Could Dinosaurs See In The Dark?

The long-extinct dinosaur has captured the attention of both children and adults for years and years, ever since the first dinosaur was discovered in the 17th century! Today, we’ll take a look at a dinosaur’s sense of sight! 

Could dinosaurs see in the dark? A new study shows that meat-eating dinosaurs, such as the tyrannosaurus rex, likely had night vision that allowed them to see well in the dark! Dinosaurs who ate mostly plants, such as triceratops, could also see at night, but their night vision was not as good as the carnivorous dinosaurs’. Flying dinosaurs, such as pterodactyls, did not have great night vision at all.

Why is it that different types of dinosaurs had different types of vision?

Archaeopteryx, bird-like dinosaur flying through the forest
Archaeopteryx, bird-like dinosaur flying through the forest

This is all because when these animals ate. For example, flying dinosaurs ate mostly during the day, so they did not need to have good night vision. The dinosaurs who would prey on other animals during the night simply needed to have better night vision in order to survive. 

Scientists were able to determine how good a dinosaur’s night vision was by studying the eye area of dinosaur fossils. Scientists measured a part of the eye fossil called the scleral ring and compared it to over 150 living birds and lizards. This allowed them to figure out which dinosaurs could see in the dark and which ones could not! 

RELATED: Are Dinosaurs Lizards?

Could dinosaurs see in color? 

Some animals see in black and white, while others have different forms of color blindness. So what about dinosaurs? Scientists believe that dinosaurs could see in color and they also believe that a dinosaur’s ability to see in color might have been just as important to them as it is to us. Scientists think that they could see in color due to the fact that birds, which are the dinosaur’s closest living relative, can also see in color. 

RELATED: Can Fish See Water? (Or Colors)

Did dinosaurs have a good vision? 

Tyrannosaurus Rex in Wildlife
Tyrannosaurus Rex in Wildlife

For the most part, it is believed that dinosaurs had better vision than most living reptiles, but it all varied on the type of the dinosaur. For example, it is believed that some dinosaurs, such as members of the carnosauria family of dinosaurs, had poor vision. Their vision was comparable to today’s alligators, who cannot see very well.

On the other hand, members of the coelurosaurs family had excellent vision. One notable member of this family was the tyrannosaurus rex. Scientists even believe that the tyrannosaurus rex might have had some of the best vision in all of animal history! These creatures had a vision that was better than ours, and even better than a hawk’s.

To put it in comparison, humans cannot see more than a mile away in perfect conditions. Tyrannosaurus rexes could see at distances of about 3.7 miles! Tyrannosaurus rexes also had a binocular vision which allowed them to see objects in 3-D, which is not something that a lot of members of the animal kingdom have.  

RELATED: Are Alligators Nocturnal? (Can they see in the dark?)

Was sight the dinosaur’s best sense? 

As we know from above, dinosaurs had a great sense of sight! But what about the other senses? In both herbivores and carnivores, the olfactory lobes in different dinosaurs’ brains were in variable sizes. But, there were quite a few dinosaurs that had an enlarged olfactory lobe which suggests that they would have had a better sense of smell than some of the other dinosaurs.

All dinosaurs would have used their sense of smell to find plants or prey, detect the presence of predators, and even to find mates.  

A dinosaur’s sense of hearing was even more dependent on the type of dinosaur. Small herbivores had a better hearing at high frequencies. This allowed them to be able to pinpoint exactly where a predator was and also allow them to be able to hear the high-pitched warning calls of other dinosaurs in their group.

Larger herbivores had a better sense of hearing for lower frequency sounds. This came in handy when they needed to communicate with other dinosaurs over a long distance. Meat-eating dinosaur fossils have shown that they often had a large middle ear cavity.

This points to them being able to hear low-frequency sounds better than high-frequency sounds. This was useful to help the dinosaurs find prey, even if they were far away.