Tyrannosaurus rex

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A skeleton of Tyrannosaurus rex.

A skeleton of Tyrannosaurus rex.

Its name means the “terrible lizard king” and everyone knows its sharp-toothed smile.The star of countless books and films; it could be no one else but Tyrannosaurus rex.

Discovery: the first T.rex fossil was first found in 1902.

Height: 5.6m

Length: 12m

Weight: 7000kg

Where it lived: Fossils of T.rex have been found in North America. There is a very closely related  species found in Mongolia in Asia called Tarbosaurus

When it lived: it lived 67-65 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous.

What it ate: T.rex ate meat. Palaeontologists have debated whether it was a scavenger or if it hunted its own food. Teeth marks are found in other dinosaurs which match a T.rex tooth. T.rex likely did both like many animals do today.

Weapon of choice: a massive head with rows of teeth up to 20cm long. Despite its reputation from Jurassic Park, T.rex had excellent vision. Standing still wouldn’t save you if it had you in its sights.

Weakness: Its two small arms with only two fingers. Their only use was scratching its belly after a big meal.

Triceratops

A Triceratops skeleton. (Wikimedia)

A Triceratops skeleton. (Wikimedia)

A big dinosaur with some massive horns, Triceratops is one of the best known dinosaurs. If it was alive today, its massive size and horns would scare away any predator but Triceratops lived alongside one of the biggest predators of all time, Tyrannosaurus. Fossils show that these animals fought many battles together.

Discovery: Triceratops was first found in 1888 and was named in 1889.

Height: 3m

Length: 9m

Weight: 5500kg

Where it lived: Triceratops fossils are found in North America, both U.S.A and Canada, and are found in the Hell Creek Formation and other formations in America.

When it lived: It lived at the end of the dinosaur period, 72-65 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous.

What it ate: Triceratops was a plant eater.

Weapon of choice: Its three big horns that could measure over a metre. They used them to fight other Triceratops and its predators.

They are very common fossils which makes many palaeontologists think that Triceratops travelled in herds.

Weakness: Triceratops was big but not big enough for hungry T.rex. (although T.rex would probably have avoided a fully-grown, healthy Triceratops)

Pachycephalosaurus

The skull of Pachycephalosaurus.

The skull of Pachycephalosaurus.

Pachycephalosaurus means “thick headed lizard” and refers to their thick, dome shaped skull that could by 25cm thick, despite being a small(ish) dinosaur. It is a very rare dinosaur and is only known from one skull and a few pieces of its dome.

Discovery: Pachycephalosaurus was discovered in 1938

Height: The height is hard to work out without a whole skeleton but palaeontologists think it was around 2m tall (largest estimates are 4m).

Length: The estimate is about 4.5m long (upper estimates are 8m)

Weight:  Maybe around 430kg.

Where it lived: North America in modern day Monatana.

When it lived: It lived about 75-65 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous.

What it ate: Scientists aren’t sure. It had very small teeth so it was likely a plant eater but may have eaten insects as well.

Weapon of choice: Its thick skull. Some palaeontologists (but not all) think it used its thick skull to protect its brain as it rammed heads with other Pachycephalosaurus. That head could be dangerous against predators as well.

Weakness: Pachycephalosaurus was quite small for a dinosaur and its brain was even smaller. We can’t be sure if it was hunted by any predators but it’s likely that it was.

Ankylosaurus

Artistic impression of Ankylosaurus. (LadyofHats, Wikimedia)

Artistic impression of Ankylosaurus. (LadyofHats, Wikimedia)

Ankylosaurus means “fused lizard” and it is called this because of its bulky body armour. It wasn’t the biggest dinosaur, but it didn’t need to be as its armour of bones and plates was all the portection it needed.

Discovery: Ankylosaurus was first named in 1908

Height: 2.5m

Length: 7m

Weight: 4000-7000kg

Where it lived: It is found in North America.

When it lived: It was a Late Cretaceous dinosaur that lived 70-65 million years ago.

What it ate: Ankylosaurus was a vegetarian. It had leaf shaped teeth for cutting low lying plants.

Weapon of choice: Its big club. Ankylosaurus had a tail which ended in a club which could reach up to 60cm wide. Tests have shown that the club could easily break bone so T.rex had to watch out.

Weakness: Ankylosaurus had a very small brain even for a dinosaur but it didn’t need a big one. With its armour of spikes and plates, a heavy skull and a large destructive tail club, Ankylosaurus was almost invincible and had little to worry about even from T.rex.

Edmontosaurus

Edmontosaurus skeleton at the Ocford Natural History Museum, UK (Wikimedia)

Edmontosaurus skeleton at the Oxford Natural History Museum, UK (Wikimedia)

Edmontosaurus was one of the most common dinosaurs in America. It walked on two legs but could also walk on all fours and had a mouth packed with hundreds of small teeth except for the front of the jaws which had a beak.

Discovery: It was named in 1917. Two skeletons have been found with skin preserved.

Height: 3.5m

Length: 13m

Weight: 3400kg

Where it lived: Edmontosaurus is found throughout North America.

When it lived: Edmontosaurus lived in the Late Cretaceous of North America, about 76 to 65 million years ago.

What it ate: It ate plants. Bits of conifers have been found in its stomachs such as needles, twigs and seeds.

Weapon of choice: Edmontosaurus was big, probably too big for smaller predators but not so for T.rex. Palaeontologists believe that Edmontosaurus lived in herds and that there was safety in numbers.

Weakness: Too small and with no weaponry, Edmontosaurus was as easy as prey got for T.rex.

Velociraptor

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The Skull of Velociraptor (Thomas Vandenberghe, Wikimedia)

The Skull of Velociraptor (Thomas Vandenberghe, Wikimedia)

One of the stars of Jurassic Park, Velociraptor is famous name. But the real Velociraptor has very little in common with the one from the movie. It was half the size in real life and was covered in feathers.

But it was a deadly predator. In 1971 a Velociraptor was found intertwined with another dinosaur called Protoceratops and it seems that both were buried alive as the Velociraptor struggled to kill its prey.

Discovery: It was found in the 1920’s in an expedition to Mongolia. Velociraptor was named by Osborn in 1924.

Height: 1m

Length: 1.8m

Weight: 7-15kg

Where it lived: Fossils are found today in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia and China.

When it lived: Between 80-70 million years ago, in the Cretaceous.

What it ate: Whatever it could get its hands on. It was a meat-eater and there is evidence of it hunting other dinosaurs. One has even been found with a pterosaur bone in its stomach which palaeontologists believe points to scavenging.

Weapon of choice: Velociraptor was well armed. Its mouth had up to 80 sharp teeth each about 2.5cm long. It was intelligent, as smart as a dinosaur got but nowhere near as smart as an intelligent mammal.

Its weapon of choice was its 9cm long claw, one on each foot, which may have been used to cut veins of larger prey or pin down small prey. Used alongside its high speed running, Velociraptor was a deadly predator.

Weakness: Velociraptor was a killing machine but its jaw was relatively weak, and it was very small. It may have been smart and fast enough to avoid the bigger predators, but the larger plant eaters were too big for it to hunt.

Therizinosaurus cheloniformis

A giant hand belonging to Therizinosaurus. (Ghedoghedo, Wikimedia)

A giant hand belonging to Therizinosaurus. (Ghedoghedo, Wikimedia)

Therizinosaurus was one of the strangest dinosaurs known. Only fossils of its arms and legs have been found to date and those arms were weird. They were large, really large and had massive claws. Cheloniformis means “turtle form” because, when the arms were first found, scientists thought they had found a turtle.

Closely related species allow palaeontologists to suggest how Therizinosaurus looked. Most likely it had a wide body, long neck and quite a small head.

Discovery: originally found in 1948, it was named by a Russian scientist in 1954.

Height: Maybe 3m, but palaeontologists can’t be sure.

Length: It is estimated that it could be 10m.

Weight: very roughly estimated at 4500kg.

Where it lived: Mongolia

When it lived: A Cretaceous dinosaur, it lived 75-70 million years ago.

What it ate: Palaeontologists don’t know, the skull or stomach is the best place to find out but both are missing. They suspect it was vegetarian based on related species. 

Weapon of choice: Its claws are the longest known of any animal that has ever lived and could have measured 1m long (70cm long bone covered in a a sheath). These claws were deadly but they may have been used mainly for finding food.

Weakness: Not enough is known about this species to know its weakness but closely related species were slow and cumbersome.

Tarbosaurus baatar

Skeleton of Tarbosaurus (Eduard Solà, Wikiamedia)

Skeleton of Tarbosaurus (Eduard Solà, Wikiamedia)

Tarbosaurus was the king in the Late Cretaceous of Mongolia just as its close relative Tyrannosaurus was king in North America. Although slightly smaller than T.rex, Tarbosaurus was a big bad predator. Smart dinosaurs would avoid this two-legged killing machine.

Discovery: It was named in 1955

Height: 5.6m

Length: 1012m

Weight: 7000kg or a little less.

Where it lived: Found in Mongolia and China.

When it lived: it lived 75-70 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous.

What it ate: A meat eater, like T.rex, it would eat anything it could fit in its mouth. (they may have even been cannibals.)

Weapon of choice: a massive head with rows of teeth up to 20cm long.

Weakness: T.rex had tiny hands with just two claws; Tarbosaurus had even smaller hands that were even more useless.

Protoceratops

skeleton of Protoceratops, Wyoming Dinosaur Center. (Ovulator Wikimedia)

Skeleton of Protoceratops, Wyoming Dinosaur Center. (Ovulator Wikimedia)

Protoceratops was a small and common dinosaur. It is a relative of the much larger Triceratops. Like Triceratops it walked around on four legs, had a big frill, a bony extension of the head which covered the neck, and had a beak. But it didn’t have Triceratops’ Horns.

One Protoceratops fossil was found with a Velociraptor and it looked as though the two dinosaurs were fighting when they died. Protoceratops eggs have also been found.

Discovery: Protoceratops was found in and named in the 1920’s.

Height:  less than 1m

Length: up to 1.8m

Weight:  less than 180 kg

Where it lived: Protoceratops is found in the Gobi Desert of China and Mongolia.

When it lived: A Late Cretaceous Dinosaur, it lived 75-70 million years ago.

What it ate: A vegetarian dinosaur

Weapon of choice: Protoceratops had a strong bite but its best protection was in numbers, palaeontologists think this species travelled in herds.

Weakness:  A rather defenceless dinosaur, Protoceratops would have been easy prey if caught alone.

Oviraptor

The head of Oviraptor (Matt Martyniuk from wikimedia)

The head of Oviraptor (Matt Martyniuk from wikimedia)

Oviraptor means “egg-thief”. Its called this because the first fossil of Oviraptor was found with eggs. Palaeontologists thought they were Protoceratops eggs and that the Oviraptor was trying to steal them. But now palaeontologists know that the eggs actually belong to Oviraptor. These were the first ever dinosaur eggs found (not including birds) back in the 1920’s.

Oviraptor was a two legged dinosaur with a beak; it belongs to a group of dinosaurs thought to be the closest relatives to birds. Species closely related to Oviraptor had feathers and palaeontologists suspect Oviraptor had them too.

Discovery: It was found in the 1920’s.

Height: 1m

Length: 2m

Weight: 20-30kg

Where it lived: Found in Mongolia and possibly a second one in China.

When it lived:  It lived in the Late Cretaceous around 75-70 million years ago.

What it ate: What Oviraptor ate isn’t certain but palaeontologists have some theories. One suggestion is that its beak was used to break into eggs, another that its strong jaws were used to crush molluscs like clams. A lizard was found near the stomach of Oviraptor so meat may have been in its diet as well.

Weapon of choice: Its strong jaws that was used against prey. When facing a predator, it could run at high speed.

Weakness: A dinosaur on the small side, if another dinosaur could catch it then it would be an easy meal.