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The Dinosaur Portal

Triceratops prorsus old skull002.png

Introduction

A collection of fossil dinosaur skeletons. Clockwise from top left: Microraptor gui (a winged theropod), Apatosaurus louisae (a giant sauropod), Edmontosaurus regalis (a duck-billed ornithopod), Triceratops horridus (a horned ceratopsian), Stegosaurus stenops (a plated stegosaur), Pinacosaurus grangeri (an armored ankylosaur)

Dinosaurs are a diverse group of reptiles of the clade Dinosauria. They first appeared during the Triassic period, between 243 and 233.23 million years ago, although the exact origin and timing of the evolution of dinosaurs is the subject of active research. They became the dominant terrestrial vertebrates after the Triassic–Jurassic extinction event 201 million years ago; their dominance continued through the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Reverse genetic engineering and the fossil record both demonstrate that birds are modern feathered dinosaurs, having evolved from earlier theropods during the late Jurassic Period. As such, birds were the only dinosaur lineage to survive the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event 66 million years ago. Dinosaurs can therefore be divided into avian dinosaurs, or birds; and non-avian dinosaurs, which are all dinosaurs other than birds. This article deals primarily with non-avian dinosaurs.

Dinosaurs are a varied group of animals from taxonomic, morphological and ecological standpoints. Birds, at over 10,000 living species, are the most diverse group of vertebrates besides perciform fish. Using fossil evidence, paleontologists have identified over 500 distinct genera and more than 1,000 different species of non-avian dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are represented on every continent by both extant species (birds) and fossil remains. Through the first half of the 20th century, before birds were recognized to be dinosaurs, most of the scientific community believed dinosaurs to have been sluggish and cold-blooded. Most research conducted since the 1970s, however, has indicated that all dinosaurs were active animals with elevated metabolisms and numerous adaptations for social interaction. Some were herbivorous, others carnivorous. Evidence suggests that egg-laying and nest-building are additional traits shared by all dinosaurs, avian and non-avian alike.

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Skeleton mount of Allosaurus.
Allosaurus (meaning 'strange lizard') is a genus of large theropod dinosaur that lived 155 to 145 million years ago, in the late Jurassic period. The first remains that can definitely be ascribed to this genus were described in 1877 by Othniel Charles Marsh. As one of the first well-known theropod dinosaurs, it has long attracted attention outside of paleontological circles, and has been a lead dinosaur in several films and documentaries.

Allosaurus was a large bipedal predator with a large skull, equipped with dozens of large, sharp teeth. It averaged 8.5 meters (30 ft) in length, though fragmentary remains suggest it could have reached over 12 meters (39 ft). Relative to the large and powerful hindlimbs, its three-fingered forelimbs were small, and the body was balanced by a long, heavy tail. It is classified as an allosaurid, a type of carnosaurian theropod dinosaur. The genus has a complicated taxonomy, and includes an uncertain number of valid species, the best known of which is A. fragilis. The bulk of Allosaurus remains have come from North America's Morrison Formation, with material also from Portugal and possibly Tanzania. It was known for over half of the 20th century as Antrodemus, but study of the copious remains from the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry brought the name Allosaurus back to prominence, and established it as one of the best-known dinosaurs.

As the prominent large predator in the Morrison Formation, Allosaurus was at the top of the food chain, probably preying on contemporaneous large herbivorous dinosaurs. Potential prey included ornithopods, stegosaurids, and sauropods. While it is often thought of as preying on sauropod dinosaurs in groups, there is little evidence for cooperative social behavior in this genus, and individuals may have been aggressive toward each other instead. It may have attacked large prey by ambush, using its upper jaws like a hatchet. (see more...)

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Giraffatitan brancai

Modern skeleton mount of Giraffatitan brancai in the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin

Photo credit: User:Axel.Mauruszat

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