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Dinosaurs (from Greek: ?????? terrible or potent, and ????? lizard) are a diverse group of animals that were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates for over 160 million years, from the late Triassic period (about 230 million years ago) until the end of the Cretaceous (about 65 million years ago), Sony VAIO VGN-BZ561P20 Battery

when the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event led to the extinction of most dinosaur species at the close of the Mesozoic era. The fossil record indicates that birds evolved within theropod dinosaurs during the Jurassic period. Some of them survived the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, including the ancestors of all modern birds.Sony VAIO VGN-BZ562P Battery

Consequently, in modern classification systems, birds are considered a type of dinosaur—the only group which survived to the present day. 

Dinosaurs are a diverse and varied group of animals; birds, at over 9,000 species, are the most diverse group of vertebrate besides perciform fish.Sony VAIO VGN-BZ563P Battery

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 and fossil remains. Some dinosaurs are herbivorous, others carnivorous.Sony VAIO VGN-BZAAFS Battery

Many dinosaurs, including birds, have been bipedal, though many extinct groups werequadrupedal, and some were able to shift between these body postures. Many species possess elaborate display structures such as horns or crests, and some prehistoric groups developed even more elaborate skeletal modifications such as bony armor. Sony VAIO VGN-BZAAHS Battery

Avian dinosaurs have been the planet's dominant flying vertebrate since the extinction of the pterosaurs, and evidence suggests that all ancient dinosaurs built nests and laid eggs much as avian species do today. Although generally known for the large size of some species, most Mesozoic dinosaurs were human-sized or even smaller.Sony VAIO VGN-BZAANS Battery

The term "dinosaur" was coined in 1842 by the English paleontologist Richard Owen, and derives from Greek ?????? (deinos) "terrible, powerful, wondrous, potent" + ?????? (sauros) "lizard". Through the first half of the 20th century, most of the scientific community believed dinosaurs to have been sluggish, unintelligent cold-blooded animals.Sony VAIO VGN-BZAAPS Battery

Most research conducted since the 1970s, however, has indicated that dinosaurs were active animals with elevated metabolisms and numerous adaptations for social interaction.

Since the first dinosaur fossils were recognized in the early 19th century, mounted fossil dinosaur skeletons or replicas have been major attractions at museums around the world, and dinosaurs have become a part of world culture.Sony VAIO VGN-CR11H/B Battery

They have been featured in best-selling books and films such as Jurassic Park, and new discoveries are regularly covered by the media. In informal speech, the word "dinosaur" is used to describe things that are impractically large, obsolete, or bound for extinction, reflecting the outdated view that dinosaurs were maladapted monsters of the ancient world.Sony VAIO VGN-CR11S/L Battery


The taxon Dinosauria was formally named in 1842 by Sir Richard Owen, who used it to refer to the "distinct tribe or sub-order of Saurian Reptiles" that were then being recognized in England and around the world. Sony VAIO VGN-CR11S/P Battery

The term is derived from the Greek words ?????? (deinos meaning "terrible", "powerful", or "wondrous") and ?????? (sauros meaning "lizard" or "reptile"). Though the taxonomic name has often been interpreted as a reference to dinosaurs' teeth, claws, and other fearsome characteristics, Owen intended it merely to evoke their size and majesty.Sony VAIO VGN-CR11S/W Battery

Modern definition

Formal definitions are written to correspond with scientific conceptions of dinosaurs that predate the modern use ofphylogenetics. The continuity of meaning is intended to prevent confusion about what the term "dinosaur" means.Sony VAIO VGN-CR11Z/R Battery

Under phylogenetic taxonomy, dinosaurs are usually defined as the group consisting of "Triceratops, Neornithes [modern birds], their most recent common ancestor, and all descendants".It has also been suggested that Dinosauria be defined with respect to the MRCA of Megalosaurus and Iguanodon, because these were two of the three genera cited by Richard Owen when he recognized the Dinosauria.Sony VAIO VGN-CR120E/L Battery

Both definitions result in the same set of animals being defined as dinosaurs, that is "Dinosauria = Ornithischia+ Saurischia", which encompasses theropods (mostly bipedal carnivores and birds), ankylosaurians (armored herbivorous quadrupeds),stegosaurians (plated herbivorous quadrupeds), Sony VAIO VGN-CR120E/P Battery

ceratopsians (herbivorous quadrupeds with horns and frills), ornithopods (bipedal or quadrupedal herbivores including "duck-bills"), and presumptuously, sauropodomorphs (mostly large herbivorous quadrupeds with long necks and tails).

Many paleontologists note that the order in which sauropodomorphs and theropods diverged may omit sauropodomorphs from the definition for both saurischians and dinosaurs.Sony VAIO VGN-CR120E/R Battery

To avoid the instability of Dinosauria, a more conservative definition of Dinosauria is defined with respect to four anchoring nodes: Triceratops horridus, Saltasaurus loricatus, and Passer domesticus, their most recent common ancestor, and all descendants. Sony VAIO VGN-CR120E/W Battery

This "safer" definition can be expressed as "Dinosauria = Ornithischia +Sauropodomorpha + Theropoda".

There is a wide consensus among paleontologists that birds are the descendants of theropod dinosaurs. Using the strict phylogenetic nomenclatural definition that all descendants of a single common ancestor must be included in a group for that group to be natural,Sony VAIO VGN-CR125E/B Battery

birds would thus be dinosaurs and dinosaurs are, therefore, not extinct. Birds are classified by most paleontologists as belonging to the subgroup Maniraptora, which are coelurosaurs, which are theropods, which are saurischians, which are dinosaurs.

From the point of view of cladistics, birds are dinosaurs, but in ordinary speech the word "dinosaur" does not include birds.Sony VAIO VGN-CR13/B Battery

Additionally, referring to dinosaurs that are not birds as "non-avian dinosaurs" is cumbersome. For clarity, this article will use "dinosaur" as a synonym for "non-avian dinosaur". The term "non-avian dinosaur" will be used for emphasis as needed.Sony VAIO VGN-CR13/L Battery

General description

Using one of the above definitions, dinosaurs (aside from birds) can be generally described as terrestrial archosaurian reptileswith limbs held erect beneath the body, that existed from the Late Triassic (first appearing in the Carnian faunal stage) to theLate Cretaceous (going extinct at the end of the Maastrichtian).Sony VAIO VGN-CR13/P Battery

Many prehistoric animals are popularly conceived of as dinosaurs, such as ichthyosaurs, mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, pterosaurs, and Dimetrodon, but are not classified scientifically as dinosaurs. Marine reptiles like ichthyosaurs, mosasaurs, and plesiosaurs were neither terrestrial nor archosaurs;Sony VAIO VGN-CR13/R Battery

pterosaurs were archosaurs but not terrestrial; and Dimetrodon was a Permian animal more closely related to mammals. Dinosaurs were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates of the Mesozoic, especially the Jurassic and Cretaceous. Other groups of animals were restricted in size and niches; mammals, for example, Sony VAIO VGN-CR13/W Battery

rarely exceeded the size of a cat, and were generally rodent-sized carnivores of small prey.[17] One notable exception is Repenomamus giganticus, a triconodont weighing between 12 kilograms (26 lb) and 14 kilograms (31 lb) that is known to have eaten small dinosaurs like young Psittacosaurus.Sony VAIO VGN-CR131E/L Battery

Dinosaurs were an extremely varied group of animals; according to a 2006 study, over 500 dinosaur genera have been identified with certainty so far, and the total number of genera preserved in the fossil record has been estimated at around 1850, nearly 75% of which remain to be discovered.Sony VAIO VGN-CR13G Battery

An earlier study predicted that about 3400 dinosaur genera existed, including many which would not have been preserved in the fossil record.As of September 17, 2008, 1047 different species of dinosaurs have been named. Some were herbivorous, others carnivorous. Sony VAIO VGN-CR13G/B Battery

Some dinosaurs were bipeds, some were quadrupeds, and others, such as Ammosaurus and Iguanodon, could walk just as easily on two or four legs. Many had bony armor, or cranial modifications like horns and crests. Although known for large size, many dinosaurs were human-sized or smaller. Sony VAIO VGN-CR13G/L Battery

Dinosaur remains have been found on every continent on Earth, including Antarctica. No non-avian dinosaurs are known to have lived in marine habitats or in aerial habitats, although it is possible some feathered non-avian theropods were flyers. There is also evidence that some spinosaurids had semi-aquatic habits.Sony VAIO VGN-CR13G/P Battery

Distinguishing anatomical features

While recent discoveries have made it more difficult to present a universally agreed-upon list of dinosaurs' distinguishing features, nearly all dinosaurs discovered so far share certain modifications to the ancestral archosaurian skeleton. Sony VAIO VGN-CR13G/R Battery

Although some later groups of dinosaurs featured further modified versions of these traits, they are considered typical across Dinosauria; the earliest dinosaurs had them and passed them on to all their descendants. Such common features across a taxonomic group are called synapomorphies.Sony VAIO VGN-CR13G/W Battery

A detailed assessment of archosaur interrelations by S. Nesbitt confirmed or found the following 12 unambiguous synapomorphies, some previously known:

  • in the skull, a supratemporal fossa (excavation) is present in front of the supratemporal fenestra Sony VAIO VGN-CR13T/L Battery
  • epipophyses present in anterior neck vertebrae (except atlas and axis)
  • apex of deltopectoral crest (a projection on which the deltopectoral muscles attach) located at or more than 30% down the length of the humerus (upper arm bone)
  • radius shorter than 80% of humerus length  Sony VAIO VGN-CR13T/P Battery
  • fourth trochanter (projection where the caudofemoralis muscle attaches) on the femur (thigh bone) is a sharp flange
  • fourth trochanter asymmetrical, with distal margin forming a steeper angle to the shaft
  • on the astragalus and calcaneum the proximal articular facet for fibula occupies less than 30% of the transverse width of the element  Sony VAIO VGN-CR13T/R Battery
  • exocciptials (bones at the back of the skull) do not meet along the midline on the floor of the endocranial cavity
  • proximal articular surfaces of the ischium with the ilium and the pubis separated by a large concave surface
  • cnemial crest on the tibia (shinbone) arcs anterolaterally  Sony VAIO VGN-CR13T/W Battery
  • distinct proximodistally oriented ridge present on the posterior face of the distal end of the tibia

Nesbitt found a number of further potential synapomorphies, and discounted a number of synapomorphies previously suggested.Sony VAIO VGN-CR15/B Battery

Some of these are also present insilesaurids, which Nesbitt recovered as a sister group to Dinosauria, including a large anterior trochanter, metatarsals II and IV of subequal length, reduced contact between ischium and pubis, the presence of a cenmial crest on the tibia and of an ascending process on the astragalus, and many others.Sony VAIO VGN-CR150E/B Battery

A variety of other skeletal features were shared by many dinosaurs. However, because they were either common to other groups ofarchosaurs or were not present in all early dinosaurs, these features are not considered to be synapomorphies. Sony VAIO VGN-CR190 Battery

For example, asdiapsid reptiles, dinosaurs ancestrally had two pairs of temporal fenestrae (openings in the skull behind the eyes), and as members of the diapsid group Archosauria, had additional openings in the snout and lower jaw. Additionally, several characteristics once thought to be synapomorphies are now known to have appeared before dinosaurs, or were absent in the earliest dinosaurs and independently evolved by different dinosaur groups.Sony VAIO VGN-CR190E/L Battery

These include an elongated scapula, or shoulder blade; a sacrumcomposed of three or more fused vertebrae (three are found in some other archosaurs, but only two are found in Herrerasaurus); and an acetabulum, or hip socket, with a hole at the center of its inside surface (closed in Saturnalia, for example).Sony VAIO VGN-CR190E/P Battery

Another difficulty of determining distinctly dinosaurian features is that early dinosaurs and other archosaurs from the Late Triassic are often poorly known and were similar in many ways; these animals have sometimes been misidentified in the literature.Sony VAIO VGN-CR190E/R Battery

Dinosaurs stood erect in a manner similar to most modern mammals, but distinct from most other reptiles, whose limbs sprawl out to either side.  Their posture was due to the development of a laterally facing recess in the pelvis (usually an open socket) and a corresponding inwardly facing distinct head on the femur.Sony VAIO VGN-CR190E/W Battery

Their erect posture enabled dinosaurs to breathe easily while moving, which likely permitted stamina and activity levels that surpassed those of "sprawling" reptiles.  Erect limbs probably also helped support the evolution of large size by reducing bending stresses on limbs.Sony VAIO VGN-CR19VN/B Battery

Some non-dinosaurian archosaurs, including rauisuchians, also had erect limbs but achieved this by a "pillar erect" configuration of the hip joint, where instead of having a projection from the femur insert on a socket on the hip, the upper pelvic bone was rotated to form an overhanging shelf.Sony VAIO VGN-CR19XN/B Battery

Origins and early evolution

For a long time many scientists thought dinosaurs were polyphyletic with multiple groups of unrelated "dinosaurs" evolving due to similar pressures, but dinosaurs are now known to have formed a single group. Sony VAIO VGN-CR20 Battery

Dinosaurs diverged from theirarchosaur ancestors approximately 230 million years ago during the Middle to Late Triassic period, roughly 20 million years after the Permian–Triassic extinction event wiped out an estimated 95% of all life on Earth. Sony VAIO VGN-CR21/B Battery

Radiometric dating of the rock formation that contained fossils from the early dinosaur genus Eoraptor establishes its presence in the fossil record at this time. Paleontologists believe Eoraptor resembles the common ancestor of all dinosaurs;[35] if this is true, its traits suggest that the first dinosaurs were small, bipedal predators.Sony VAIO VGN-CR21E/L Battery

The discovery of primitive, dinosaur-like ornithodirans such asMarasuchus and Lagerpeton in Argentinian Middle Triassic strata supports this view; analysis of recovered fossils suggests that these animals were indeed small, bipedal predators.

When dinosaurs appeared, terrestrial habitats were occupied by various types of basal archosaurs and therapsids, such asaetosaurs, cynodonts, dicynodonts, ornithosuchids, rauisuchias, and rhynchosaurs.Sony VAIO VGN-CR21E/P Battery

Most of these other animals became extinct in the Triassic, in one of two events. First, at about the boundary between the Carnian and Norian faunal stages (about 215 million years ago), dicynodonts and a variety of basal archosauromorphs, including the prolacertiforms and rhynchosaurs, became extinct. Sony VAIO VGN-CR21E/W Battery

This was followed by the Triassic–Jurassic extinction event (about 200 million years ago), that saw the end of most of the other groups of early archosaurs, like aetosaurs, ornithosuchids, phytosaurs, and rauisuchians. These losses left behind a land fauna ofcrocodylomorphs, dinosaurs, mammals, pterosaurians, and turtles.Sony VAIO VGN-CR21S/L Battery

The first few lines of primitive dinosaurs diversified through the Carnian and Norian stages of the Triassic, most likely by occupying the niches of groups that became extinct. Traditionally, dinosaurs were thought to have replaced the variety of other Triassic land animals by proving superior through a long period of competition. Sony VAIO VGN-CR21S/P Battery

This now appears unlikely, for several reasons. Dinosaurs do not show a pattern of steadily increasing in diversity and numbers, as would be predicted if they were competitively replacing other groups; instead, they were very rare through the Carnian, making up only 1–2% of individuals present in faunas. Sony VAIO VGN-CR21S/W Battery

In the Norian, however, after the extinction of several other groups, they became significant components of faunas, representing 50–90% of individuals. Also, what had been viewed as a key adaptation of dinosaurs, their erect stance, is now known to have been present in several contemporaneous groups that were not as successful (aetosaurs, ornithosuchids, rauisuchians, and some groups of crocodylomorphs).Sony VAIO VGN-CR21Z/N Battery

Finally, the Late Triassic itself was a time of great upheaval in life, with shifts in plant life, marine life, and climate. Crurotarsans, today represented only by crocodilians but in the Late Triassic also encompassing such now-extinct groups as aetosaurs, phytosaurs,Sony VAIO VGN-CR21Z/R Battery

ornithosuchians, and rauisuchians, were actually more diverse in the Late Triassic than dinosaurs, indicating that the survival of dinosaurs had more to do with luck than superiority.


Dinosaurs (including birds) are archosaurs, like modern crocodilians. Sony VAIO VGN-CR220E/R Battery

Archosaurs' diapsid skulls have two holes, called temporal fenestrae, located where the jaw muscles attach, and an additional antorbital fenestra in front of the eyes. Most reptiles (including birds) are diapsids; mammals, with only one temporal fenestra, are called synapsids; and turtles, with no temporal fenestra, are anapsids.Sony VAIO VGN-CR23/B Battery

Anatomically, dinosaurs share many other archosaur characteristics, including teeth that grow from sockets rather than as direct extensions of the jawbones. Within the archosaur group, dinosaurs are differentiated most noticeably by their gait. Dinosaur legs extend directly beneath the body, whereas the legs of lizards and crocodilians sprawl out to either side.Sony VAIO VGN-CR23/L Battery

Collectively, dinosaurs are usually regarded as a superorder or an unranked clade. They are divided into two orders, Saurischia and Ornithischia, depending uponpelvic structure. Saurischia includes those taxa sharing a more recent common ancestor with birds than with Ornithischia, while Ornithischia includes all taxasharing a more recent common ancestor with Triceratops than with Saurischia.Sony VAIO VGN-CR23/N Battery

Saurischians ("lizard-hipped", from the Greek sauros (??????) meaning "lizard" andischion (??????) meaning "hip joint") retained the hip structure of their ancestors, with a pubis bone directed cranially, or forward. This basic form was modified by rotating the pubis backward to varying degrees in several groups (Herrerasaurus, therizinosauroids,dromaeosaurids,and birds ). Sony VAIO VGN-CR23/P Battery

Saurischia includes the theropods (bipedal and mostly carnivores, except for birds) and sauropodomorphs (long-necked quadrupedal herbivores).

By contrast, ornithischians ("bird-hipped", from the Greek ornitheios (?????????) meaning "of a bird" and ischion (??????) meaning "hip joint") had a pelvis that superficially resembled a bird's pelvis:Sony VAIO VGN-CR23/R Battery

the pubis bone was oriented caudally (rear-pointing) Unlike birds, the ornithischian pubis also usually had an additional forward-pointing process. Ornithischia includes a variety of herbivores. (NB: the terms "lizard hip" and "bird hip" are misnomers – birds evolved from dinosaurs with "lizard hips".)Sony VAIO VGN-CR23/W Battery

Evolution and paleobiogeography

Dinosaur evolution after the Triassic follows changes in vegetation and the location of continents. In the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic, the continents were connected as the single landmass Pangaea, and there was a worldwide dinosaur fauna mostly composed of coelophysoid carnivores and prosauropod herbivores.Sony VAIO VGN-CR240E/B Battery

Gymnosperm plants (particularly conifers), a potential food source, radiated in the Late Triassic. Prosauropods did not have sophisticated mechanisms for processing food in the mouth, and so must have employed other means of breaking down food farther along the digestive tract.Sony VAIO VGN-CR240N/B Battery

The general homogeneity of dinosaurian faunas continued into the Middle and Late Jurassic, where most localities had predators consisting of ceratosaurians, spinosauroids, and carnosaurians, and herbivores consisting of stegosaurian ornithischians and large sauropods. Sony VAIO VGN-CR25G/N Battery

Examples of this include the Morrison Formation of North America and Tendaguru Beds of Tanzania. Dinosaurs in China show some differences, with specialized sinraptorid theropods and unusual, long-necked sauropods like Mamenchisaurus.  Ankylosaurians andornithopods were also becoming more common, but prosauropods had become extinct. Sony VAIO VGN-CR290EAL Battery

Conifers and pteridophytes were the most common plants. Sauropods, like the earlier prosauropods, were not oral processors, but ornithischians were evolving various means of dealing with food in the mouth, including potential cheek-like organs to keep food in the mouth, and jaw motions to grind food.Sony VAIO VGN-CR290EAN Battery

Another notable evolutionary event of the Jurassic was the appearance of true birds, descended frommaniraptoran coelurosaurians.

By the Early Cretaceous and the ongoing breakup of Pangaea, dinosaurs were becoming strongly differentiated by landmass. Sony VAIO VGN-CR290EAP Battery

The earliest part of this time saw the spread of ankylosaurians, iguanodontians, and brachiosaurids through Europe, North America, and northern Africa. These were later supplemented or replaced in Africa by large spinosaurid and carcharodontosaurid theropods, and rebbachisaurid and titanosaurian sauropods, also found in South America. Sony VAIO VGN-CR290EAR Battery

In Asia, maniraptorancoelurosaurians like dromaeosaurids, troodontids, and oviraptorosaurians became the common theropods, and ankylosaurids and early ceratopsians like Psittacosaurusbecame important herbivores. Meanwhile, Australia was home to a fauna of basal ankylosaurians, hypsilophodonts, and iguanodontians.Sony VAIO VGN-CR290EAW Battery

The stegosaurians appear to have gone extinct at some point in the late Early Cretaceous or early Late Cretaceous. A major change in the Early Cretaceous, which would be amplified in the Late Cretaceous, was the evolution of flowering plants. At the same time, several groups of dinosaurian herbivores evolved more sophisticated ways to orally process food. Sony VAIO VGN-CR29XN/B Battery

Ceratopsians developed a method of slicing with teeth stacked on each other in batteries, and iguanodontians refined a method of grinding with tooth batteries, taken to its extreme in hadrosaurids. Some sauropods also evolved tooth batteries, best exemplified by the rebbachisaurid Nigersaurus.Sony VAIO VGN-CR305E/RC Battery

There were three general dinosaur faunas in the Late Cretaceous. In the northern continents of North America and Asia, the major theropods were tyrannosaurids and various types of smaller maniraptoran theropods, with a predominantly ornithischian herbivore assemblage of hadrosaurids, ceratopsians, ankylosaurids, andpachycephalosaurians.Sony VAIO VGN-CR31S/D Battery

In the southern continents that had made up the now-splitting Gondwana, abelisaurids were the common theropods, and titanosaurian sauropods the common herbivores. Finally, in Europe, dromaeosaurids, rhabdodontid iguanodontians, nodosaurid ankylosaurians, and titanosaurian sauropods were prevalent.Sony VAIO VGN-CR323/W Battery

Flowering plants were greatly radiating,  with the first grasses appearing by the end of the Cretaceous. Grinding hadrosaurids and shearing ceratopsians became extremely diverse across North America and Asia. Theropods were also radiating as herbivores or omnivores, with therizinosaurians and ornithomimosaurians becoming common.Sony VAIO VGN-CR33 Battery

The Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, which occurred approximately 65 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous period, caused the extinction of all dinosaurs except for the birds. Some other diapsid groups, such as crocodilians, lizards, snakes, sphenodontians, and choristoderans, also survived the event.Sony VAIO VGN-CR382 Battery


Knowledge about dinosaurs is derived from a variety of fossil and non-fossil records, including fossilized bones, feces, trackways, gastroliths, feathers, impressions of skin, internal organs and soft tissues. Sony VAIO VGN-CR490EBL Battery

Many fields of study contribute to our understanding of dinosaurs, including physics (especiallybiomechanics), chemistry, biology, and the earth sciences (of which paleontology is a sub-discipline). Two topics of particular interest and study have been dinosaur size and behavior.Sony VAIO VGN-CR490EBN Battery


The sauropods were the largest dinosaurs. For much of the dinosaur era, the smallest sauropods were larger than anything else in their habitat, and the largest were an order of magnitude more massive than anything else that has since walked the Earth. Sony VAIO VGN-CR490EBP Battery

Giant prehistoric mammals such as the Paraceratherium and the Columbian mammoth were dwarfed by the giant sauropods, and only a handful of modern aquatic animals approach or surpass them in size – most notably the blue whale, which reaches up to 173000 kg (381000lb) and over 30 meters (98 ft) in length.Sony VAIO VGN-CR490EBR Battery

There are several proposed advantages for the large size of sauropods, including protection from predation, reduction of energy use, and longevity, but it may be that the most important advantage was dietary. Large animals are more efficient at digestion than small animals, because food spends more time in their digestive systems. Sony VAIO VGN-CR490EBT Battery

This also permits them to subsist on food with lower nutritive value than smaller animals. Sauropod remains are mostly found in rock formations interpreted as dry or seasonally dry, and the ability to eat large quantities of low-nutrient browse would have been advantageous in such environments.Sony VAIO VGN-CR490EBW Battery

Most dinosaurs, however, were much smaller than the giant sauropods. Current evidence suggests that dinosaur average size varied through the Triassic, early Jurassic, late Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.Theropod dinosaurs, when sorted by estimated weight into categories based on order of magnitude,Sony VAIO VGN-CR50B/W Battery

most often fall into the 100 to 1000 kilogram (220 to 2200 lb) category, whereas recent predatory carnivorans peak in the 10 to 100 kilogram (22 to 220 lb) category.The mode of dinosaur body masses is between one and ten metric tonnes.This contrasts sharply with the size of Cenozoic mammals, estimated by the National Museum of Natural History as about 2 to 5 kilograms (5 to 10 lb).Sony VAIO VGN-CR51B/W Battery

Largest and smallest

Only a tiny percentage of animals ever fossilize, and most of these remain buried in the earth. Few of the specimens that are recovered are complete skeletons, and impressions of skin and other soft tissues are rare. Sony VAIO VGN-CR520E/J Battery

Rebuilding a complete skeleton by comparing the size and morphology of bones to those of similar, better-known species is an inexact art, and reconstructing the muscles and other organs of the living animal is, at best, a process of educated guesswork. As a result, scientists will probably never be certain of the largest and smallest dinosaurs.Sony VAIO VGN-CR52B/W Battery

The tallest and heaviest dinosaur known from good skeletons is Giraffatitan brancai (previously classified as a species ofBrachiosaurus). Its remains were discovered in Tanzania between 1907–12. Bones from several similar-sized individuals were incorporated into the skeleton now mounted and on display at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin;Sony VAIO VGN-CR590EBL Battery

this mount is 12 meters (39 ft) tall and 22.5 meters (74 ft) long, and would have belonged to an animal that weighed between 30000 and 60000 kilograms (70000and 130000 lb). The longest complete dinosaur is the 27-meter (89 ft) long Diplodocus,Sony VAIO VGN-CR590EBN Battery

which was discovered in Wyoming in theUnited States and displayed in Pittsburgh's Carnegie Natural History Museum in 1907.

There were larger dinosaurs, but knowledge of them is based entirely on a small number of fragmentary fossils. Sony VAIO VGN-CR590EBP Battery

Most of the largest herbivorous specimens on record were all discovered in the 1970s or later, and include the massive Argentinosaurus, which may have weighed 80000to 100000 kilograms (90 to 110 short tons); some of the longest were the 33.5 meters (110 ft) long Diplodocus hallorum (formerly Seismosaurus) and the 33 meters (108 ft) long Supersaurus;Sony VAIO VGN-CR590EBR Battery

and the tallest, the 18 meters (59 ft) tallSauroposeidon, which could have reached a sixth-floor window. The heaviest and longest of them all may have been Amphicoelias fragillimus, known only from a now lost partial vertebral neural arch described in 1878.Sony VAIO VGN-CR590EBT Battery

Extrapolating from the illustration of this bone, the animal may have been 58 meters (190 ft) long and weighed over 120000 kg (260000 lb). The largest knowncarnivorous dinosaur was Spinosaurus, reaching a length of 16 to 18 meters (50 to 60 ft), and weighing in at 8150 kg (18000lb).Sony VAIO VGN-CR590EBW Battery

Other large meat-eaters included Giganotosaurus, Carcharodontosaurus and Tyrannosaurus.

Not including modern birds, the smallest known dinosaurs known were about the size of a pigeon.The theropods AnchiornisandEpidexipteryx both had a total skeletal length of under 35 centimeters (1.1 ft).Sony VAIO VGN-CR60B/L Battery

Anchiornis is currently the smallest dinosaur described from an adult specimen, with an estimated weight of 110 grams. The smallest herbivorous dinosaurs includedMicroceratus and Wannanosaurus, at about 60 cm (2 ft) long each.

Interpretations of dinosaur behavior are generally based on the pose of body fossils and their habitat, computer simulations of their biomechanics, and comparisons with modern animals in similar ecological niches. Sony VAIO VGN-CR60B/P Battery

As such, the current understanding of dinosaur behavior relies on speculation, and will likely remain controversial for the foreseeable future. However, there is general agreement that some behaviors which are common in crocodiles and birds, dinosaurs' closest living relatives, were also common among dinosaurs.Sony VAIO VGN-CR60B/R Battery

The first potential evidence of herding behavior was the 1878 discovery of 31 Iguanodon dinosaurs which were then thought to have perished together in Bernissart, Belgium, after they fell into a deep, flooded sinkhole and drowned. Other mass-death sites have been subsequently discovered. Sony VAIO VGN-CR61B/L Battery

Those, along with multiple trackways, suggest that gregarious behavior was common in many dinosaur species. Trackways of hundreds or even thousands of herbivores indicate that duck-bills (hadrosaurids) may have moved in great herdsSony VAIO VGN-CR61B/N Battery

, like the American Bison or the African Springbok. Sauropod tracks document that these animals traveled in groups composed of several different species, at least in Oxfordshire, England,[61] although there is not evidence for specific herd structures.Sony VAIO VGN-CR61B/P Battery

Dinosaurs may have congregated in herds for defense, for migratory purposes, or to provide protection for their young. There is evidence that many types of dinosaurs, including various theropods, sauropods, ankylosaurians, ornithopods, and ceratopsians, formed aggregations of immature individuals.Sony VAIO VGN-CR61B/R Battery

One example is a site in Inner Mongolia that has yielded the remains of over 20 Sinornithomimus, from one to seven years old. This assemblage is interpreted as a social group that was trapped in mud.[63] The interpretation of dinosaurs as gregarious has also extended to depicting carnivorous theropods aspack hunters working together to bring down large prey.Sony VAIO VGN-CR62B/L Battery

However, this lifestyle is uncommon among the modern relatives of dinosaurs (crocodiles and other reptiles, and birds – Harris's Hawk is a well-documented exception), and the taphonomic evidence suggesting pack hunting in such theropods as DeinonychusandAllosaurus can also be interpreted as the results of fatal disputes between feeding animals, as is seen in many modern diapsid predators.Sony VAIO VGN-CR62B/N Battery

Jack Horner's 1978 discovery of a Maiasaura ("good mother dinosaur") nesting ground in Montana demonstrated that parental care continued long after birth among the ornithopods. There is also evidence that other Cretaceous-era dinosaurs, like Patagoniantitanosaurian sauropods (1997 discovery), also nested in large groups.Sony VAIO VGN-CR62B/P Battery

The Mongolian oviraptorid Citipati was discovered in achicken-like brooding pos

ition in 1993, which may mean it was covered with an insulating layer of feathers that kept the eggswarm.  Parental care is also implied by other finds. For example, the fossilized remains of a grouping of Psittacosaurus has been found, consisting of one adult and 34 juveniles; Sony VAIO VGN-CR62B/R Battery

in this case, the large number of juveniles may be due to communal nesting. Additionally, a dinosaur embryo (pertaining to the prosauropod Massospondylus) was found without teeth, indicating that some parental care was required to feed the young dinosaur.Sony VAIO VGN-CR70B/W Battery

] Trackways have also confirmed parental behavior among ornithopods from the Isle of Skye in northwestern Scotland.  Nests and eggs have been found for most major groups of dinosaurs, and it appears likely that dinosaurs communicated with their young, in a manner similar to modern birds and crocodiles.Sony VAIO VGN-CR71B/W Battery

The crests and frills of some dinosaurs, like the marginocephalians, theropods andlambeosaurines, may have been too fragile to be used for active defense, and so they were likely used for sexual or aggressive displays, though little is known about dinosaur mating and territorialism.Sony VAIO VGN-CR72B/W Battery

Head wounds from bites suggest that theropods, at least, engaged in active aggressive confrontations.

From a behavioral standpoint, one of the most valuable dinosaur fossils was discovered in the Gobi Desert in 1971. It included aVelociraptor attacking a Protoceratops,providing evidence that dinosaurs did indeed attack each other.Sony VAIO VGN-CR90HS Battery

Additional evidence for attacking live prey is the partially healed tail of an Edmontosaurus, a hadrosaurid dinosaur; the tail is damaged in such a way that shows the animal was bitten by a tyrannosaur but survived. Cannibalism amongst some species of dinosaurs was confirmed by tooth marks found in Madagascar in 2003, involving the theropod Majungasaurus.Sony VAIO VGN-CR90NS Battery

Comparisons between the scleral rings of dinosaurs and modern birds and reptiles have been used to infer daily activity patterns of dinosaurs. Although it has been suggested that most dinosaurs were active during the day, these comparisons have shown that small predatory dinosaurs such as dromaeosaurids, Juravenator, and Megapnosaurus were likely nocturnal. Sony VAIO VGN-CR90S Battery

Large and medium-sized herbivorous and omnivorous dinosaurs such as ceratopsians, sauropodomorphs, hadrosaurids, ornithomimosaurs may have been cathemeral, active during short intervals throughout the day, although the smallornithischian Agilisaurus was inferred to be diurnal.Sony VAIO VGN-CR92HS Battery

Based on current fossil evidence from dinosaurs such as Oryctodromeus, some herbivorous species seem to have led a partially fossorial (burrowing) lifestyle, and some bird-like species may have been arboreal (tree climbing), most notably primitive dromaeosaurids such as Microraptor and the enigmatic scansoriopterygids.Sony VAIO VGN-CR92NS Battery

However, most dinosaurs seem to have relied on land-based locomotion. A good understanding of how dinosaurs moved on the ground is key to models of dinosaur behavior; the science of biomechanics, in particular, has provided significant insight in this area.Sony VAIO VGN-CR92S Battery

For example, studies of the forces exerted by muscles and gravity on dinosaurs' skeletal structure have investigated how fast dinosaurs could run,[81] whether diplodocids could create sonic booms via whip-like tail snapping,[82] and whether sauropods could float.Sony VAIO VGN-CS118E/Q Battery

Communication and vocalization

The nature of dinosaur communication remains enigmatic, and is an active area of research. In 2008, paleontologist Phil Senter examined the evidence for vocalization in Mesozoic animal life, including dinosaurs. Sony VAIO VGN-CS118E/R Battery

Senter found that, contrary to popular depictions of roaring dinosaurs in motion pictures, it is likely that most dinosaurs were not capable of creating any vocalizations. To draw this conclusion, Senter studied the distribution of vocal organs in reptiles and birds.Sony VAIO VGN-CS118E/W Battery

He found that vocal cords in the larynx probably evolved multiple times among reptiles, including crocodilians, which are able to produce guttural roars. Birds, on the other hand, lack a larynx. Instead, bird calls are produced by the syrinx, a vocal organ found only in birds, and which is not related to the larynx, meaning it evolved independently from the vocal organs in reptiles. Sony VAIO VGN-CS11S/P Battery

The syrinx depends on the air sac system in birds to function; specifically, it requires the presence of aclavicular air sac near the wishbone or collar bone. This air sac leaves distinctive marks or opening on the bones, including a distinct opening in the upper arm bone (humerus). Sony VAIO VGN-CS11S/Q Battery

While many dinosaurs show evidence of extensive air sac systems, almost none possess the clavicular air sac necessary to vocalize (one exception,Aerosteon, probably evolved its clavicular air sac independently of birds for reasons other than vocalization).Sony VAIO VGN-CS11S/W Battery

The most primitive animals with evidence of a vocalizing syrinx are the enantironithine birds. Any bird-line archosaurs more primitive than this probably did not make vocal calls. Rather, several lines of evidence suggest that dinosaurs used primarily visual communication, in the form of distinctive-looking (and possibly brightly colored) horns, frills, crests, sails and feathers.Sony VAIO VGN-CS11Z/R Battery

This is similar to some modern reptile groups such as lizards, in which many forms are largely silent (though like dinosaurs they possess well-developed senses of hearing) but use complex coloration and display behaviors to communicate. Sony VAIO VGN-CS120J/P Battery

Also, though they may not have been able to vocalize, some dinosaurs may have used other methods of producing sound for communication. Modern animals, including reptiles and birds, use a wide variety of non-vocal sound communication, including hissing, jaw grinding or clapping, use of environment (such as splashing), and wing beating (which would have been possible in winged maniraptoran dinosaurs).Sony VAIO VGN-CS120J/Q Battery

Some studies have suggested that the hollow crests of the lambeosaurines may have functioned as resonance chambers used for a wide range of vocalizations. However, Senter (2008) noted that such chambers are also used in modern non-vocal animals to accentuate or deepen non-vocal sounds like hissing. For example, many snakes, which lack vocal cords, have resonating chambers in the skull.Sony VAIO VGN-CS120J/R Battery


A vigorous debate on the subject of temperature regulation in dinosaurs has been ongoing since the 1960s. Originally, scientists broadly disagreed as to whether dinosaurs were capable of regulating their body temperatures at all.Sony VAIO VGN-CS190JTB Battery

More recently, dinosaurendothermy has become the consensus view, and debate has focused on the mechanisms of temperature regulation.

After dinosaurs were discovered, paleontologists first posited that they were ectothermic creatures: "terrible lizards" as their name suggests. Sony VAIO VGN-CS190JTP Battery

This supposed cold-bloodedness was used to imply that dinosaurs were relatively slow, sluggish organisms, even though many modern reptiles are fast and light-footed despite relying on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature. The idea of dinosaurs as ectothermic and sluggish remained a prevalent view until Robert T. "Bob" Bakker, an early proponent of dinosaur endothermy, published an influential paper on the topic in 1968.Sony VAIO VGN-CS190JTQ Battery

Modern evidence indicates that dinosaurs thrived in cooler temperate climates, and that at least some dinosaur species must have regulated their body temperature by internal biological means (perhaps aided by the animals' bulk). Evidence of endothermy in dinosaurs includes the discovery of polar dinosaurs in Australia and Antarctica (where they would have experienced a cold, Sony VAIO VGN-CS190JTR Battery

dark six-month winter), the discovery of dinosaurs whose feathers may have provided regulatory insulation, and analysis of blood-vessel structures within dinosaur bone that are typical of endotherms. Skeletal structures suggest that theropods and some other dinosaurs had active lifestyles better suited to an endothermic cardiovascular system, while sauropods exhibit fewer endothermic characteristics. Sony VAIO VGN-CS190JTW Battery

It is certainly possible that some dinosaurs were endothermic while others were not. Scientific debate over the specifics continues.

Complicating the debate is the fact that warm-bloodedness can emerge based on more than one mechanism. Most discussions of dinosaur endothermy tend to compare them with average-sized birds or mammals, which expend energy to elevate body temperature above that of the environment.Sony VAIO VGN-CS190NAB Battery

Small birds and mammals also possess insulation, such as fat, fur, or feathers, which slows down heat loss. However, large mammals, such as elephants, face a different problem because of their relatively small ratio of surface area to volume (Haldane's principle). This ratio compares the volume of an animal with the area of its skin: as an animal gets bigger, its surface area increases more slowly than its volume. Sony VAIO VGN-CS190NAC Battery

At a certain point, the amount of heat radiated away through the skin drops below the amount of heat produced inside the body, forcing animals to use additional methods to avoid overheating. In the case of elephants, they have little hair as adults, have large ears which increase their surface area, and have behavioral adaptations as well (such as using the trunk to spray water on themselves and mud-wallowing). Sony VAIO VGN-CS190NAD Battery

These behaviors increase cooling through evaporation.

Large dinosaurs would presumably have had to deal with similar issues; their body size suggest they lost heat relatively slowly to the surrounding air, and so could have been what are called inertial homeotherms, animals that are warmer than their environments through sheer size rather than through special adaptations like those of birds or mammals. Sony VAIO VGN-CS190NBB Battery

However, so far this theory fails to account for the numerous dog- and goat-sized dinosaur species, or the young of larger species.

Modern computerized tomography (CT) scans of a dinosaur's chest cavity (conducted in 2000) found the apparent remnants of a four-chambered heart, much like those found in today's mammals and birds.Sony VAIO VGN-CS190NCA Battery

The idea is controversial within the scientific community, coming under fire for bad anatomical science or simply wishful thinking. The question of how this find reflects on metabolic rate and dinosaur internal anatomy may be moot, though, regardless of the object's identity:Sony VAIO VGN-CS190NCB Battery

both modern crocodiliansand birds, the closest living relatives of dinosaurs, have four-chambered hearts (albeit modified in crocodilians), and so dinosaurs probably had them as well.

Soft tissue and DNA

One of the best examples of soft-tissue impressions in a fossil dinosaur was discovered in Petraroia, Italy. Sony VAIO VGN-CS190NCC Battery

The discovery was reported in 1998, and described the specimen of a small, very young coelurosaur, Scipionyx samniticus. The fossil includes portions of the intestines, colon, liver, muscles, and windpipe of this immature dinosaur. Sony VAIO VGN-CS50B/W Battery

In the March 2005 issue of Science, the paleontologist Mary Higby Schweitzer and her team announced the discovery of flexible material resembling actual soft tissue inside a 68-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex leg bone from the Hell Creek Formation in Montana. After recovery, the tissue was rehydrated by the science team.Sony VAIO VGN-CS51B/W Battery

When the fossilized bone was treated over several weeks to remove mineral content from the fossilized bone-marrow cavity (a process called demineralization), Schweitzer found evidence of intact structures such as blood vessels, bone matrix, and connective tissue (bone fibers). Sony VAIO VGN-CS52JB/W Battery

Scrutiny under the microscope further revealed that the putative dinosaur soft tissue had retained fine structures (microstructures) even at the cellular level. The exact nature and composition of this material, and the implications of Schweitzer's discovery, are not yet clear; study and interpretation of the material is ongoing.Sony VAIO VGN-CS60B/P Battery

Newer research, published in PloS One (30 July 2008), has challenged the claims that the material found is the soft tissue of Tyrannosaurus. Thomas Kaye of theUniversity of Washington and his co-authors contend that what was really inside the tyrannosaur bone was slimy biofilm created by bacteria that coated the voids once occupied by blood vessels and cells.Sony VAIO VGN-CS60B/Q Battery

The researchers found that what previously had been identified as remnants of blood cells, because of the presence of iron, were actually framboids, microscopic mineral spheres bearing iron. They found similar spheres in a variety of other fossils from various periods, including anammonite. Sony VAIO VGN-CS60B/R Battery

In the ammonite they found the spheres in a place where the iron they contain could not have had any relationship to the presence of blood.

The successful extraction of ancient DNA from dinosaur fossils has been reported on two separate occasions, but, upon further inspection and peer review, neither of these reports could be confirmed.Sony VAIO VGN-CS61B/P Battery

However, a functional visual peptide of a theoretical dinosaur has been inferred using analytical phylogenetic reconstruction methods on gene sequences of related modern species such as reptiles and birds. In addition, several proteins, including hemoglobin,[96] have putatively been detected in dinosaur fossils.Sony VAIO VGN-CS61B/Q Battery

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