It may seem like a trite observation but dinosaurs do seem to get an unusual amount of attention. Sure they were the dominant terrestrial clade for a good period of time, and they produced some weird and wonderful forms, and some of them were huge. But much as I love my dinosaurs, the attention they get does seem to be disproportionate to their importance and interest. You don’t see ammonites or calicotheres or fossil cetaceans or gorgonopsids attracting the same kind of attention.
The attention is double edged of course. While it means that dinosaurs do well in the literature and media, and museums obviously tend to go for great dinosaur displays, it does also attract the kind of interest you don’t want. Dinosaur researchers seem to have the near monopoly on members of the public finding ‘dinosaur bones’ in their backyard (it’s never a mammoth is it?) or tales of humor and horror of encounters with the public who are just a bit too into their dinosaurs. We get waaaay more than our fair share of ‘aquatic dinosaurs’ type-hypotheses and even academics that seem to want to dip into palaeontology always seem to head straight for the dinosaurs. And naturally the media knowing just how popular they are, are generally always ready to give a bit of coverage to the latest flawed efforts.
I’ve seen various explanations over the years but I’ve yet to come across anything backed by much evidence or that sounds overly convincing. It almost seems that dinosaurs are popular simply because they’ve always been popular and that has never faded and perhaps has even become self-fulfilling – with so much reporting on new finds, documentaries and museum exhibitions, they are always out there and being promoted. It’s clearly not going away anytime in the next decade or two, but for me at least, it’s far for clear quite how it’s been propagated so effectively for so long. Long may it continue of course, thought if a few more nutters want to start thinking more about trilobites and indricotheres (and less about tyrannosaurs) that would be good too.