodon looked like, and Piltdown Men.
  • There is this very obscure, very low-quality board game sold in Hungary that goes by the name Küzdelem a dinoszauruszok földjén (Battle in the Realm of the Dinosaurs). Has only a handful of pictures, all of which contain horrible depictions of Stock Dinosaurs — one Brachiosaurus with a backwards knee, and one with shorter forelegs than back legs, standing as erect as a human; toothed, bat-winged Pteranodons with the bat fingers sprouting from the back of the wings; and gigantic, scaly Velociraptors with Therizinosaurus-like claws. In short, it is the board game equivalent of "Chinasaurs" (see lower).
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game has a "Dinosaur" type as one of its monster types: the type is mostly made up of the popular dinosaurs listed above, and unfortunately includes a mammoth. An undead mammoth. Fortunately, later, non-zombie Mammoth monsters (such as Big-Tusked Mammoth) are more correctly listed as Beast-Type. They also thankfully averted the "nekkid Raptor" trope with Black Veloci. A lot of the earlier dinos, though, were the classic "nekkid" version (but see also Dinosaurs Are Dragons). The older cards were victims of Science Marches On as noted above; those cards were first released before the feathers thing had been discovered.
  • While we're on the subject of dinosaurs being given powers and placed on trading cards, Dinosaur King.
  • In Dinosaurs Attack!, herbivorous dinosaurs like Parasaurolophus and Stegosaurus eat people frequently and messily, plesiosaurs have bendy necks instead of the stiff ones they had in real life, and trilobites are described as "flesh-eating worms" (real trilobites were not worms and even the predatory ones could not harm something as large as a human). This is in part intentional parody, though, since the 50's movies the cards spoof made similar mistakes.
  • The following a note under "Brontosaurs" in the Sample Stuff under Dinosaur in Cartoon Action Hour: Season 3.
    Note: Currently, the correct term for this dinosaur used by real paleontologists is “apatosaurus”, and “brontosaurus” is scientifically outdated due to a fossil being falsely identified. However, the name “brontosaurus” is the word more commonly known and recognized in popular culture, no matter what the actual scientific classification might be. It was certainly the name that would-have been in common use in a cartoon in the 1980s.

    Web Comics 
  • There's another "Raptor" who looks like he's just walked off the set of Jurassic Park in the Webcomic The Adventures of Dr. McNinja. However, given that the story that introduces Yoshi also includes Raptor-riding banditos, a conspiracy involving Ronald McDonald and MySpace, and a man whose incredible abdominal muscles have somehow transformed into a built-in jetpack (and the eponymous character, the only physician in a long line of legendary Irish Ninjas whose office is in the middle of a haunted forest and whose secretary is a gorilla), once again, the MST3K Mantra is in full effect.
    • The "birdasaurus" in a later plot line, lampshaded with the mouseover "I hope my completely made up out of my mind with no reference whatsoever way of drawing the birdosaurus doesn't upset any of you junior paleontologists."
    • Apparently the author still gets regular emails complaining about this, as he defensively mentions in a Note From Ed in this comic.
    • Taken to absurd extremes with the horrorsaurus, a wingless, flying, tentacled monstrosity with four eyes. That one may have been artificially created by the other dinosaurs though.
  • Dinosaur Comics has a T. rex, a Dromiceiomimus, and a Utahraptor, grossly out of scale. The fact that they're talking is a good sign that it's not supposed to be exactly realistic. There's also the house, car, and woman getting stepped on to indicate something's not right with the timing. It often lampshades the concept, as well:
    T-Rex: Guess what I got last night? A dog! Did you know that dogs and dinosaurs co-existed?
    Dromiceiomimus: Yes, I accepted it without questioning!
    • Lampshaded and more or less (anachronism aside) averted in the guest comic by Aaron Diaz. And then it is deliberately double subverted...
    • It's actually possible to avert this by typing "&butiwouldratherbereading=somethingmorehistoricallyaccurate" after the comic of your choice. (Or at least avert to a greater degree. Pennaceous feathers on T. rex is unlikely, but at least they have feathers.) Here's an example.
  • xkcd has Jurassic Park-style Velociraptors, which the author found traumatizing upon seeing said film.
  • 8-Bit Theater does a brilliant Lampshade Hanging in this strip. Also counts as a Moment of Awesome (and Funny).
  • Karate Bears finds dinosaurs sometimes. like here they also supposedly once coexisted with dinosaurs
  • Played for laughs in The Order of the Stick when Roy is confused by the appearance of a Brontasaurus, when he knows it's a mixup of parts from different animals. His host points out he didn't have a problem with the hippogriffs.

    Web Original 
  • The Tyrannosaur Chronicles: Mostly averted. Lampshaded by Layla Oviraptor, who mentions that Desdemona Deinonychus and Larry the Tyrannosaur shaved off their feathers so they could star in Jurassic Park.
  • Cracked is all over the place with this. Since it's not written by one person, articles about paleontology can range from well-researched to downright ridiculous:
    • This article makes tons of mistakes with animal relationships (claiming that Gastornis is close to kiwis and ostriches when it's really closer to ducks, and Hyaenodon close to raccoons when it's equally close to all carnivorans), confuses the "classic" saber-toothed felids with the saber-toothed sparassodont ("marsupial", in the article's words) Thylacosmilus, serves up an unhealthy serving of Anachronism Stew (Gastornis and Andrewsarchus actually died out long before the Pleistocene), makes unwarranted assumptions about ancestor-descendant relationships, and implies that dinosaurs are cold blooded.
    • Their video about the cassowary not only suggests that pterosaurs are dinosaurs...but it goes on to suggest that pterosaurs evolved into birds. About the only similarity between pterosaurs and birds is the fact that both groups can fly.
    • This one is better, though it implies tyrannosauroids to be carnosaurs (universally rejected since The '90s).
    • The article "5 Weird Directions Human Evolution Could Have Taken" treats the existence of "the Boskop Man" as a fact, which in reality it most likely isn't.
    • In addition to implying the basal archosauromorph Sharovipteryx to be a dinosaur, this article uses a highly fanciful reconstruction of the taxon taken from an extremely unreliable source.
  • Several paleontologists have satirized the sensationalist nature of typical dinosaur documentaries on their blogs as well.
    • This April Fools' joke on Tetrapod Zoology sets out to "prove" that old-school dinosaurs are correct after all, and contains a number of jabs at some infamous fringe groups.
  • Lampshaded during the loading screen of an older LEGO game, Dino Quest, based on the Dinosaurs toy-line, which has Dr. Kilroy commenting on the inaccuracies of the game and spouting well-researched paleontology trivia. But even he gets one thing wrong: flowering plants were around in the Cretaceous.
  • Lampshaded in Welcome to Night Vale. Cecil initially refers to Pteranodon as dinosaurs. Later (after being re-identified as pterodactyls) Cecil is informed that Pteranodon and pterodactyls are not in fact dinosaurs.
    • Doubly subverted in a much later episode. Lauren, like Cecil, refers to Pteranodon as dinosaurs. Kevin immediately informs her that Pteranodon are not dinosaurs. They're arachnids.
  • The BrainPOP minigame "Life Preservers" explicitly states that birds are dinosaurs but are dinosaurs themselves. This makes absolutely no sense; even though birds can fly and are the only dinosaurs alive today, there's no objective reason to consider birds special compared to other dinosaurs in this regard. You'd think an educational website would know better.
  • "Meet the Pseudosaurs" parodies this trope all over. A God-Mode Sue T. rex, bendy-necked sea serpent-like Plesiosaurus, deadly featherless Raptor, vicious bird-footed "Pterodactyl", Killer Rabbit Compsognathus and "spitting" Dilophosaurus are all included.
  • Parodied in asdfmovie, where a sauropod keeps calling itself a Stegosaurus.
  • Palaeo Fail was made in order to mock occurrences of these all over the internet.

Alternative Title(s): Somewhere A Paleontologist Is Crying, You Fail Paleontology Forever, Somewhere A Palaeontologist Is Crying, Artistic License Palaeontology