We’ve all seen pictures of dinosaurs that show all our favorites living together—Tyrannosaurus rex next to Stegosaurus and Triceratops, with a long-necked Brachiosaurus grazing off tree leaves nearby. But these illustrations aren’t quite accurate—just like a picture showing a wooly mammoth living alongside a modern kangaroo wouldn’t be quite right. The age of the dinosaurs lasted from 252 million years ago to 66 million years ago. That means that there’s more time separating the oldest dinosaurs from the youngest than there is between the extinction of the dinosaurs and us today. What’s more, dinosaurs lived all over the world, even in Antarctica (it was warmer then), and not all species lived in the same areas.
But while many of the most well-known dinosaurs would have never met each other, there are some fossil sites that show how different species lived together and shared an ecosystem. One of the most famous fossil sites is Hell Creek in South Dakota. Hell Creek has well-preserved rock from 66 million years ago, near the end of the age of the dinosaurs, and it shows us that some of our favorite species lived in the same “neighborhood.” At Hell Creek, paleontologists have found creatures that we all know and love, like Triceratops and T. rex, as well as some others that the resident dino expert in your family might recognize, like Ankylosaurus, Edmontosaurus, and Pachycephalosaurus. How many of the Hell Creek residents in this illustration do you know?
Image by PaleoNeolitic