Dinosaurs are a diverse group of animals of the clade Dinosauria. They first appeared during the Triassic period, approximately 230 million years ago, and became the dominant terrestrial vertebrates for 135 million years, from the beginning of the Jurassic (about 200 million years ago) until the end of the Cretaceous (65.5 million years ago) (Dell 1691P battery), when the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event led to the extinction of most dinosaur groups at the close of the Mesozoic era. The fossil record indicates that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs during the Jurassic, and consequently they are considered a type of dinosaur in modern classification systems. Some birds survived the extinction event that occurred 65 million years ago, and continue the dinosaur lineage to the present day(Dell 310-6321 battery).
Dinosaurs are a varied group of animals from taxonomic, morphological and ecological standpoints. Birds, at over 9,000 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. (Dell 312-0068 battery) Dinosaurs are represented on every continent by both extant species and fossil remains. Some are herbivorous, others carnivorous. Most dinosaurs have been bipedal, though many extinct groups included quadrupedal species, and some were able to shift between these body postures. Many species possess elaborate display structures such as horns or crests(Dell 312-0078 battery), and some prehistoric groups developed skeletal modifications such as bony armor and spines. Birds have been the planet's dominant flying vertebrate since the extinction of the pterosaurs, and evidence suggests that egg laying and nest building is a trait shared by all dinosaurs. Many prehistoric dinosaurs were large animals—the largest sauropods could reach lengths of almost 60 meters (200 feet) and were several stories tall—and while many extinct theropods were quite large, a majority evolved very small sizes(Dell 312-0079 battery), especially among birds and other advanced groups.
Although the word dinosaur means "terrible lizard," the name is somewhat misleading, as dinosaurs are not lizards. Rather, they represent a separate group of reptiles with a distinct upright posture not found in lizards. Through the first half of the 20th century, before birds were recognized to be dinosaurs(Dell 312-0305 battery), most of the scientific community believed dinosaurs were sluggish and cold-blooded. Most research conducted since the 1970s, however, has indicated that ancient dinosaurs, particularly the carnivorous groups, were active animals with elevated metabolisms and numerous adaptations for social interaction.
Since the first dinosaur fossils were recognized in the early 19th century(Dell 312-0326 battery), mounted fossil dinosaur skeletons or replicas have been major attractions at museums around the world, and dinosaurs have become a part of world culture. Their diversity, the large sizes of some groups, and their seemingly monstrous and fantastic nature have captured the interest and imagination of the general public for over a century. They have been featured in best-selling books and films such as Jurassic Park(Dell 312-0518 battery), and new discoveries are regularly covered by the media.
The taxon Dinosauria was formally named in 1842 by paleontologist 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.:103 The term is derived from the Greek words δεινός (deinos, meaning "terrible," "potent," or "fearfully great")(Dell 312-0566 battery) and σαῦρος (sauros, meaning "lizard" or "reptile").:103 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.
Triceratops horridus skeleton, American Museum of Natural History
Under phylogenetic taxonomy, dinosaurs are usually defined as the group consisting of "Triceratops, Neornithes [modern birds], their most recent common ancestor, and all descendants".(Dell 312-0585 battery)It has also been suggested that Dinosauria be defined with respect to the most recent common ancestor of Megalosaurus and Iguanodon, because these were two of the three genera cited by Richard Owen when he recognized the Dinosauria. Both definitions result in the same set of animals being defined as dinosaurs: "Dinosauria = Ornithischia + Saurischia"(Dell 312-0831 battery), encompassing theropods (mostly bipedal carnivores and birds), ankylosaurians (armored herbivorous quadrupeds), stegosaurians (plated herbivorous quadrupeds), ceratopsians (herbivorous quadrupeds with horns and frills), ornithopods (bipedal or quadrupedal herbivores including "duck-bills"), and, perhaps, sauropodomorphs (mostly large herbivorous quadrupeds with long necks and tails) (Dell BAT30WL battery).
The common House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) is often used to represent modern birds in definitions of the group Dinosauria
Many paleontologists note that the point at which sauropodomorphs and theropods diverged may omit sauropodomorphs from the definition for both saurischians and dinosaurs. To avoid instability, Dinosauria can be more conservatively defined with respect to four anchoring nodes: Triceratops horridus, Saltasaurus loricatus(Dell D6400 battery), and Passer domesticus, their most recent common ancestor, and all descendants. This "safer" definition can be expressed as "Dinosauria = Ornithischia + Sauropodomorpha + Theropoda".
There is near universal consensus among paleontologists that birds are the descendants of theropod dinosaurs. In traditional taxonomy, birds were considered a separate "class" which had evolved from dinosaurs(Dell HF674 battery). However, a majority of modern paleontologists reject the traditional style of classification in favor of phylogenetic nomenclature, which requires that all descendants of a single common ancestor must be included in a group for that group to be natural. Birds are thus considered by most modern scientists to be dinosaurs and dinosaurs are, therefore, not extinct(Dell N3010 battery). Birds are classified by most paleontologists as belonging to the subgroup Maniraptora, which are coelurosaurs, which are theropods, which are saurischians, which are dinosaurs.
Using one of the above definitions, dinosaurs can be generally described as archosaurs with limbs held erect beneath the body. Many prehistoric animal groups are popularly conceived of as dinosaurs, such as ichthyosaurs, mosasaurs, plesiosaurs(Dell Inspiron N4010 battery), pterosaurs, and Dimetrodon, but are not classified scientifically as dinosaurs, and none had the erect limb posture characteristic of true dinosaurs. Dinosaurs were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates of the Mesozoic, especially the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Other groups of animals were restricted in size and niches; mammals, for example(Dell INSPIRON 1100 battery), rarely exceeded the size of a cat, and were generally rodent-sized carnivores of small prey. 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. (Dell Inspiron 1200 battery)
Stegosaurus stenops skeleton, Field Museum
Dinosaurs have always been an extremely varied group of animals; according to a 2006 study, over 500 non-avialan 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. (Dell Inspiron 1420 battery) An earlier study predicted that about 3400 dinosaur genera existed, including many which would not have been preserved in the fossil record. By September 17, 2008, 1047 different species of dinosaurs had been named. Some are herbivorous, others carnivorous. While most dinosaurs have been bipeds, some prehistoric species were quadrupeds, and others, such as Ammosaurus and Iguanodon(Dell Inspiron 1464 battery), could walk just as easily on two or four legs. Cranial modifications like horns and crests are common among dinosaurs, and some extinct species had bony armor. Although known for large size, many Mesozoic dinosaurs were human-sized or smaller, and modern birds are generally very small in size. Dinosaurs today inhabit every continents, (Dell Inspiron 1564 battery) and fossils show that they had achieved global distribution by at least the early Jurassic period. Modern birds inhabit most available habitats, from terrestrial to marine, and there is evidence that some non-avialan dinosaurs (such as Microraptor) could fly or at least glide, and others, such as spinosaurids, had semi-aquatic habits.
Distinguishing anatomical features(Dell Inspiron 1764 battery)
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. Although some later groups of dinosaurs featured further modified versions of these traits(Dell Inspiron 1520 battery), 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.
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
epipophyses present in anterior neck vertebrae (except atlas and axis) (Dell Inspiron 1521 battery)
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
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(Dell inspiron 1525 battery)
on the astragalus and calcaneum the proximal articular facet for fibula occupies less than 30% of the transverse width of the element
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(Dell inspiron 1526 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. Some of these are also present in silesaurids, which Nesbitt recovered as a sister group to Dinosauria, including a large anterior trochanter(Dell Inspiron 1720 battery), 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.
Diagram of a typical diapsid skull
Hip joints and hindlimb postures of typical reptiles (left), dinosaurs and mammals (middle), and rauisuchians (right)
A variety of other skeletal features are shared by dinosaurs. However, because they are either common to other groups of archosaurs or were not present in all early dinosaurs, these features are not considered to be synapomorphies(Dell Inspiron 2000 battery). For example, as diapsids, 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(Dell INSPIRON 2600 battery). These include an elongated scapula, or shoulder blade; a sacrum composed 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). (Dell INSPIRON 3800 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.
Dinosaurs stand erect in a manner similar to most modern mammals, but distinct from most other reptiles, whose limbs sprawl out to either side. This posture is due to the development of a laterally facing recess in the pelvis (usually an open socket) (Dell INSPIRON 4000 battery) and a corresponding inwardly facing distinct head on the femur. Their erect posture enabled early 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. (Dell Inspiron 5000 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. (Dell INSPIRON 500M battery)
Main article: Evolution of dinosaurs
Origins and early evolution
Skeleton of Marasuchus lilloensis, a dinosaur-like ornithodiran
The early forms Herrerasaurus (large), Eoraptor (small) and a Plateosaurus skull
Dinosaurs diverged from their archosaur 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. (Dell INSPIRON 5100 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 think that Eoraptor resembles the common ancestor of all dinosaurs; if this is true, its traits suggest that the first dinosaurs were small, bipedal predators. The discovery of primitive(Dell INSPIRON 510M battery), dinosaur-like ornithodirans such as Marasuchus 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 archosaurs and therapsids, such as aetosaurs, cynodonts, dicynodonts, ornithosuchids, rauisuchians, and rhynchosaurs(Dell INSPIRON 6000 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. This was followed by the Triassic–Jurassic extinction event (about 200 million years ago) (Dell INSPIRON 600M battery), 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 of crocodylomorphs, dinosaurs, mammals, pterosaurians, and turtles. The first few lines of early dinosaurs diversified through the Carnian and Norian stages of the Triassic, most likely by occupying the niches of the groups that became extinct(Dell Inspiron 6400 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 early sauropodomorph herbivores. Gymnosperm plants (particularly conifers) (Dell INSPIRON 7000 battery), a potential food source, radiated in the Late Triassic. Early sauropodomorphs 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. The general homogeneity of dinosaurian faunas continued into the Middle and Late Jurassic, where most localities had predators consisting of ceratosaurians(Dell INSPIRON 700M battery), spinosauroids, and carnosaurians, and herbivores consisting of stegosaurian ornithischians and large sauropods. 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 and ornithopods were also becoming more common(Dell Inspiron 710m battery), but prosauropods had become extinct. 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(Dell INSPIRON 8200 battery). Another notable evolutionary event of the Jurassic was the appearance of true birds, descended from maniraptoran coelurosaurians.
Earth during the Jurassic, the period in which dinosaurs gained global distribution. The continents were in different locations from where they are today.
By the Early Cretaceous and the ongoing breakup of Pangaea, dinosaurs were becoming strongly differentiated by landmass. The earliest part of this time saw the spread of ankylosaurians, iguanodontians, and brachiosaurids through Europe, North America(Dell INSPIRON 8600 battery), 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. In Asia, maniraptoran coelurosaurians like dromaeosaurids, troodontids, and oviraptorosaurians became the common theropods(Dell INSPIRON 9100 battery), and ankylosaurids and early ceratopsians like Psittacosaurus became important herbivores. Meanwhile, Australia was home to a fauna of basal ankylosaurians, hypsilophodonts, and iguanodontians. 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(Dell INSPIRON 9200 battery), was the evolution of flowering plants. At the same time, several groups of dinosaurian herbivores evolved more sophisticated ways to orally process food. 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. (Dell INSPIRON 9300 battery) Some sauropods also evolved tooth batteries, best exemplified by the rebbachisaurid Nigersaurus.
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(Dell Inspiron 9400 battery), and pachycephalosaurians. 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. Flowering plants were greatly radiating, (Dell Inspiron E1505 battery) 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. (Dell Inspiron E1705 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 dinosaur groups except for the neornithine birds. Some other diapsid groups, such as crocodilians, sebecosuchians, turtles, lizards, snakes, sphenodontians, and choristoderans, also survived the event. (Dell Inspiron Mini 9 battery)
The surviving lineages of neornithine birds, including the ancestors of modern ratites, ducks and chickens, and a variety of waterbirds, diversified rapidly at the beginning of the Paleogene period, entering ecological niches left vacant by the extinction of Mesozoic dinosaur groups such as the arboreal enantiornithines, aquatic hesperornithines(Dell Latitude D400 battery), and even the larger terrestrial theropods (in the form of Gastornis, mihirungs, and "terror birds"). However, mammals were also rapidly diversifying during this time, and out-competed the neornithines for dominance of most terrestrial niches.
Main article: Dinosaur classification
Dinosaurs are archosaurs, like modern crocodilians. 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(Dell STUDIO 1450 battery).
Collectively, dinosaurs as a clade are divided into two primary branches, Saurischia and Ornithischia. Saurischia includes those taxa sharing a more recent common ancestor with birds than with Ornithischia, while Ornithischia includes all taxa sharing a more recent common ancestor with Triceratops than with Saurischia(Dell Vostro 1400 battery). Anatomically, these two groups can be distinguished most noticeably by their pelvic structure. Early saurischians—"lizard-hipped", from the Greek sauros (σαῦρος) meaning "lizard" and ischion (ἰσχίον) meaning "hip joint—retained the hip structure of their ancestors, with a pubis bone directed cranially, or forward. (Dell Vostro 1500 battery) This basic form was modified by rotating the pubis backward to varying degrees in several groups (Herrerasaurus, therizinosauroids, dromaeosaurids, and birds). Saurischia includes the theropods (exclusively bipedal and with a wide variety of diets) and sauropodomorphs (long-necked herbivores which include advanced, quadrupedal groups) (Dell XPS GEN 2 battery).
By contrast, ornithischians—"bird-hipped", from the Greek ornitheios (ὀρνίθειος) meaning "of a bird" and ischion (ἰσχίον) meaning "hip joint"—had a pelvis that superficially resembled a bird's pelvis: the pubis bone was oriented caudally (rear-pointing). Unlike birds, the ornithischian pubis also usually had an additional forward-pointing process(Dell XPS M1210 battery). Ornithischia includes a variety of species which were primarily herbivores. (NB: the terms "lizard hip" and "bird hip" are misnomers – birds evolved from dinosaurs with "lizard hips".)
The following is a simplified classification of dinosaur groups based on their evolutionary relationships, and organized based on the list of Mesozoic dinosaur species provided by Holtz (2008). A more detailed version can be found at Dinosaur classification. The cross (†) is used to signify groups with no living members(Dell XPS M1330 battery).
Saurischia ("lizard-hipped"; includes Theropoda and Sauropodomorpha)
Theropoda (all bipedal; most were carnivorous)
†Herrerasauria (early bipedal carnivores)
†Coelophysoidea (small, early theropods; includes Coelophysis and close relatives)
†Dilophosauridae (early crested and carnivorous theropods)
†Ceratosauria (generally elaborately horned, the dominant southern carnivores of the Cretaceous) (Dell XPS 1340 battery)
Tetanurae ("stiff tails"; includes most theropods)
†Megalosauroidea (early group of large carnivores including the semi-aquatic spinosaurids)
†Carnosauria (Allosaurus and close relatives, like Carcharodontosaurus)
Coelurosauria (feathered theropods, with a range of body sizes and niches)
†Compsognathidae (common early coelurosaurs with reduced forelimbs)
†Tyrannosauridae (Tyrannosaurus and close relatives; had reduced forelimbs) (Dell XPS M1530 battery)
†Ornithomimosauria ("ostrich-mimics"; mostly toothless; carnivores to possible herbivores)
†Alvarezsauroidea (small insectivores with reduced forelimbs each bearing one enlarged claw)
Maniraptora ("hand snatchers"; had long, slender arms and fingers)
†Therizinosauria (bipedal herbivores with large hand claws and small heads)
†Oviraptorosauria (mostly toothless; their diet and lifestyle are uncertain)
†Archaeopterygidae (small, winged theropods or primitive birds) (Dell XPS M170 battery)
†Deinonychosauria (small- to medium-sized; bird-like, with a distinctive toe claw)
Avialae (modern birds and extinct relatives)
†Scansoriopterygidae (small primitive avialans with long third fingers)
†Omnivoropterygidae (large, early short-tailed avialans)
†Confuciusornithidae (small toothless avialans)
†Enantiornithes (primitive tree-dwelling, flying avialans)
Euornithes (advanced flying birds)
†Yanornithiformes (toothed Cretaceous Chinese birds)
†Hesperornithes (specialized aquatic diving birds) (Dell XPS M1710 battery)
Aves (modern, beaked birds and their extinct relatives)
Several macronarian Sauropods: from left to right Camarasaurus, Brachiosaurus, Giraffatitan, and Euhelopus
†Sauropodomorpha (herbivores with small heads, long necks, long tails)
†Guaibasauridae (small, primitive, omnivorous sauropodomorphs)
†Plateosauridae (primitive, strictly bipedal "prosauropods")
†Riojasauridae (small, primitive sauropodomorphs)
†Massospondylidae (small, primitive sauropodomorphs) (Dell XPS M1730 battery)
†Sauropoda (very large and heavy, usually over 15 meters (49 feet) long; quadrupedal)
†Vulcanodontidae (primitive sauropods with pillar-like limbs)
†Eusauropoda ("true sauropods")
†Cetiosauridae ("whale reptiles")
†Turiasauria (European group of Jurassic and Cretaceous sauropods)
†Neosauropoda ("new sauropods")
†Diplodocoidea (skulls and tails elongated; teeth typically narrow and pencil-like)
†Macronaria (boxy skulls; spoon- or pencil-shaped teeth)
†Brachiosauridae (long-necked, long-armed macronarians) (Dell XPS M2010 battery)
†Titanosauria (diverse; stocky, with wide hips; most common in the Late Cretaceous of southern continents)
Various ornithopod dinosaurs and one heterodontosaurid. Far left: Camptosaurus, left: Iguanodon, center background: Shantungosaurus, center foreground: Dryosaurus, right: Corythosaurus, far right (small): Heterodontosaurus, far right (large) Tenontosaurus.
†Ornithischia ("bird-hipped"; diverse bipedal and quadrupedal herbivores) (Dell Latitude E5400 battery)
†Heterodontosauridae (small basal ornithopod herbivores/omnivores with prominent canine-like teeth)
†Thyreophora (armored dinosaurs; mostly quadrupeds)
†Ankylosauria (scutes as primary armor; some had club-like tails)
†Stegosauria (spikes and plates as primary armor)
†Neornithischia ("new ornithischians")
†Ornithopoda (various sizes; bipeds and quadrupeds; evolved a method of chewing using skull flexibility and numerous teeth) (Dell Latitude E5500 battery)
†Marginocephalia (characterized by a cranial growth)
†Pachycephalosauria (bipeds with domed or knobby growth on skulls)
†Ceratopsia (quadrupeds with frills; many also had horns)
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. Many fields of study contribute to our understanding of dinosaurs, including physics (especially biomechanics) (Dell Latitude E6400 battery), 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.
Main article: Dinosaur size
Scale diagram comparing the largest known dinosaurs in five major clades and a human
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(Dell Latitude E6500 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). (Dell Inspiron Mini 12 battery)
The sauropods were the largest and heaviest 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. Giant prehistoric mammals such as the Paraceratherium (the largest land mammal ever) (Dell XPS M140 battery) were dwarfed by the giant sauropods, and only modern whales approach or surpass them in size. 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(Dell XPS 13 battery). Large animals are more efficient at digestion than small animals, because food spends more time in their digestive systems. 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. (Dell XPS 16 battery)
Largest and smallest
Scientists will probably never be certain of the largest and smallest dinosaurs. This is because 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. Rebuilding a complete skeleton by comparing the size and morphology of bones to those of similar(Dell XPS 1640 battery), 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.
Comparative size of Giraffatitan
The tallest and heaviest dinosaur known from good skeletons is Giraffatitan brancai (previously classified as a species of Brachiosaurus). 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(Dell XPS 1645 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 (70000 and 130000 lb). The longest complete dinosaur is the 27-meter (89 ft) long Diplodocus, which was discovered in Wyoming in the United States and displayed in Pittsburgh's Carnegie Natural History Museum in 1907(Dell XPS 1647 battery).
Comparative size of Eoraptor
There were larger dinosaurs, but knowledge of them is based entirely on a small number of fragmentary fossils. 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 80000 to 100000 kilograms (90 to 110 short tons); some of the longest were the 33.5 meters (Dell Latitude 131L battery) (110 ft) long Diplodocus hallorum (formerly Seismosaurus) and the 33 meters (108 ft) long Supersaurus; and the tallest, the 18 meters (59 ft) tall Sauroposeidon, 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(Dell Latitude C400 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 known carnivorous dinosaur was Spinosaurus, reaching a length of 16 to 18 meters (52 to 60 ft), and weighing in at 8150 kg (18000 lb). Other large meat-eaters included Giganotosaurus, Carcharodontosaurus and Tyrannosaurus. (Dell Latitude C500 battery)
Not including birds (Avialae), the smallest known dinosaurs were about the size of a pigeon. Not surprisingly, the smallest dinosaurs were theropods closely related to birds. Anchiornis, for example, had a total skeletal length of under 35 centimeters (1.1 ft). Anchiornis is currently the smallest dinosaur described from an adult specimen(Dell Latitude C510 battery), with an estimated weight of 110 grams. The smallest herbivorous non-avialan dinosaurs included Microceratus and Wannanosaurus, at about 60 cm (2 ft) long each.
A nesting ground of hadrosaur Maiasaura peeblesorum was discovered in 1978.
Many modern birds are highly social, often found living in flocks. There is general agreement that some behaviors which are common in birds, as well as in crocodiles (bird' closest living relatives), were also common among extinct dinosaur groups(Dell Latitude C540 battery). Interpretations of behavior in fossil species are generally based on the pose of skeletons and their habitat, computer simulations of their biomechanics, and comparisons with modern animals in similar ecological niches.
The first potential evidence for herding or flocking as a widespread behavior common to many dinosaur groups in addition to birds was the 1878 discovery of 31 Iguanodon bernissartensis(Dell Latitude C600 battery), ornithischians 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. Those, along with multiple trackways, suggest that gregarious behavior was common in many early dinosaur species. Trackways of hundreds or even thousands of herbivores indicate that duck-bills (hadrosaurids) (Dell Latitude C610 battery) may have moved in great herds, 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, although there is not evidence for specific herd structures. Congregated into herds may have evolved for defense, for migratory purposes, or to provide protection for young(Dell Latitude C640 battery). There is evidence that many types of slow-growing dinosaurs, including various theropods, sauropods, ankylosaurians, ornithopods, and ceratopsians, formed aggregations of immature individuals. 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. (Dell Latitude C800 battery) The interpretation of dinosaurs as gregarious has also extended to depicting carnivorous theropods as pack hunters working together to bring down large prey. However, this lifestyle is uncommon among modern birds, crocodiles, and other reptiles, and the taphonomic evidence suggesting mammal-like pack hunting in such theropods as Deinonychus and Allosaurus can also be interpreted as the results of fatal disputes between feeding animals, as is seen in many modern diapsid predators. (Dell Latitude C810 battery)
Artist's rendering of two Centrosaurus apertus engaged in intra-specific combat.
The crests and frills of some dinosaurs, like the marginocephalians, theropods and lambeosaurines, 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. Head wounds from bites suggest that theropods(Dell Latitude C840 battery), 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 a Velociraptor attacking a Protoceratops, providing evidence that dinosaurs did indeed attack each other. Additional evidence for attacking live prey is the partially healed tail of an Edmontosaurus, a hadrosaurid dinosaur(Dell Latitude CPI battery); 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.
Comparisons between the scleral rings of dinosaurs and modern birds and reptiles have been used to infer daily activity patterns of dinosaurs(Dell Latitude CPX battery). 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. Large and medium-sized herbivorous and omnivorous dinosaurs such as ceratopsians, sauropodomorphs, hadrosaurids, ornithomimosaurs may have been cathemeral(Dell Latitude D410 battery), active during short intervals throughout the day, although the small ornithischian Agilisaurus was inferred to be diurnal.
Based on current fossil evidence from dinosaurs such as Oryctodromeus, some ornithischian species seem to have led a partially fossorial (burrowing) lifestyle. Many modern birds are arboreal (tree climbing), and this was also true of many Mesozoic birds(Dell Latitude D420 battery), especially the enantiornithines. While some early bird-like species may have already been arboreal as well (including dromaeosaurids such as Microraptor) most non-avialan 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(Dell Latitude D430 battery), in particular, has provided significant insight in this area. For example, studies of the forces exerted by muscles and gravity on dinosaurs' skeletal structure have investigated how fast dinosaurs could run, whether diplodocids could create sonic booms via whip-like tail snapping, and whether sauropods could float. (Dell Latitude D500 battery)
Artists impression of a striking and unusual visual display in a Lambeosaurus magnicristatus
Modern birds are well known for communicating using primarily visual and auditory signals, and the wide diversity of visual display structures among fossil dinosaur groups suggests that visual communication has always been important to dinosaur biology(Dell Latitude D505 battery). However, the evolution of dinosaur vocalization is less certain. In 2008, paleontologist Phil Senter examined the evidence for vocalization in Mesozoic animal life, including dinosaurs. Senter found that, contrary to popular depictions of roaring dinosaurs in motion pictures, it is likely that most Mesozoic dinosaurs were not capable of creating any vocalizations (Dell Latitude D510 battery) (though the hollow crests of the lambeosaurines could have functioned as resonance chambers used for a wide range of vocalizations). To draw this conclusion, Senter studied the distribution of vocal organs in modern reptiles and birds. He found that vocal cords in the larynx probably evolved multiple times among reptiles, including crocodilians, which are able to produce guttural roars(Dell Latitude D520 battery). 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. The syrinx depends on the air sac system in birds to function; specifically, it requires the presence of a clavicular air sac near the wishbone or collar bone(Dell Latitude D600 battery). This air sac leaves distinctive marks or opening on the bones, including a distinct opening in the upper arm bone (humerus). While extensive air sac systems are a unique characteristic of saurischian dinosaurs, the clavicular air sac necessary to vocalize does not appear in the fossil record until the enantiornithines (one exception, Aerosteon, probably evolved its clavicular air sac independently of birds for reasons other than vocalization). (Dell Latitude D610 battery)
The most primitive dinosaurs 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 early dinosaurs used primarily visual communication, in the form of distinctive-looking (and possibly brightly colored) horns, frills, crests(Dell Latitude D620 battery), sails and feathers. 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.
In addition, dinosaurs use other methods of producing sound for communication. Other animals, including other reptiles(Dell Latitude D630 battery), use a wide variety of non-vocal sound communication, including hissing, jaw grinding or clapping, use of environment (such as splashing), and wing beating (possible in winged maniraptoran dinosaurs).
Nest of a plover (Charadrius).
All dinosaurs lay amniotic eggs with hard shells made mostly of calcium carbonate. Eggs are usually laid in a nest. Most species create somewhat elaborate nests, which can be cups, domes, plates, beds scrapes, mounds, or burrows. (Dell Latitude D800 battery) Some species of modern bird have no nests; the cliff-nesting Common Guillemot lays its eggs on bare rock, and male Emperor Penguins keep eggs between their body and feet. Primitive birds and many non-avialan dinosaurs often lay eggs in communal nests, with males primarily incubating the eggs(Dell Latitude D810 battery). While modern birds have only one functional oviduct and lay one egg at a time, more primitive birds and dinosaurs had two oviducts, like crocodiles. Some non-avialan dinosaurs, such as Troodon, exhibited iterative laying, where the adult might lay a pair of eggs every one or two days, and then ensured simultaneous hatching by delaying brooding until all eggs were laid. (Dell Latitude D820 battery)
When laying eggs, females grow a special type of bone between the hard outer bone and the marrow of their limbs. This medullary bone, which is rich in calcium, is used to make eggshells. A discovery of features in a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton provided evidence of medullary bone in extinct dinosaurs and, for the first time, allowed paleontologists to establish the sex of a fossil dinosaur specimen(Dell Latitude D830 battery). Further research has found medullary bone in the theropod Allosaurus and the ornithopod Tenontosaurus. Because the line of dinosaurs that includes Allosaurus and Tyrannosaurus diverged from the line that led to Tenontosaurus very early in the evolution of dinosaurs, this suggests that dinosaurs in general produced medullary tissue. (Dell Latitude 2100 battery)
Fossilized egg of the oviraptorid Citipati, American Museum of Natural History
Another widespread trait among modern birds is parental care for young after hatching. Jack Horner's 1978 discovery of a Maiasaura ("good mother lizard") nesting ground in Montana demonstrated that parental care continued long after birth among ornithopods, suggesting this behavior might have been common to all dinosaurs. (Dell Latitude 2110 battery) There is also evidence that other non-theropod dinosaurs, like Patagonian titanosaurian sauropods (1997 discovery), also nested in large groups. A specimen of the Mongolian oviraptorid Citipati osmolskae was discovered in a chicken-like brooding position in 1993, which indicates that they had begun using an insulating layer of feathers to keep the eggs warm. (Dell Latitude E4300 battery) Parental care being a trait common to all dinosaurs is supported by other finds. For example, the fossilized remains of a grouping of Psittacosaurus has been found, consisting of one adult and 34 juveniles; 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(Dell Vostro 1310 battery), indicating that some parental care was required to feed the young dinosaurs. 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 all dinosaurs cared for their young to some extent either before or shortly after hatching(Dell Vostro 1320 battery).
Like other reptiles, dinosaurs are primarily uricotelic, that is, their kidneys extract nitrogenous wastes from their bloodstream and excrete it as uric acid instead of urea or ammonia via the ureters into the intestine. In most living species, uric acid is excreted along with feces as a semisolid waste. However, at least some modern birds (Dell Vostro 1510 battery) (such as hummingbirds) can be facultatively ammonotelic, excreting most of the nitrogenous wastes as ammonia. They also excrete creatine, rather than creatinine like mammals. This material, as well as the output of the intestines, emerges from the cloaca. In addition, many species regurgitate pellets, and fossil pellets that may have come from dinosaurs are known from as long ago as the Cretaceous period. (Dell Vostro 1520 battery)
Main article: Physiology of dinosaurs
Comparison between the air sacs of an abelisaur and a bird
Because both modern crocodilians and birds have four-chambered hearts (albeit modified in crocodilians), it is likely that this is a trait shared by all archosaurs, including all dinosaurs. While all modern birds have high metabolisms and are "warm blooded" (endothermic), a vigorous debate has been ongoing since the 1960s regarding how far back in the dinosaur lineage this trait extends(Dell Vostro 2510 battery). Originally, scientists broadly disagreed as to whether non-avian dinosaurs or even early birds were capable of regulating their body temperatures at all. More recently, endothermy for all dinosaurs has become the consensus view, and debate has focused on the mechanisms of temperature regulation(Dell Vostro 1014 battery).
After non-avian dinosaurs were discovered, paleontologists first posited that they were ectothermic. This supposed "cold-bloodedness" was used to imply that the ancient 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(Dell Inspiron 1410 battery). 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.
Modern evidence indicates that even non-avian dinosaurs and birds thrived in cooler temperate climates, and that at least some early species must have regulated their body temperature by internal biological means (Dell Vostro 1014N battery) (aided by the animals' bulk in large species and feathers or other body coverings in smaller species). Evidence of endothermy in Mesozoic dinosaurs includes the discovery of polar dinosaurs in Australia and Antarctica (where they would have experienced a cold, dark six-month winter), and analysis of blood-vessel structures within fossil bones that are typical of endotherms(Dell Vostro 1015 battery). Scientific debate continues regarding the specific ways in which dinosaur temperature regulation evolved.
In the saurischian dinosaurs, higher metabolisms may have been supported by the evolution of a bird-like repiratory system characterized by an extensive system of air sacs that extended the lungs and invaded many of the bones in the skeleton, making them hollow. (p://www.laptopbattery-shop.co.uk/dell-inspiron-1088-battery.html">Dell Inspiron 1088 battery)
Early dinosaurian respiratory systems with air sacs may have been capable of sustaining higher activity levels than mammals of similar size and build can sustain. In addition to providing a very efficient supply of oxygen, the rapid airflow would have been an effective cooling mechanism, which is essential for animals that are active but too large to get rid of all the excess heat through their skin. (Dell Vostro A860 battery)
Origin of birds
Main article: Origin of birds
The possibility that dinosaurs were the ancestors of birds was first suggested in 1868 by Thomas Henry Huxley. After the work of Gerhard Heilmann in the early 20th century, the theory of birds as dinosaur descendants was abandoned in favor of the idea of their being descendants of generalized thecodonts(Dell Inspiron Mini 1012 battery), with the key piece of evidence being the supposed lack of clavicles in dinosaurs. However, as later discoveries showed, clavicles (or a single fused wishbone, which derived from separate clavicles) were not actually absent; they had been found as early as 1924 in Oviraptor, but misidentified as an interclavicle. In the 1970s, John Ostrom revived the dinosaur–bird theory, (Sony VGN-NR11Z Battery) which gained momentum in the coming decades with the advent of cladistic analysis, and a great increase in the discovery of small theropods and early birds. Of particular note have been the fossils of the Yixian Formation, where a variety of theropods and early birds have been found, often with feathers of some type. Birds share over a hundred distinct anatomical features with theropod dinosaurs(Sony VGN-NR11S Battery), which are now generally accepted to have been their closest ancient relatives. They are most closely allied with maniraptoran coelurosaurs. A minority of scientists, most notably Alan Feduccia and Larry Martin, have proposed other evolutionary paths, including revised versions of Heilmann's basal archosaur proposal, or that maniraptoran theropods are the ancestors of birds but themselves are not dinosaurs, only convergent with dinosaurs. (Sony VGN-CR11Z Battery)
Main article: Feathered dinosaurs
The famous Berlin Specimen of Archaeopteryx lithographica
Archaeopteryx was the first fossil found which revealed a potential connection between dinosaurs and birds. It is considered a transitional fossil, in that it displays features of both groups. Brought to light just two years after Darwin's seminal The Origin of Species, its discovery spurred the nascent debate between proponents of evolutionary biology and creationism(Sony VGN-CR11S Battery). This early bird is so dinosaur-like that, without a clear impression of feathers in the surrounding rock, at least one specimen was mistaken for Compsognathus.
Since the 1990s, a number of additional feathered dinosaurs have been found, providing even stronger evidence of the close relationship between dinosaurs and modern birds. Most of these specimens were unearthed in the lagerstätte of the Yixian Formation(Sony VGN-CR11M Battery), Liaoning, northeastern China, which was part of an island continent during the Cretaceous. Though feathers have been found in only a few locations, it is possible that non-avian dinosaurs elsewhere in the world were also feathered. The lack of widespread fossil evidence for feathered non-avian dinosaurs may be because delicate features like skin and feathers are not often preserved by fossilization and thus are absent from the fossil record(Sony VGN-CR11E Battery). To this point, protofeathers (thin, filament-like structures) are known from dinosaurs at the base of Coelurosauria, such as compsognathids like Sinosauropteryx and tyrannosauroids (Dilong), but barbed feathers are known only among the coelurosaur subgroup Maniraptora, which includes oviraptorosaurs, troodontids, dromaeosaurids, and birds. The description of feathered dinosaurs has not been without controversy(Sony VGN-CR21E Battery); perhaps the most vocal critics have been Alan Feduccia and Theagarten Lingham-Soliar, who have proposed that protofeathers are the result of the decomposition of collagenous fiber that underlaid the dinosaurs' integument, and that maniraptoran dinosaurs with barbed feathers were not actually dinosaurs, but convergent with dinosaurs(Sony VGN-CR21S Battery). However, their views have for the most part not been accepted by other researchers, to the point that the question of the scientific nature of Feduccia's proposals has been raised.
Because feathers are often associated with birds, feathered dinosaurs are often touted as the missing link between birds and dinosaurs. However, the multiple skeletal features also shared by the two groups represent another important line of evidence for paleontologists(Sony VGN-CR21Z Battery). Areas of the skeleton with important similarities include the neck, pubis, wrist (semi-lunate carpal), arm and pectoral girdle, furcula (wishbone), and breast bone. Comparison of bird and dinosaur skeletons through cladistic analysis strengthens the case for the link.
Pneumatopores on the left ilium of Aerosteon riocoloradensis
Large meat-eating dinosaurs had a complex system of air sacs similar to those found in modern birds, according to an investigation which was led by Patrick O'Connor of Ohio University(Sony VGN-CR31S Battery). The lungs of theropod dinosaurs (carnivores that walked on two legs and had bird-like feet) likely pumped air into hollow sacs in their skeletons, as is the case in birds. "What was once formally considered unique to birds was present in some form in the ancestors of birds", O'Connor said. In a 2008 paper published in the online journal PLoS ONE, scientists described Aerosteon riocoloradensis(Sony VGN-CR31E Battery), the skeleton of which supplies the strongest evidence to date of a dinosaur with a bird-like breathing system. CT-scanning of Aerosteon's fossil bones revealed evidence for the existence of air sacs within the animal's body cavity.
Fossils of the troodonts Mei and Sinornithoides demonstrate that some dinosaurs slept with their heads tucked under their arms. This behavior, which may have helped to keep the head warm, is also characteristic of modern birds(Sony VGN-CR31Z Battery). Several deinonychosaur and oviraptorosaur specimens have also been found preserved on top of their nests, likely brooding in a bird-like manner. The ratio between egg volume and body mass of adults among these dinosaurs suggest that the eggs were primarily brooded by the male, and that the young were highly precocial, similar to many modern ground-dwelling birds. (Sony VGN-CR41Z Battery)
Some dinosaurs are known to have used gizzard stones like modern birds. These stones are swallowed by animals to aid digestion and break down food and hard fibers once they enter the stomach. When found in association with fossils, gizzard stones are called gastroliths.
Extinction of major groups
Main article: Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event
The discovery that birds are a type of dinosaur showed that dinosaurs in general are not, in fact, extinct as is commonly stated. (Sony VGN-CR41S Battery) However, all non-avian dinosaurs as well as many groups of birds did suddenly become extinct approximately 65 million years ago. Many other groups of animals also became extinct at this time, including ammonites (nautilus-like mollusks), mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, pterosaurs, and many groups of mammals. (Sony VGN-CR41E Battery)This mass extinction is known as the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event. The nature of the event that caused this mass extinction has been extensively studied since the 1970s; at present, several related theories are supported by paleontologists. Though the consensus is that an impact event was the primary cause of dinosaur extinction(Sony VGN-CR41SR Battery), some scientists cite other possible causes, or support the idea that a confluence of several factors was responsible for the sudden disappearance of dinosaurs from the fossil record.
At the peak of the Mesozoic, there were no polar ice caps, and sea levels are estimated to have been from 100 to 250 meters (300 to 800 ft) higher than they are today. The planet's temperature was also much more uniform, with only 25 °C (45 °F) separating average polar temperatures from those at the equator(Sony VGN-CR42Z Battery). On average, atmospheric temperatures were also much higher; the poles, for example, were 50 °C (90 °F) warmer than today.
The atmosphere's composition during the Mesozoic is a matter for debate. While some academics argue that oxygen levels were much higher than today, others argue that biological adaptations seen in birds and dinosaurs indicate that respiratory systems evolved beyond what would be necessary if oxygen levels were high. (Sony VGN-CR42S Battery) By the late Cretaceous, the environment was changing dramatically. Volcanic activity was decreasing, which led to a cooling trend as levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide dropped. Oxygen levels in the atmosphere also started to fluctuate and would ultimately fall considerably. Some scientists hypothesize that climate change, combined with lower oxygen levels(Sony VGN-CR42E Battery), might have led directly to the demise of many species. If the dinosaurs had respiratory systems similar to those commonly found in modern birds, it may have been particularly difficult for them to cope with reduced respiratory efficiency, given the enormous oxygen demands of their very large bodies. (Sony Vaio VGN-CR11S/L Battery)
Main article: Chicxulub crater
The Chicxulub Crater at the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula; the impactor that formed this crater may have caused the dinosaur extinction.
The asteroid collision theory, which was brought to wide attention in 1980 by Walter Alvarez and colleagues, links the extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous period to a bolide impact approximately 65.5 million years ago(Sony Vaio VGN-CR11S/P Battery). Alvarez et al. proposed that a sudden increase in iridium levels, recorded around the world in the period's rock stratum, was direct evidence of the impact. The bulk of the evidence now suggests that a bolide 5 to 15 kilometers (3 to 9 mi) wide hit in the vicinity of the Yucatán Peninsula (in southeastern Mexico), creating the approximately 180 km (110 mi) Chicxulub Crater and triggering the mass extinction. (Sony Vaio VGN-CR11S/W Battery) Scientists are not certain whether dinosaurs were thriving or declining before the impact event. Some scientists propose that the meteorite caused a long and unnatural drop in Earth's atmospheric temperature, while others claim that it would have instead created an unusual heat wave. The consensus among scientists who support this theory is that the impact caused extinctions both directly(Sony Vaio VGN-CR11Z/R Battery) (by heat from the meteorite impact) and also indirectly (via a worldwide cooling brought about when matter ejected from the impact crater reflected thermal radiation from the sun). Although the speed of extinction cannot be deduced from the fossil record alone, various models suggest that the extinction was extremely rapid, being down to hours rather than years. (Sony Vaio VGN-CR13/B Battery)
In September 2007, U.S. researchers led by William Bottke of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and Czech scientists used computer simulations to identify the probable source of the Chicxulub impact. They calculated a 90% probability that a asteroid named Baptistina, approximately 160 km (99 mi) in diameter(Sony Vaio VGN-CR13/L Battery), orbiting in the asteroid belt which lies between Mars and Jupiter, was struck by a smaller unnamed asteroid about 55 km (35 mi) in diameter about 160 million years ago. The impact shattered Baptistina, creating a cluster which still exists today as the Baptistina family. Calculations indicate that some of the fragments were sent hurtling into earth-crossing orbits(Sony Vaio VGN-CR13/P Battery), one of which was the 10 km (6.2 mi) wide meteorite which struck Mexico's Yucatan peninsula 65 million years ago, creating the Chicxulub crater. In 2011, new data from the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer revised the date of the collision which created the Baptistina family to about 80 million years ago. This makes an asteroid from this family highly improbable to be the asteroid that created the Chicxulub Crater(Sony Vaio VGN-CR13/R Battery), as typically the process of resonance and collision of an asteroid takes many tens of millions of years.
A similar but more controversial explanation proposes that "passages of the [hypothetical] solar companion star Nemesis through the Oort comet cloud would trigger comet showers." One or more of these comets then collided with the Earth at approximately the same time, causing the worldwide extinction. As with the impact of a single asteroid(Sony Vaio VGN-CR13/W Battery), the end result of this comet bombardment would have been a sudden drop in global temperatures, followed by a protracted cool period.
Main article: Deccan Traps
Before 2000, arguments that the Deccan Traps flood basalts caused the extinction were usually linked to the view that the extinction was gradual, as the flood basalt events were thought to have started around 68 million years ago and lasted for over 2 million years(Sony Vaio VGN-CR13G Battery). However, there is evidence that two thirds of the Deccan Traps were created in only 1 million years about 65.5 million years ago, and so these eruptions would have caused a fairly rapid extinction, possibly over a period of thousands of years, but still longer than would be expected from a single impact event.
The Deccan Traps could have caused extinction through several mechanisms, including the release into the air of dust and sulphuric aerosols(Sony Vaio VGN-CR13G/B Battery), which might have blocked sunlight and thereby reduced photosynthesis in plants. In addition, Deccan Trap volcanism might have resulted in carbon dioxide emissions, which would have increased the greenhouse effect when the dust and aerosols cleared from the atmosphere. Before the mass extinction of the dinosaurs, the release of volcanic gases during the formation of the Deccan Traps "contributed to an apparently massive global warming(Sony Vaio VGN-CR13G/L Battery). Some data point to an average rise in temperature of 8 °C (14 °F) in the last half million years before the impact [at Chicxulub]."
In the years when the Deccan Traps theory was linked to a slower extinction, Luis Alvarez (who died in 1988) replied that paleontologists were being misled by sparse data. While his assertion was not initially well-received, later intensive field studies of fossil beds lent weight to his claim(Sony Vaio VGN-CR13G/W Battery). Eventually, most paleontologists began to accept the idea that the mass extinctions at the end of the Cretaceous were largely or at least partly due to a massive Earth impact. However, even Walter Alvarez has acknowledged that there were other major changes on Earth even before the impact, such as a drop in sea level and massive volcanic eruptions that produced the Indian Deccan Traps, and these may have contributed to the extinctions. (Sony Vaio VGN-CR13G/P Battery)
Failure to adapt to changing conditions
Lloyd et al. (2008) noted that, in the Mid Cretaceous, the flowering, angiosperm plants became a major part of terrestrial ecosystems, which had previously been dominated by gymnosperms such as conifers. Dinosaur coprolite–fossilized dung–indicate that, while some ate angiosperms, most herbivorous dinosaurs ate mainly gymnosperms(Sony Vaio VGN-CR13G/R Battery). Statistical analysis by Lloyd et al. concluded that, contrary to earlier studies, dinosaurs did not diversify very much in the Late Cretaceous. Lloyd et al. suggested that dinosaurs' failure to diversify as ecosystems were changing doomed them to extinction.
Possible Paleocene survivors
Main article: Paleocene dinosaurs
Non-avian dinosaur remains are occasionally found above the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary. In 2001, paleontologists Zielinski and Budahn reported the discovery of a single hadrosaur leg-bone fossil in the San Juan Basin(Sony Vaio VGN-CR13T/L Battery), New Mexico, and described it as evidence of Paleocene dinosaurs. The formation in which the bone was discovered has been dated to the early Paleocene epoch, approximately 64.5 million years ago. If the bone was not re-deposited into that stratum by weathering action, it would provide evidence that some dinosaur populations may have survived at least a half million years into the Cenozoic Era. (Sony Vaio VGN-CR13T/P Battery)Other evidence includes the finding of dinosaur remains in the Hell Creek Formation up to 1.3 meters (51 in) above (40000 years later than) the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary. Similar reports have come from other parts of the world, including China. Many scientists, however, dismissed the supposed Paleocene dinosaurs as re-worked(Sony Vaio VGN-CR13T/R Battery), that is, washed out of their original locations and then re-buried in much later sediments. However, direct dating of the bones themselves has supported the later date, with U–Pb dating methods resulting in a precise age of 64.8 ± 0.9 million years ago. If correct, the presence of a handful of dinosaurs in the early Paleocene would not change the underlying facts of the extinction. (Sony Vaio VGN-CR13T/W Battery)
History of study
Further information: History of paleontology
Dinosaur fossils have been known for millennia, although their true nature was not recognized. The Chinese, whose modern word for dinosaur is konglong (恐龍, or "terrible dragon"), considered them to be dragon bones and documented them as such. For example, Hua Yang Guo Zhi, a book written by Zhang Qu during the Western Jin Dynasty(Sony Vaio VGN-CR150E/B Battery), reported the discovery of dragon bones at Wucheng in Sichuan Province. Villagers in central China have long unearthed fossilized "dragon bones" for use in traditional medicines, a practice that continues today. In Europe, dinosaur fossils were generally believed to be the remains of giants and other creatures killed by the Great Flood(Sony Vaio VGN-CR21/B Battery).
Marsh's 1896 illustration of the bones of Stegosaurus, a dinosaur he described and named in 1877.
Scholarly descriptions of what would now be recognized as dinosaur bones first appeared in the late 17th century in England. Part of a bone, now known to have been the femur of a Megalosaurus, (Sony Vaio VGN-CR21E/L Battery) was recovered from a limestone quarry at Cornwell near Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, England, in 1676. The fragment was sent to Robert Plot, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford and first curator of the Ashmolean Museum, who published a description in his Natural History of Oxfordshire in 1677. He correctly identified the bone as the lower extremity of the femur of a large animal(Sony Vaio VGN-CR21E/P Battery), and recognized that it was too large to belong to any known species. He therefore concluded it to be the thigh bone of a giant human similar to those mentioned in the Bible. In 1699, Edward Lhuyd, a friend of Sir Isaac Newton, was responsible for the first published scientific treatment of what would now be recognized as a dinosaur when he described and named a sauropod tooth(Sony Vaio VGN-CR21E/W Battery), "Rutellum implicatum", that had been found in Caswell, near Witney, Oxfordshire.
Between 1815 and 1824, the Rev William Buckland, a professor of geology at Oxford University, collected more fossilized bones of Megalosaurus and became the first person to describe a dinosaur in a scientific journal. (Sony Vaio VGN-CR21S/L Battery) The second dinosaur genus to be identified, Iguanodon, was discovered in 1822 by Mary Ann Mantell – the wife of English geologist Gideon Mantell. Gideon Mantell recognized similarities between his fossils and the bones of modern iguanas. He published his findings in 1825.
The study of these "great fossil lizards" soon became of great interest to European and American scientists, and in 1842 the English paleontologist Richard Owen coined the term "dinosaur"(Sony Vaio VGN-CR21S/P Battery). He recognized that the remains that had been found so far, Iguanodon, Megalosaurus and Hylaeosaurus, shared a number of distinctive features, and so decided to present them as a distinct taxonomic group. With the backing of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the husband of Queen Victoria, Owen established the Natural History Museum in South Kensington(Sony Vaio VGN-CR21S/W Battery), London, to display the national collection of dinosaur fossils and other biological and geological exhibits.
In 1858, the first known American dinosaur was discovered, in marl pits in the small town of Haddonfield, New Jersey (although fossils had been found before, their nature had not been correctly discerned). The creature was named Hadrosaurus foulkii(Sony Vaio VGN-CR21Z/N Battery). It was an extremely important find: Hadrosaurus was one of the first nearly complete dinosaur skeletons found (the first was in 1834, in Maidstone, Kent, England), and it was clearly a bipedal creature. This was a revolutionary discovery as, until that point, most scientists had believed dinosaurs walked on four feet, like other lizards. Foulke's discoveries sparked a wave of dinosaur mania in the United States(Sony Vaio VGN-CR21Z/R Battery).
Othniel Charles Marsh, 19th century photograph
Edward Drinker Cope, 19th century photograph
Dinosaur mania was exemplified by the fierce rivalry between Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh, both of whom raced to be the first to find new dinosaurs in what came to be known as the Bone Wars. The feud probably originated when Marsh publicly pointed out that Cope's reconstruction of an Elasmosaurus skeleton was flawed(Sony Vaio VGN-CR23/B Battery): Cope had inadvertently placed the plesiosaur's head at what should have been the animal's tail end. The fight between the two scientists lasted for over 30 years, ending in 1897 when Cope died after spending his entire fortune on the dinosaur hunt. Marsh 'won' the contest primarily because he was better funded through a relationship with the US Geological Survey. Unfortunately(Sony Vaio VGN-CR23/P Battery), many valuable dinosaur specimens were damaged or destroyed due to the pair's rough methods: for example, their diggers often used dynamite to unearth bones (a method modern paleontologists would find appalling). Despite their unrefined methods, the contributions of Cope and Marsh to paleontology were vast: Marsh unearthed 86 new species of dinosaur and Cope discovered 56, a total of 142 new species(Sony Vaio VGN-CR23/R Battery). Cope's collection is now at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, while Marsh's is on display at the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University.
After 1897, the search for dinosaur fossils extended to every continent, including Antarctica. The first Antarctic dinosaur to be discovered, the ankylosaurid Antarctopelta oliveroi, was found on Ross Island in 1986, although it was 1994 before an Antarctic species, the theropod Cryolophosaurus ellioti, was formally named and described in a scientific journal(Sony Vaio VGN-CR23/L Battery).
Current dinosaur "hot spots" include southern South America (especially Argentina) and China. China in particular has produced many exceptional feathered dinosaur specimens due to the unique geology of its dinosaur beds, as well as an ancient arid climate particularly conducive to fossilization(Sony Vaio VGN-CR23/N Battery).
The "dinosaur renaissance"
Main article: Dinosaur renaissance
Paleontologist Robert T. Bakker with mounted skeleton of a tyrannosaurid (Gorgosaurus libratus)
The field of dinosaur research has enjoyed a surge in activity that began in the 1970s and is ongoing. This was triggered, in part, by John Ostrom's discovery of Deinonychus, an active predator that may have been warm-blooded(Sony Vaio VGN-CR23/W Battery), in marked contrast to the then-prevailing image of dinosaurs as sluggish and cold-blooded. Vertebrate paleontology has become a global science. Major new dinosaur discoveries have been made by paleontologists working in previously unexploited regions, including India, South America, Madagascar, Antarctica, and most significantly China (Sony VAIO VGN-NW21EF/S battery) (the amazingly well-preserved feathered dinosaurs in China have further consolidated the link between dinosaurs and their conjectured living descendants, modern birds). The widespread application of cladistics, which rigorously analyzes the relationships between biological organisms, has also proved tremendously useful in classifying dinosaurs(Sony VAIO VGN-NW21JF battery). Cladistic analysis, among other modern techniques, helps to compensate for an often incomplete and fragmentary fossil record.
Soft tissue and DNA
One of the best examples of soft-tissue impressions in a fossil dinosaur was discovered in Petraroia, Italy. 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-NW21MF 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-NW21MF/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). Scrutiny under the microscope further revealed that the putative dinosaur soft tissue had retained fine structures (microstructures) (Sony VAIO VGN-NW31EF/W battery) 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.
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-NW21ZF 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, have putatively been detected in dinosaur fossils.
Cultural depictions(Sony VAIO VGN-NW31JF battery)
Main article: Cultural depictions of dinosaurs
Outdated Iguanodon statues created by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins for the Crystal Palace Park in 1853.
By human standards, dinosaurs were creatures of fantastic appearance and often enormous size. As such, they have captured the popular imagination and become an enduring part of human culture. Entry of the word "dinosaur" into the common vernacular reflects the animals' cultural importance(Sony VAIO VGN-NW320F/B battery): in English, "dinosaur" is commonly used to describe anything that is impractically large, obsolete, or bound for extinction.
Public enthusiasm for dinosaurs first developed in Victorian England, where in 1854, three decades after the first scientific descriptions of dinosaur remains, the famous dinosaur sculptures were unveiled in London's Crystal Palace Park(Sony VAIO VGN-NW320F/TC battery). The Crystal Palace dinosaurs proved so popular that a strong market in smaller replicas soon developed. In subsequent decades, dinosaur exhibits opened at parks and museums around the world, ensuring that successive generations would be introduced to the animals in an immersive and exciting way. Dinosaurs' enduring popularity, in its turn(Sony VAIO VGN-NW35e battery), has resulted in significant public funding for dinosaur science, and has frequently spurred new discoveries. In the United States, for example, the competition between museums for public attention led directly to the Bone Wars of the 1880s and 1890s, during which a pair of feuding paleontologists made enormous scientific contributions. (Sony VAIO VGN-NW11S/S battery)
The popular preoccupation with dinosaurs has ensured their appearance in literature, film, and other media. Beginning in 1852 with a passing mention in Charles Dickens' Bleak House, dinosaurs have been featured in large numbers of fictional works. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1912 book The Lost World, the iconic 1933 film King Kong, the 1954 Godzilla and its many sequels(Sony VAIO VGN-NW11Z/S battery), the best-selling 1990 novel Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton and its 1993 film adaptation are just a few notable examples of dinosaur appearances in fiction. Authors of general-interest non-fiction works about dinosaurs, including some prominent paleontologists, have often sought to use the animals as a way to educate readers about science in general(Sony VAIO VGN-NW11S/T battery). Dinosaurs are ubiquitous in advertising; numerous companies have referenced dinosaurs in printed or televised advertisements, either in order to sell their own products or in order to characterize their rivals as slow-moving, dim-witted, or obsolete. Even fine artists have featured dinosaurs in their works(Sony VAIO VGN-NW11Z/T battery).