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Dinosaurs


 

 

Triceratops


1/18

FAST FACTS

Period: Late Cretaceous
Length: Up to 9 m
Weight: Up to 12 tons



How do you say it?

try-SAIR-uh-tops

Discovery:

When:       1877
Where:      Colorado
By Who:    O.C. Marsh
 

Fun Facts 

Triceratops’ distinctive frill and horns were likely used for both defense and display.

Triceratops was extremely common at the end of the Cretaceous Period

Triceratops individuals may have had as many as 800 teeth at any one time, and thousands
over their lifetimes.

Herbivore or Carnivore

How do paleontologists figure out if a dinosaur was a carnivore or an herbivore? Is it the number of teeth?

No! In fact, many herbivores, like Hadrosaurus and Triceratops, have far more teeth than even the toothiest of meat eaters, like T. rex or Baryonyx. 

Generally, we look at the shape of teeth to determine what these ancient animals ate. Animals that eat meat today often have sharp or pointed teeth. Like steak knives, these teeth often have serrated edges, which help to slice through meat. Animals that eat plants either have teeth that grind past each other to chew tough plant material. Triceratops may have had as many as 800 teeth at any one time!

 

 

Ankylosaurus


2/18

FAST FACTS

Period: Cretaceous
Length: Up to 9 meters
Weight: Up to 6,000 kg



 

How do you say it?

 an-KY-low-SAWR-us


Discovery:

When:      1908
Where:     Montana
By Who:   Barnum Brown
 

Fun Facts: 

A healthy adult Ankylosaurus probably had few predators, if any, despite living alongside the
biggest predator in North America – Tyrannosaurus rex.

Their defensive strategy likely consisted of staying as close to the ground as possible to
avoid being flipped over, and wielding a formidable tail club.

Its leaf or spade-shaped teeth were probably useful for stripping leaves from plants, but not
for chewing.

Brain Size

How big was Ankylosaurus' brain? 

The name Ankylosaurus, meaning "fused," or :stiffened lizard," refers to the many fused bones in the skull and tail of this dinosaur. These fused bones strengthened the skeleton, presumably to protect it from the predators. 

All of this thickened, fused skull material left little room for a brain. Anklyosaurs may have been almost as long as a bus (and maybe heavier!) but its brain was only slightly bigger than a walnut. Ankylosaurs probably weren't the rocket scientists of the dinosaur world! 
 

 

T-Rex


3/18

FAST FACTS

Period: Late Cretaceous
Length: Up to 12.8 m
Weight: Up to 6.8 tons



How do you say it?

tye-RAN-uh-SAWR-us recks

Discovery:

When:       1905
Where:      Wyoming
By Who:     Barnum Brown
 

Fun Facts: 

Paleontologist Mary Schweitzer and her colleagues have discovered soft tissues and
proteins preserved in T. rex remains.

T. rex was one of the largest land carnivores that ever lived.

Although not quite the largest carnivorous dinosaur, T. rex certainly had the biggest teeth of
any carnivore, measuring 30 cm (12 in) in length.

T. rex reached maturity at 16 or 18 years old, and for a few years before that, gained over
600 kg (1,300 lb) each year.

Hunter or Scavenger

Was T. rex a predator or scavenger?

The debate over whether T. rex was a scavenger or an active predator has been ongoing almost since the dinosaur was first described. Many paleontologists have used numerous lines of evidence to support or refute one side of the argument or the other, and most have very valid points. So, how do we decide?

If you look closely enough, nature reveals the answer to almost any question, and most often nature points us to somewhere near the middle. Think about any large predator today- bears, lions, hyenas, wolves, sharks, komodo dragons- they all are active hunters, and yet none of them will pass up a free meal, whether it is a carcass they happen to come across, or by stealing another predator's recent kill. So if someone asks you whether T. rex was a predator or scavenger, you can just say, "Yes!" 

 

 

Stegosaurus


4/18

FAST FACTS

Period: Late Jurassic
Length: Up to 12 m
Weight: Up to 4.5 tons



How do you say it?

STEG-uh-SAWR-us

Discovery:

When:       1879
Where:      Colorado
By Who:    O.C. Marsh
 

Fun Facts: 

Stegosaurus’ tail spikes were likely used for defense.

Stegosaurus’ plates may have been used for display or thermoregulation, or some
combination of the two. It is unlikely they were used for defense.

Despite its enormous size, Stegosaurus’ brain was approximately the same size as a
dog’s.

Heat

How did dinosaurs manage heat?

The debate over whether dinosaurs were endothermic ("warm-blooded") or ectothermic ("cold-blooded") began in the 1960's. Previously it had always been assumed they were ectothermic and had to warm themselves with sunlight, just like modern reptiles. Today, paleontologists almost universally agree that dinosaurs were endothermic. After all, some dinosaurs lived in Antarctica and Australia, where it was cold and dark for several months each year. 

Throughout much of the Mesozoic Era, Earth was much hotter than it is today. In addition, many dinosaurs were enormous, so managing excess heat is actually a much more interesting question to many paleontologists than how they obtained heat. 

It has been suggested that some dinosaurs had structures used primarily to release excess heat. For example, the large frill behind Triceratops' head was filled with blood vessels, and may have released heat efficiently. Other structures, like the plates on the back of Stegosaurus, and the "sail" on the back of Dimetrodon (NOT a dinosaur!) may have been used to radiate excess heat in a similar way. 

 

 

Argentinosaurus


5/18

FAST FACTS

Period: Cretaceous
Length: Up to 30 m
Weight: Up to 88 tons



How do you say it?

AHR-gen-TEEN-oh-SAWR-us

Discovery:

When:       1993
Where:      Neuquén Province, Argentina
By Who:    José Bonaparte and Rodolfo Coria
 

Fun Facts:
Argentinosaurus is presently considered to be the second longest, and the second
most massive dinosaur and mammal to ever live on dry land in earth’s history.

Water

How much water would a dinosaur this size drink?

We actually have no idea how much water an Argentinosaurus may have drunk each day. They weighed up to 25 times more than a full grown bull elephant, so you might assume they drank 25 times as much- that would be nearly 1,500 gallons/day!

Unfortunately it's not that easy. Reptiles and mammals generally have very different water requirements. In addition, many animals are very efficient at extracting water from the food they eat, requiring very little, if any actual drinking. We just don't know how much Argentinosaurus may have drunk. Hopefully we will, one day. 
 

 

Baryonyx


6/18

FAST FACTS

Period: Early Cretaceous
Length: Up to 8.5 m
Height: Up to 1,700 kg



How do you say it?

bare-ee-ON-iks

Discovery:

When:       1986
Where:      England
By Who:    Alan J. Charig and Angela C. Milner
 

Fun Facts:

Baryonyx
had 96 teeth – that’s twice as many as Tyrannosaurus rex!


Baryonyx had very crocodile-like jaws (long and slender) and teeth (finely serrated), leading
paleontologists to assume they were primarily piscivorous, or fish eaters, just like crocodiles.


Where

Where did dinosaurs live?

Dinosaurs were an extremely successful and diverse group of animals. We now know that they inhabited nearly every terrestrial (land) environment on every continent- even Antarctica!

However, Earth's landmasses were very different during the Mesozoic Era compared to today. When dinosaurs first appeared, the supercontinent Pangaea was just beginning to break up. By the end of the Mesozoic, when the dinosaurs became extinct, the continents were on their way toward their present shapes and positions. 

During the Early Cretaceous, Europe and North Africa (where Baryonyx lived) was mostly composed of islands among a shallow sea. This provided a perfect environment for a presumed fish eater.
 

 

Compsognathus


7/18

FAST FACTS

Period: Late Jurassic
Length: Up to 1.25 m
Weight: Up to 3.5 kg



How do you say it?

comp-sog-NAY-thus

Discovery:

When:       1859
Where:      Germany
By Who:    Johann A Wagner
 

Fun Facts 

Compsognthatus had a long tail, which likely was used for balance during locomotion, and large eyes, which aided in hunting. 

The original Compsognathus fossil specimen was discovered in the Solnhofen Limestone - the same geologic unit that preserved the famous Archaeopteryx.

In 1868, Thomas H. Huxley found the Compsognathus to be closely related to Archaeopteryx, and therefore birds. 

Despite its size, Compsognathus may have been the top land predator throughout the islands which at the time, formed the European continent. 

Warm or Cold Blooded

Were dinosaurs warm-blooded or cold-blooded?

For a long time it was assumed that like other reptiles, dinosaurs must have been ectothermic, or "cold-blooded." This means they used energy from the sun to control their body temperatures. In the 1960's, famous dinosaur paleontologists John Ostrom and Robert "Bob" Bakker (a NJ native), ignited a vigorous debate when they suggested that dinosaurs may actually have been endothermic ("warm-blooded," meaning they regulate their body temperatures internally) like modern birds and mammals. 

Today we know that some dinosaurs probably were endothermic. After all, their remains have been found even in very cold regions of the planet, like near the north and south poles, where it is also very dark for much of the year. Endothermy would be particularly useful for smaller dinosaurs, like Compsognathus, to help them remain active throughout the cooler parts of the day. 
 

 

Dilophosaurus


8/18

FAST FACTS

Period: Early Jurassic
Length: Up to 6 m
Weight: Up to 0.5 tons



How do you say it?

die-LOAF-oh-SAWR-us

Discovery:

When:       1942
Where:      Arizona
By Who:    Sam Welles
 

Fun Facts: 

Dilophosaurus is the only dinosaur in Jurassic Park portrayed to be much smaller than it
actually is. It did not have a colorful flap of skin around its neck, and did not spit poison at its
victims, to the best of our knowledge.

Dilophosaurus had a notch between its front teeth on its upper jaw, and the rear teeth, much
like crocodiles do today. This may indicate that it ate fish like modern crocodiles do.
Perhaps this explains why they hung out around the edges of lakes so much?

Northern New Jersey is one of the best places in the world to find early dinosaur footprints.
One of the most common is called Eubrontes, which is believed to have been made by a
dinosaur like Dilophosaurus, as it walked along the muddy edges of lakes.

Color

What did dinosaurs really look like?

We know an astonishing amount about what dinosaurs really looked like. We know about their shapes, how long their legs were, how big their eyes were, and much, much more. But we still don't know the answer to one of the most commonly asked questions: "How do we know what color they were?" 

Well, the short answer is, we don't. It's possible that they were neon pink with flashing yellow polka dots. However, that is very unlikely. Think about the animals living around you today. Most have rather dull colors, suited more for blending into their environment. Those with bright colors usually use their coloration as a warning or to attract mates. It is safe to assume that dinosaurs had similar coloration for similar reasons. 

HOWEVER, we may be getting closer to actually determining exactly what skin colors and color patterns some dinosaurs had. Thanks to some ground breaking, state-of-the-art research presently being conducted by a few paleontologists, for the first time, we're just beginning to be able to "see" the colors of dinosaurs that have been dead for tens of millions of years! 
 

 

Dryptosaurus


9/18

FAST FACTS

Period: Late Cretaceous
Length: 7.5 m
Weight: 3000 lbs



How do you say it?

DRIP-tuh-SAWR-us

Discovery:

When:       1866
Where:      Gloucester County, New Jersey
By Who:    E.D. Cope
 

Fun Facts 

Dryptosaurus was closely related to and lived at the same time as Tyrannosaurus rex.

Dryptosaurus was the subject of one of the most famous, forward-thinking illustrations in the
history of the science.

Dryptosaurus was the world’s second nearly complete dinosaur skeleton, and the first of a
carnivorous dinosaur.

The Dryptosaurus specimen presented here at Field Station: Dinosaurs is the world's first three-dimensional representation of this dinosaur. 

New Jersey

What does New Jersey have to do with dinosaurs?

Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia were once the most important areas in the world for dinosaur paleontology. In the late 1800's, many of the world's most famous paleontologists lived and/or worked there, mainly because of the amazing abundance and quality of the fossils being discovered in the marl mines in the southern half of New Jersey.

Hadrosaurus foulkii and Dryptosaurus aquilnguis were the world's first and second nearly complete dinosaur skeletons, respectively: both were found in Gloucester County, NJ. New Jersey can also claim more dinosaur species and individual specimens than any other state in the eastern U.S. 

There are several museums in the state where you can learn a lot more about dinosaurs in New Jersey and the region. The New Jersey State Museum in Trenton, NJ has a long and distinguished history in paleontology, and is still actively researching and collecting dinosaur and other fossil specimens across the state and continent. 
 

 

Dimetrodon


10/18

FAST FACTS

Period: Permian
Length: Up to 4 m
Weight: Up to 300 kg



How do you say it?

die-MET-roe-don

Discovery:

When:       1870's
Where:      Texas
By Who:    E.D. Cope
 

Fun Facts 

Dimetrodon is not only not a dinosaur, it’s actually more closely related to mammals,
including you and I, than it is to dinosaurs!

The high “sail” on Dimetrodon’s back was presumably used for thermoregulation (regulating
body temperature).

Dimetrodon was likely the top land predator of its time.


Dino or Not Dino?

Dinosaur or Not a Dinosaur? That is the Question...

It's not unusual to see many bizarre, extinct animals depicted as dinosaurs in book, cartoons, movies, and on TV. But many of these animals are NOT dinosaurs. So what exactly is a dinosaur?

There are many complicated, technical definitions for dinosaurs, but the most important requirements are that all dinosaurs are reptiles that lived on land and had their legs directly beneath their bodies, much like we do, and not splayed out to the sides, like modern lizards. 

That means that a lot of animals that many people consider to be dinosaurs, like mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, pterosaurs, and Dimetrodon, were definitely not dinosaurs. 
 

 

Hadrosaurus


11/18

FAST FACTS

Period: Late Cretaceous
Length: Up to 8 m
Weight: Up to 8 tons



How do you say it?

HAD-ruh-SAWR-us

Discovery:

When:       1838
Where:      Gloucester County, New Jersey
By Who:    John Estaugh and Joseph Leidy
 

Fun Facts 

Hadrosaurus foulkii was the first relatively complete dinosaur skeleton found anywhere in
the world.

H. foulkii is the Official State Dinosaur of New Jersey

H. foulkii was the first dinosaur skeleton to be mounted and placed on display, in 1868.


Family 

What do we know about dinosaur family life?

In recent decades, we have learned a lot about the "family life" of dinosaurs, especially parental care of eggs and hatchlings. We now know that most dinosaurs probably cared for their young in some way, either simply by creating nests, or by feeding their newly hatched babies much the same way many birds do today. Oryctodromeus, for example, lived in burrows, at least in part, to protect its young. 

Some of the best evidence for parental care was found by famous paleontologist, and former Princeton University student, Jack Horner. In 1978, he discovered a hadrosaurid dinosaur within a nesting ground, as well as other evidence of parental care long after birth and for several generations of offspring. He named this dinosaur Maiasaura, so it a safe to assume that Hadrosaurus foulkii probably exhibited similar behavior. 

 

 

Apatosaurus


12/18

FAST FACTS

Period: Jurassic
Length: Up to 23 m
Weight: Up to 23 tons



How do you say it?

uh-PAT-us-SAWR-us

Discovery:

When:         1877
Where:        Colorado
By Who:       Earl Douglass
Named by:   O.C. Marsh
 

Fun Facts: 

Apatosaurus is one of the largest land animals ever to walk on Earth.

Everyone knows the dinosaur “Brontosaurus,” right? Actually, “Brontosaurus” doesn’t
exist, and hasn’t since 1903! Scientists discovered that “Brontosaurus” is actually the same
dinosaur as Apatosaurus, and since Apatosaurus was discovered first, the rules of science
say we have to use that name.

Apatosaurus may have grown very fast – reaching adult size in only 1 or 11 years!

“Gertie the Dinosaur,” an Apatosaurus, was the first ever cartoon character in 1914.


When

When did the dinosaurs live?

The Mesozoic Era (251- 65.5 million years ago) is often referred to as the Age of Reptiles, and encompasses all of the time in which dinosaurs lived.

The Mesozoic Era is separated in to three geological Periods:
1. Triassic Period (251-200 million years ago)
2. Jurassic Period (200-145.5 million years ago)
3. Cretaceous Period (145.5 - 65.5 million years ago)

Apatosaurus lived during the Late Jurassic Period in what is now the western United States, and lived alongside several other dinosaurs, including Camarasaurus, Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, and Ornitholestes.
 

 

Pachycephalosaurus


13/18

FAST FACTS

Period: Cretaceous
Height: Up to 4.5 m
Weight: Up to 450 kg



How do you say it?

pak-ee-SEF-uh-low-SAWR-us

Discovery:

When:       1950s
Where:      Montana
By Who:    Ferdinand Hayden
 

Fun Facts:

The skull of Pachycephalosaurus was up to 25 cm (10 in) thick.

The thickness of Pachycephalosaurus’ skull lead paleontologists to believe that they may
have used them in battle by slamming head-first into each other, much the same way rams
do today. Other paleontologists think they may have used them to slam into the flanks of
their rivals.


Competition

How did dinosaurs compete?

Most modern animals compete throughout much of their lives. They compete with other members of their own species (intraspecies competition) for food and mates, and they compete with others species (interspecies competition) for food, territory, and survival. Sometimes this competition takes the form of harmless colorful displays, and sometimes it is dangerous, full-on combat. 

Dinosaurs must have competed in the same ways. Many of the strange features we find on dinosaurs, like a Triceratops' frill, or Parasaurolophus' crest, are thought by some to be display structures. Some of the best evidence for intraspecies competition comes form the extremely thick skulls found in Pachycephalosaurus. We believe the used these thick skulls either to ram into each other head on, much like bighorn sheep do today, or by ramming into each other's sides. 

 

 

Parasaurolophus


14/18

FAST FACTS

Period: Late Cretaceous
Length: Up to 9.5 m
Weight: Up to 2.5 tons



How do you say it?

par-ah-sawr-OL-uh-fus

Discovery:

When:       1922
Where:      Alberta, Canada
By Who?:   William Parks
 

Fun Facts 

Parasaurolophus’ crest was likely used for sexual selection, as well as for creating sounds
for communication.

Communication 

How did dinosaurs communicate with each other?

Facial expression, coloration, posture, chemicals, size, elaborate displays, odor, and behavior: these are just some of the ways animals communicate with each other. They also communicate for countless reasons: to intimidate rivals, find mates, defend themselves, confuse predators, or to find food or their family or other members of the herd. 

Dinosaus certainly used many of these communication methods for the same reasons, but most of those methods don't get preserved as fossils. Fortunately, though, body parts are also often used to communicate, and body parts made of bone do get preserved. 

Parasaurolophus provides us with one of the best examples of a body part that was likely used for communication, and probably for communicating in several ways. The large crest on its head was probably a visual queue to other members of its species. Amazingly, we've also discovered that the crest is actually a series of hollow tubes through which air passed, which would have made loud, low frequency sounds. It was the Cretaceous equivalent to having a large bugle on top of its head. 
 

 

Pteranodon


15/18

FAST FACTS

Period: Late Cretaceous
Length: Up to 7.25 m
Weight: Up to 93 kg



How do you say it?

terr-ANN-owe-don

Discovery:

When:       1870
Where:      Kansas
By Who:    O.C. Marsh
 

Fun Facts:

Paleontologists assume Pteranodon lived primarily on offshore rookeries, much like many
sea-going birds do today.

Pteranodon likely flew much like modern albatrosses – primarily soaring, with occasional
periods of powered (flapping) flight.

Pteranodon crests are assumed to have been used primarily for sexual display.

Fly

How did reptiles fly?

Pteranodon, which is a genus of flying reptile, or pterosaur, is NOT a dinosaur. However, they lived during the same time periods and ruled the skies much like dinosaurs ruled the land.

Pterosaurs are a perfect example of how nature often finds different ways to accomplish any feat; in this case, allowing large, heavy animals to fly. For any animal to fly it must have wings. Birds' wings are made from feathers and specially modified bones of the upper and lower arms and fingers. Pterosaur wings are made from a flap of skin stretched from the hind legs to the forearm and an extremely long fourth finger on each hand, much like a kite is made from a piece of material stretched between supporting rods. 
 

 

Oryctodromeus


16/18

FAST FACTS

Period: Cretaceous
Length: Up to 2.1 m
Weight: Up to 32 kg



How do you say it?

oh-RICK-toe-DROE-mee-us

Discovery:

When:       2006
Where:      Montana
By Who:    David J. Varricchio, Anthony J. Martin, and Yoshihiro Katsura
 

Fun Facts 

Oryctodromeus was the first dinosaur to show evidence of digging and burrowing behavior.

Oryctodromeus had adaptations similar to other running and burrowing animals living today,
like rabbits, aardvarks, and hyenas.


Niches 

How did dinosaurs "make their living"?

An ecological niche is the position that a plant or animal occupies within its ecosystem, or more simply, how an organism behaves and makes its living. 

The more we learn about dinosaurs, the more we realize that dinosaurs occupied nearly every general niche that we find animals occupying today:

Herding plant eaters? - Hadrosaurs
Predators that rely on speed and agility? - Ornithomimus
Flying Dinosaurs? - Modern birds
Pack hunters? - Utahraptor & Velociraptor 
Actively cared for offspring? Maiasaura (meaning good-mother lizard)
Nocturnal Hunter? - Juravenator & Megapnosaurus
Arboreal (living in trees)? - Microraptor
Fish Eaters? - Baryonx

With the recent discovery of Oryctodromeus, we now know that at least one dinosaur lived, and likely raised its young, inside underground burrows, just as many animals do today. 
 

 

Velociraptor


17/18

FAST FACTS

Period: Early Cretaceous
Length: Up to 2 m
Weight: Up to 15 kg



How do you say it?

veh-loss-ih-RAP-tor

Discovery:

When: 1924
Where: Gobi Desert
By Who: Henry Fairfield Osborn
 

Fun Facts 

Velociraptor had sharp, curved claws on their second toes, which is common to all dromaeosaurids.

Velociraptor probably exhibited predatory behavior, as well as scavenging behavior.

Velociraptor most likely had at least some feathers, and may have been covered in them.


Hollywood

As most of us know, Hollywood movies often take "liberties" with their subjects and characters to "enhance" the plot. This often results in exaggerations, inaccuracies, or outright errors. As every paleontologist will tell you, this is certainly the case with dinosaur-themed movies. 

For example, the sizes of dinosaurs are often exaggerated. Velociraptor, for example, is no bigger than a turkey- hardly the man-eating terror portrayed in Jurassic Park. "Velociraptor" in that movie is much closer in size to Deinonychus or Utahraptor

Sometimes dinosaurs are given new features: as far as we can tell, Dilophosaurus did not have a colorful frill around its neck, nor did it spit poison, as was portrayed in Jurassic Park. Dilophosaurus was also much bigger than the menacing little dinosaur portrayed in the film.

Sometimes, though, inaccuracies in the movies are completely inadvertent. Some of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, including Velociraptor, were covered in feathers - a fact was learned only after the movie was released. 

They aren't so scary when they look like angry turkeys!

 

 

Quetzalcoatlus


18/18

FAST FACTS

Period: Cretaceous
Length: 36 ft
Weight: 550 lbs



How do you say it?

KWET-zal-kah-AT-lus

Discovery:

When:       1971
Where:      Alberta Canada 
By Who:    Douglas A. Lawson
 

Fun Facts:

The necks of the Quetzalcoatlus could not bend side to side, however their long toothless beaks were useful in swooping up pray such as fish and terrestial animals. 

Quetzalcoatlus have fore and hind limb proportions more similar to modern running ungulate mammals, meaning they were uniquely suited to walking on land. 


Building

How do we know how to reassemble dinosaur skeletons?

Many people often think that it must be very difficult to put dinosaur skeletons back together; after all, the bones (the ones that aren't missing), are almost always scattered, damaged, and incomplete. Plus, every skeleton originally had well over 100 bones, with many different shapes and sizes. 

Actually, the task of reassembling dinosaur bones isn't as difficult as it seems. With a little bit of study in anatomy and osteology (the study of bones), and a lot of practice, anyone can see that the skeletons of all vertebrate animals (those with backbones) are remarkably alike. Nearly every bone in your body has a very similar bone in all dinosaurs, and they all have similar functions and arrangements. Every dinosaur had a femur, fibula, and tibia (leg bones), a humerus, radius, and ulna (arm bones), phalanges (finger and toe bones), and vertebrae (back bones), just like you do.