10 extraordinary dinosaur discoveries from 2021 (2022)

10 extraordinary dinosaur discoveries from 2021 (1)

When it came to dinosaur discoveries, 2021 did not disappoint. Researchers investigated how many Tyrannosaurus rex individuals ever existed, documented the longest dinosaur on record and described several stunning new dinosaur species. Here are 10 times dinosaur news totally crushed it this year.

Related: The 10 coolest dinosaur findings of 2020

1. First preserved dinosaur butthole is "perfect"

10 extraordinary dinosaur discoveries from 2021 (2)

Researchers have found all kinds of dinosaur remnants — bones, teeth and impressions of skin and feathers, for instance — but they've never found a butthole … until now. This opening — known as a cloacal vent, which dinosaurs used for pooping, peeing, breeding and egg laying — isn't like any other on record, according to a January study in the journal Current Biology (opens in new tab). "It's its own cloaca, shaped in its perfect, unique way," study lead researcher Jakob Vinther, a paleobiologist at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, told Live Science.

Now that's a behind we can get behind.

Read more: 1st preserved dinosaur butthole is 'perfect' and 'unique,' paleontologist says

2. T. rex numbered in the billions

10 extraordinary dinosaur discoveries from 2021 (3)

As many as 2.5 billion T. rex individuals existed over the last 2.5 million years of the Cretaceous period (145 million to 66 million years ago), before the dinosaur-killing asteroid collided with Earth. Researchers looked at all kinds of factors to determine this number, including the dinosaur king's population density, habitat size, generation time and total number of generations, according to a study published in April in the journal Science (opens in new tab).

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That's a lot, especially considering that fewer than 100 fossilized T. rex individuals are known to science.

Read more: As many as 2.5 billion Tyrannosaurus rexes once stalked Earth

3. Supersaurus is the longest dinosaur on record

10 extraordinary dinosaur discoveries from 2021 (4)

The longest dinosaur on record is the aptly named Supersaurus, which exceeded 128 feet (39 meters) and possibly even reached 137 feet (42 m) in length, according to unpublished research presented this year at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology annual conference.

Supersaurus, discovered in 1972, was always known to be long, with previous estimates putting the plant eater at 111 feet (34 m). But now, newly excavated and analyzed bones reveal just how super this dinosaur was.

Read more: Supersaurus might be the longest dinosaur that ever lived

4. Dinosaurs young and old traveled in herds

10 extraordinary dinosaur discoveries from 2021 (5)

Have you heard? Long-necked dinosaurs, from mouse-size hatchlings to gigantic adults, traveled together in herds 40 million years earlier than previously thought, a dinosaur graveyard discovered in Argentina revealed. Researchers unearthed more than 100 fossilized eggs and the bones of 80 Mussaurus patagonicus individuals dating to 192 million years ago, during the Jurassic period (201.3 million to 145 million years ago).

Incredibly, there was even evidence that young dinosaurs hung out (and died) together, indicating that the herd had an internal structure. This is the oldest evidence of socially complex, gregarious behavior in dinosaurs, according to the study, published in October in the journal Scientific Reports (opens in new tab).

Read more: Jurassic graveyard reveals oldest evidence that dinosaurs traveled in herds

5. This dino died sheltering eggs

10 extraordinary dinosaur discoveries from 2021 (6)

An ostrich-like dinosaur that died brooding a nest of eggs has become a one-of-a-kind discovery: It's the only known nonavian dinosaur specimen found sitting on top of eggs that still have embryos. This dinosaur, an oviraptorosaur, was likely incubating the eggs as it sat on them during the Cretaceous period in what is now China, according to a study published in May in the journal Science Bulletin (opens in new tab).

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Of the 24 eggs, seven still have fossilized embryos. That's not bad for eggs that are 70 million years old!

Read more: 'Rarest of the rare' dinosaur fossil found brooding its eggs

6. Some dinosaurs, but not T. rex, were extremely fast

10 extraordinary dinosaur discoveries from 2021 (7)

Meat-eating dinosaurs sprinted at speeds of nearly 28 mph (45 km/h), according to an analysis of two dinosaur trackways in northern Spain. The trackways were left behind by two different carnivorous individuals running in a squishy lake bed during the early Cretaceous, a December study in the journal Scientific Reports (opens in new tab) found. The discovery reveals that these beasts were about as speedy as the fastest human on record, Usain Bolt, who briefly reached 27.5 mph (44.3 km/h) at a race in 2009.

But T. rex, the most famous carnivore of them all, was a slowpoke, with a preferred walking speed of just under 3 mph (5 km/h), according to a separate study, published in April in the journal Royal Society Open Science (opens in new tab). That's about the average walking speed for a person.

Is this embarrassing for the dinosaur king? Yes. But T. rex did have serrated, banana-size teeth and one of the most powerful bite forces on record, so it's not like we'd laugh in its face or anything (unless we were walking away at a brisk clip).

Read more: Meat-eating dinosaurs were terrifyingly fast, footprints reveal and Never mind outrunning a T. rex — you could probably outwalk it

7. A "shark-toothed" dinosaur was larger than its rival tyrannosaur

10 extraordinary dinosaur discoveries from 2021 (8)

Imagine seeing a big tyrannosaur and thinking it must be the apex predator of its ecosystem. But nope, you'd be wrong — because an even larger dinosaur lumbers into view, and wow is it big! This beast, the newly described Ulughbegsaurus uzbekistanensis, was a so-called shark-toothed dinosaur, or carcharodontosaur, according to a September study in the journal Royal Society Open Science (opens in new tab). Carcharodontosaurs were cousins and competitors of tyrannosaurs.

U. uzbekistanensis lived in what is now Uzbekistan about 90 million years ago. It was 26 feet (8 meters) long and weighed 2,200 pounds (1,000 kilograms). Put another way, it was twice the length of — and more than five times heavier than — the ecosystem's previously known apex predator, the tyrannosaur Timurlengia.

Read more: Gigantic 'shark-toothed' dinosaur discovered in Uzbekistan

8. Tyrannosaurs had fight clubs

10 extraordinary dinosaur discoveries from 2021 (9)

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Fearsome tyrannosaurs bit each other's faces, but likely not with the intention to kill. Instead, these predators probably got bitey when they were battling for prizes, like territory, mates or higher status, a September study in the journal Paleobiology (opens in new tab) found.

This insight into dinosaur behavior was made possible by studying 202 tyrannosaur skulls and jaws that had a lot of scars — 324 in total. Only about half of the older tyrannosaurs had these scars, so perhaps just mature members of one sex partook in these rumbles.

Read more: Tyrannosaurs bit each other's faces in dino fight clubs

9. Long-necked dinosaurs migrated long distances

10 extraordinary dinosaur discoveries from 2021 (10)

How do you determine whether dinosaurs migrated? It's not like these beasts sent postcards that then fossilized. Well, one way is to look at gastroliths, or "stomach stones" used to grind food, that dinosaurs gulped down in one region and then deposited in another.

In the Jurassic period, long-necked dinosaurs, called sauropods, swallowed pink quartzite gastroliths in what is now Wisconsin and later died in what is now Wyoming, leaving the stones in a new spot, researchers wrote in a February study in the journal Terra Nova (opens in new tab).

That's a distance of hundreds of miles, or "one of, if not the longest inferred examples of [nonavian] dinosaur migration" on record, the researchers said.

Read more: Long-necked dinosaurs migrated hundreds of miles, 'stomach stones' reveal

10. Weird ankylosaur had an Aztec war club-like tail

10 extraordinary dinosaur discoveries from 2021 (11)

This year revealed a totally unknown lineage of ankylosaurs in the Southern Hemisphere, and these dinos had unique tails.

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When Pangaea split up during the Jurassic period, the ankylosaurus in the northern supercontinent Laurasia grew weaponized tails with spikes and clubs. But now, the newly described Stegouros elengassen, found in Chile, shows that ankylosaurs in the Southern Hemisphere evolved to be very different. They developed their own kind of weaponized tail that looks like an Aztec sword, or macuahuitl.

The newly discovered ankylosaur died more than 70 million years ago by a river, possibly in quicksand, which would explain why the specimen was so well preserved. Thank goodness, or that spectacular tail might have been lost!

Read more: 'Very weird' ankylosaur's tail looked like an Aztec war club

Originally published on Live Science.

10 extraordinary dinosaur discoveries from 2021 (12)

Laura Geggel

Laura is an editor at Live Science. She edits Life's Little Mysteries and reports on general science, including archaeology and animals. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Scholastic, Popular Science and Spectrum, a site on autism research. She has won multiple awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association for her reporting at a weekly newspaper near Seattle. Laura holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and psychology from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's degree in science writing from NYU.

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FAQs

What new dinosaurs have been discovered in 2021? ›

This Dec. 13, 2021, illustration courtesy of the University of Minnesota shows a new dinosaur Meraxes gigas. The anatomy of this group, as well as the T. rex and abelisaurids -- other giant carnivorous dinosaurs -- is defined by large skulls and feet and tiny arms.

What is the most recent dinosaur discovery? ›

A fossil of Meraxes gigas, as the new dinosaur has been called, was found in what is now the northern Patagonia region of Argentina, revealing that the creature was 11 meters (36 feet) long and weighed more than four tons, according to a study published in the journal Current Biology on Thursday.

What is the newest dinosaur discovered 2022? ›

The newly discovered species, Jakapil kaniukura, looks like a primitive relative of armored dinosaurs like Ankylosaurus or Stegosaurus, but it came from the Cretaceous, the last era of the dinosaurs, and lived between 97 million and 94 million years ago.

How many dinosaurs have been discovered 2021? ›

Dinosaurs and meteorites: Museum scientists described 552 new species in 2021. Over the last year, Museum scientists have described 552 new species.

Did T. rex have feathers 2022? ›

Even though the first dinosaurs are thought to have emerged some 245 million years ago, dinosaurs with feathers have been dated to only 180 million years ago. Yet, the story does not end there. Feathers, it seems, did not originate with the dinosaurs. According to a recent study, they may have evolved in another group.

What was the last living dinosaur? ›

For now, however, the 65-million-year-old Triceratops is the world's last known surviving dinosaur.

Will dinosaurs come back in 5 years? ›

DNA breaks down over time. The dinosaurs went extinct around 66 million years ago and with so much time having passed it is very unlikely that any dinosaur DNA would remain today. While dinosaur bones can survive for millions of years, dinosaur DNA almost certainly does not.

Has a dinosaur ever been found frozen? ›

It's the same place where Hammer and colleagues found Antarctica's first dinosaur in 1990 — the 22-foot, meat-eating Cryolophosaurus, or "frozen crested reptile."

What is the biggest dinosaur ever found? ›

Patagotitan mayorum, the Titanosaur

Patagotitan mayorum may have been the world's largest terrestrial animal of all time, based on size estimates made after considering a haul of fossilized bones attributed to the species. The collection included a femur (thighbone) that measured 2.4 meters (8 feet) from end to end.

What ended the dinosaur age? ›

Sixty-six million years ago, dinosaurs had the ultimate bad day. With a devastating asteroid impact, a reign that had lasted 180 million years was abruptly ended.

What killed the dinosaurs? ›

Scientists already know that an asteroid—or perhaps a comet—struck Earth off Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. The resulting 110 miles/80 kilometers wide Chicxulub crater is thought to have caused a decades-long “impact winter” that killed the dinosaurs.

What age did the T Rex live in? ›

T. rex lived at the very end of the Late Cretaceous, which was about 90 to 66 million years ago. How do we know?

What was the rarest dinosaur? ›

Complete Deinonychus fossils are among the rarest of all dinosaur skeletons, and Hector is the only complete specimen in private hands, according to Christie's (two others reside in museum collections).

Was there really a dinosaur found in China? ›

Yuxisaurus kopchicki remains included pieces of its skull, jaws, limbs and armor plates. A new dinosaur species from the early Jurassic period was discovered in southwestern China, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal eLife.

How did T. rex mate? ›

Due to certain size constraints, the fearsome Tyrannosaurus Rex was unable to, say, take a mate into his arms. Instead, he was left with his nose, which out-extended his arms, to perform such "pre-copulatory play," as the scientists said.

How many new species discovered 2022? ›

In 2021 around seven new species of animals found across the globe. And in 2022 around 24 new species of animals found.

What animals have been discovered in 2022? ›

A few of the animal and plant species discovered are: the Popa Langur, a long-limbed and long-tailed monkey; a devil-horned newt; bamboo that is resilient to droughts; a rock gecko; a big-headed frog; and a species of the mulberry tree, as per Reuters.

What is the oldest living dinosaur today? ›

Nyasasaurus parringtoni is currently the oldest known dinosaur in the world. An upper arm bone and some back bones from Nyasasaurus were first uncovered in Tanzania in the 1930s, but the fossils were not studied closely until recently.

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