Kids Are Still Drawing 1900s Idea Of What Dinosaurs Looked Like

Draw a Tyrannosaurus rex from memory, right now. It's probably wrong in a very significant way.

T-Rex With Incorrect Posture

An incorrect historical image of the T-rex, with inaccurate posture and skull shape.Wikimedia Commons

An article over at the Cornell Chronicle looks into the issue of "cultural inertia" in our understanding of dinosaurs. When asked to draw a T. rex, perhaps the most well-known (in popular culture) of all dinosaurs, both young children and college students will draw an upright, small-armed, tail-dragging creature that looks like a slimmed-down Barney or a less-plasticky Rex from Toy Story.

But in fact, we've known for decades that the T. rex did not stand upright, but that its posture was much more horizontal. Even in Jurassic Park, the T. rex was portrayed reasonably in line with current scientific understanding of the animal.

T-Rex With Correct Posture

And here's a T-rex skeleton with more accurate posture. This skeleton, which resides in the American Natural History Museum, shows the more horizontal stride we believe to be the way the T-rex really walked.Wikimedia Commons

And yet our perception of the dinosaur is still stuck, similar to what was thought of it in the early 20th century, well before the "dinosaur boom" of the 1960s and '70s. Cornell suggests that this is due to improper imprinting--Toy Story and Barney both get to kids early, leaving their ingrained understanding of dinosaurs incorrect. Read more over at Cornell.