Portal:Dinosaurs

The Dinosaur Portal

Triceratops prorsus old skull002.png

Introduction

A compilation of 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 (mya), 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 201.3 mya; their dominance continued throughout the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. The fossil record shows that birds are feathered dinosaurs, having evolved from earlier theropods during the Late Jurassic epoch, and are the only dinosaur lineage known to have survived the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event approximately 66 mya. Dinosaurs can therefore be divided into avian dinosaurs—birds—and paraphyletic pseudo-extinct non-avian dinosaurs, which are all dinosaurs other than birds.

Dinosaurs are a varied group of animals from taxonomic, morphological and ecological standpoints. Birds, at over 10,700 living species, are among the most diverse group of vertebrates. Using fossil evidence, paleontologists have identified over 900 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 as 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 dinosaurs were active animals with elevated metabolisms and numerous adaptations for social interaction. Some were herbivorous, others carnivorous. Evidence suggests that all dinosaurs were egg-laying, and that nest-building was a trait shared by many dinosaurs, both avian and non-avian. (Full article...)

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Stegosaurus skeleton as drawn by Othniel Charles Marsh
Stegosaurus (meaning 'roof-lizard') is a genus of stegosaurid armoured dinosaur from the Late Jurassic period (Kimmeridgian to Early Tithonian) in what is now western North America. However, in 2006 a specimen of Stegosaurus was announced from Portugal, suggesting that they were present in Europe as well. Due to its distinctive tail spikes and plates, Stegosaurus is one of the most recognisable dinosaurs, along with Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops and Apatosaurus. At least three species have been identified in the upper Morrison Formation and are known from the remains of about 80 individuals. They lived some 155 to 145 million years ago, in an environment and time dominated by the giant sauropods Diplodocus, Camarasaurus and Apatosaurus.

A large, heavily-built and herbivorous quadruped, Stegosaurus had a distinctive and unusual posture, with a heavily-arched back, short forelimbs, head held low to the ground and a stiffened tail held high in the air. Its array of plates and spikes have been the subject of much speculation. The spikes were most likely used for defence, while the plates have also been proposed as a defensive mechanism, as well as having display and thermoregulatory (heat control) functions. Stegosaurus was the largest of all the stegosaurians (bigger than genera such as Kentrosaurus and Huayangosaurus) and, although roughly bus-sized, it nonetheless shared many anatomical features (including the tail spines and plates) with the other stegosaurian genera. (see more...)

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Dromaeosaurus skull.

Dromaeosaurus skull mounted at the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle in Paris.

Photo credit: User:LadyofHats

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