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The Dinosaurs Had It Coming

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Manny: Mammoths can't go extinct! They're the biggest things on earth!
Gastornis: Well, what about the dinosaurs?
Manny: The dinosaurs got cocky. They made enemies!

Maybe what killed all the dinosaurs wasn't a meteor, or a flood, a drought, or any other sort of geological event that might have happened 65 million years ago. Maybe it wasn't even due to powerful aliens intervening or time-travelers messing around.

No, some writers prefer the theory that the dinosaurs were responsible for their own extinction. They were too stupid to take sensible precautions for their future survival, or were intelligent enough to develop the means of their own destruction. Either way, this provides a lesson for the human race and other sapient species if they want to avoid the same fate, though paleontologists might not believe the story. See also The Cretaceous Is Always Doomed.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 

    Films — Animation 
  • Discussed in Ice Age: The Meltdown, in which Manny, who is widely believed to be the last mammoth, claims it's impossible for mammoths to go extinct since they're the biggest animals on Earth. When someone brings up the dinosaurs, he states that "the dinosaurs got cocky, they made enemies". Humorously enough, he says this in response to a question from a Gastornis, which is a type of bird. As in, you know, an actual dinosaur. It's later revealed in Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs that some of the dinosaurs are still around.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Pumaman:
    Jane: So, dinosaurs went extinct when they no longer knew how to love one another, is that correct?
    Tom Servo: In a wrong kind of way, sure.
  • Pacific Rim: It's claimed the alien creators of the Kaiju attacking Earth first attempted to colonize the planet during the time of the dinosaurs, but gave up because the atmosphere wasn't hospitable for them. The exposition leaves it deliberately ambiguous as to whether the Kaiju killed the dinosaurs or were the dinosaurs, which in case of the latter means their extinction impeded the efforts of an alien invasion.

  • A German quip dating back to at least the late Cold War arms race: "Die Dinosaurier sind ausgestorben, weil sie sich falsch entwickelt haben — zuviel Panzer, zuwenig Hirn." ("The dinosaurs died out because they evolved into the wrong direction — too much armornote , too little brain.")
  • There is a joke about a male dinosaur wanting sex from his wife, but she complains about a headache, about periods, about being busy... and so it continues until they go extinct.

  • Isaac Asimov's "Day Of The Hunters": The dinosaurs are killed off due to overhunting by an intelligent saurian race...with Frickin Laser Guns! In an afterword, Dr Asimov felt somewhat embarrassed later on because it was one of his early ones and had an exceedingly Anvilicious ending, rather than let the reader draw their own conclusions.
  • In the story Hermes of the Ages by Frederick D. Gottfried, sapient coelurosaurs develop biological warfare, which they THOUGHT the effects of their bioweapons would be limited to their own goes horribly, horribly wrong.
  • This trope appears as a vampire fable in The Dresden Files. The White Court claim that mammals feel love and take care of their children while dinosaurs didn't. Dresden says he thinks that probably isn't true (he's right) but since it's a parable about The Power of Love that's not really the point.
  • Who Lies Sleeping: the Dinosaur Heritage and the Extinction of Man by Mike Magee. Though the sentient dinosaurs are ultimately wiped out by a nuclear war, they had already wrecked the world beyond reparation via massive pollution, climate change and deforestation to give pastures to their massive herds of ceratopsians and hadrosaurs.
  • The German language poem Der Ichthyosaurus by Joseph Victor von Scheffel seems to imply that the dinosaurs (and their Mesozoic contemporaries) went extinct because of too much decadence and lewd behavior.
  • Larry Niven: "The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn't have a space program. And if we become extinct because we don't have a space program, it'll serve us right!"
    • Paraphrased in Schlock Mercenary 9/8/18 (which is amusing trope-wise, because an earlier strip shows they did see the asteroid coming... far too late):
    Ennesby: Why do Earth people name their largest spacecraft after craters and comets?
    Tagon: Lots of people name weapons after scary things.
    Ennesby: Nope. "Extinct people don't have space programs."
  • Occurs indirectly in Of Ants and Dinosaurs. There, the dinosaurs went extinct because of overcrowding and a cold war between two states, leading to the ants deciding to regress the dinosaurs' civilisation to save themselves. The thing which killed them in the end though was the antimatter bombs that they made, which went off without anyone there (the ants had killed off all the important figures) to stop them from going off.
  • How Dinosaurs Went Extinct: A Safety Guide, about a father who tells his son to be more careful when visiting a museum and telling him that the dinosaurs died out by doing rowdy and dangerous activities.
  • In 10 Little Dinosaurs, a Pachycephalosaurus jumps on a bed, falls off and bumps his head, a Stegosaurus falls off riding a bike and smashes his spike, a T. rex munches on a mooth and breaks his tooth, a Spinosaurus falls into the water while rafting on a river and going all aquiver, an Archaeopteryx jumps off a peak and tweaks his beak, an Ankylosaurus plays on the street saying "A car to beat!", a Supersaurus acts cool while wearing his shades to school and and is scolded by his teacher, a Chasmosaurus camps out and slides a lava tube, a Saurolophus watches baseball and then insults the umpire, and finally, a Triceratops while walking all alone is ultimately dried up into bones.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 2001 miniseries of The Lost World combines this with an in-universe instance of Science Marches On, with Professor Summerlee arguing that dinosaurs' size and lethargy prevented them from competing with the smaller, more agile mammals. Given that the series is set in 1911, this would not be an unreasonable view for a respected paleontologist to have.

    Print Media 
  • A New Yorker cartoon by Donald Reilly has a mother disciplining her daughter in a natural history museum, telling her "They got extinct because they didn't listen to their mommies."

    Puppet Shows 

  • In The Adding Machine, the Fixer explains that the dinosaurs, like Mr. Zero, had to go because they were a waste of resources:
    Fixer: They literally ate themselves out of existence. I held out for them to the last. They were damned picturesque — but when it came to a question of the nitrate supply, I simply had to yield.

    Video Games 
  • Primal Rage stars dinosaur gods (along with two giant ape ones) who fought each other in the Mesozoic, eventually causing the extinction of the dinosaurs. And they're reawakened After the End of human civilization.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: In one episode, lampooning The Bible, a pig in the Garden of Eden warns Adam (Homer) against eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. One of the dinosaurs ate one and well... that's why there aren't any more of them.

    Real Life 
  • This was very much not the case in real life. The main causes for the End-Cretaceous extinction were entirely natural, if extremely unlucky. The extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs was a fluke of natural events totally out of their control and had any of the factors been different, the Mesozoic era likely never would have ended as the dinosaurs and their compatriots had weathered extinction events before.
    • First, an absolutely catastrophic asteroid strike struck shallow sea.note 
    • Sea levels being high for the last few million years of the Cretaceous making migration between continents was reduced, and meaning ocean-caused weather events like rainfall and tides were also disrupted.note 
    • Additionally, mass volcanic events going on at the same time, most notably the Deccan Traps in what is now India, which was likely exacerbated by the asteroid strike that happened close to the exact opposite side of the globe, contributed to abrupt die-off of plants with a solar black out; leading to an ecosystem collapse.
    • Even animal groups which did survive like mammals, birds, and most small reptiles; often did so with drastic reductions in diversity and some clades barely made it through by the skin of their teeth.
  • Before the asteroid strike catalyst was well supported however, there were some extreme fringe hypotheses that speculated about this. In the late 1980s when it became more widely known dinosaurs were warm blooded and intelligent, authors like Mike Magee and John C. McLoughlin speculated about similarities in trends between the End-Cretaceous extinction and the modern human-driven Holocene extinction events. In their books, Who Lies Sleeping: the Dinosaur Heritage and the Extinction of Man and Evolutionary Bioparanoia respectively, they speculated a currently unfossilized species of sapient dinosaur caused their own ecological collapse by over exploitation of the environment and potentially nuclear war. The notions were not meant to be taken entirely seriously, but to draw parallels with the very real possibility of humanity causing their own extinction by similar means.