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This text is about dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are a grouping of animals tiny to large, bipedal or quadrupedal, eating plants, meat, or both, but always land-based (though spinosaurids and possibly the iguanodontian Lurdusaurus are believed to have been semi-aquatic). More precisely, this text is about non-avialian dinosaurs, i.e. birds and primitive relatives of birds are excluded.

All dinosaurs of this kind (and many early bird genera) lived in the Mesozoic Era, nicknamed "The Age of Dinosaurs", 230--65 million years ago (mya). The era is divided by geologists in three periods: from the most ancient to the most recent one, they are Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous. You'll note that most stock dinosaurs come from North America during either the Late Jurassic or the Late Cretaceous.

Note that

  • No dinosaur species lived through the entire era, nor were they evenly distributed over the world.
  • Hence, the dinosaurs didn't all live together in the same time and place.
  • No humans lived contemporarily with dinosaurs (except for birds).

Many depictions of dinosaurs break one or more of these rules (and other, more specific rules as well). When this happens, we get Anachronism Stew and Misplaced Wildlife, and it's easy to imagine that Somewhere a Palaeontologist Is Crying. It is possible for works to follow the rules and still misrepresent dinosaurs, because Science Marches On and "hard fact" is nowhere near the same today as it was a century ago (or in some cases a decade ago).

Dinosaurs and other extinct animals are divided here into four categories:

  1. Great stock: *** What you think of when you think "Dinosaur". See also Stock Dinosaurs for these.
  2. Secondary stock: ** Appear semi-regularly in media.
  3. Rarely seen stock: * Appear only very rarely in the media.
  4. Non-stock: Appear in documentary media only. See Prehistoric Life for these.

Stock dinosaurs are usually among the biggest / weirdest / more impressive members of each dinosaur subgroup, but not necessarily the most common in fossil record. Just as an example, Tyrannosaurus rex is known only from a dozen specimens, while other less-popular dinosaurs have left hundreds of skeletons. At the other extreme, some dinosaurs are known from a single bone or tooth.


A brief history of popular depictions of dinosaurs

See here for a more detailed article.

1850s: The Crystal Palace dinosaur sculptures introduced dinosaurs to the public. The image they provide is of scaly, bulky doglike dragons. Introducing: Iguanodon and Megalosaurus.

Late 1800s: The excitement of The Bone Wars made dinosaurs interesting to the readership of the newspapers and magazines that recounted the exploits and discoveries of Marsh and Cope. Introducing: “Brontosaurus” (Apatosaurus), Diplodocus, Allosaurus, Ceratosaurus, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, and “Trachodon” (indeterminate hadrosaur).

Early 1900s: Updated depictions of dinosaurs were brought to the general public by early paleoartists (beginning with Charles R. Knight), by distribution of skeleton castings which made life-sized and fairly life-like museum exhibits possible, and by dinosaurs being introduced to films. From this time on, dinosaurs and movie special effects were tightly coupled. Based on the finds during and since the Bone Wars dinosaurs are now seen as a more varied bunch, with larger and... less large forms, bipedal or quadrupedal. They are still sluggish brutes destined for complete extinction, though. Introducing: Tyrannosaurus rex, Brachiosaurus/Giraffatitan, Styracosaurus, and Ankylosaurus.

1940: Disney's Fantasia didn't change the media image much, but introduced some new genera and reached a large audience. Introducing: Parasaurolophus, Corythosaurus, Plateosaurus, Ornithomimids, and Protoceratops.

1970s: The Dinosaur Renaissance changed the image of dinosaurs to more active, more varied in size with many really small forms, and well adapted to their environment (and surviving extinction through bird descendants). Introducing: Deinonychus, and to some extent, Archaeopteryx (well-known since Darwin’s time but long believed non-dinosaurian).

1990s: Scientifically up-to-date writing (in the books) and computer-based animation (in the films / shows) in the Jurassic Park and Walking with Dinosaurs franchises definitively popularized the image of dinosaurs as set up by the Dinosaur Renaissance. Introducing:

  • Jurassic Park films and books: Velociraptor, Spinosaurus, Dilophosaurus, Gallimimus, Compsognathus, Carnotaurus, Maiasaura.
  • By the Walking With docu series: Giganotosaurus, Argentinosaurus, Utahraptor.

Meat-eaters (usually)

Most dinosaurs were herbivorous or omnivorous: the Theropod group contains all the carnivorous dinosaurs. Some of them were very small, while the biggest were medium-sized by dinosaur standards. All of them were bipedal. This is the only group of dinosaurs that has living members today, since some theropods were the ancestors of birds. Many of these genera are now known to have been feathered, but in films they are usually shown with lizard-like scales.

Great-stock theropods

Tyrannosaurus rex ***

File:Tyrannosaurus - copia 6165.jpg

King Tyrant Lizard

Lived in western North America 67--65 mya at the very end of the Age of Dinosaurs. Other Tyrannosaurs lived in Asia in the same period, and other members of the tyrannosaurid family lived slightly earlier (still within the Late Cretaceous Period) in North America.

T. rex was described in 1905 by Henry Osborn. Since then, it has been a hit with the audience and possibly the most famous dinosaur for almost a century. During this time T. rex has changed from the heavy, fat-bellied giant with goose-like gait and flexible tail to the slender, running beast seen in Jurassic Park. We are still waiting to see its chicks depicted with downy covering, though.

Despite only living for a couple of million years in a small part of the world, every visit to a dinosaur-populated time or place will have at least one T. rex appearing. This is for reasons better explained on the animal's own trope page. Yes, that's how big it is in media.

  1. Entry Time: 1905
  2. Trope Maker: Itself

"Raptors": Deinonychus, Velociraptor, and Utahraptor ***

File:Deinoraptor - copia 7918.jpg

Mongolian Swift Thief & Counterbalanced Terrible Claw

Raptors, or more formally dromaeosaurids, were bipedal carnivorous dinosaurs of the Cretaceous Period. They were small with long, thin tails and compact bodies. They were closely related to birds: they were covered with pennaceous feathers and their skeletal structure was bird-like. One notable feature was the large, retractable "sickle claw" on their second toe. How it was used is being still debated. For decades, dromaeosaurids were depicted as hunting and attacking herbivores much bigger than itself, e.g. Deinonychus hunting Tenontosaurus or even the five-ton Iguanodon. Like a pack of wolves, dromaeosaurids would track down and attack their prey, using their powerful claws to rend and to climb atop the herbivore. Since around 2000 dromaeosaurids have instead been suggested to have been mostly solitary small prey hunters.

In the early 20th century, two small dinosaurs were discovered and described as generic small predators. Both were from the Late Cretaceous. While the finds were incomplete and difficult to interpret, we now know the animals were about 6.5 ft / 2 m long and weighed about 33 lb / 15 kg. Dromaeosaurus ("running lizard") lived in the Alberta region, while Velociraptor ("swift robber") lived in Mongolia and China 75--71 mya. For half a century, they were sorted away and largely ignored. Then...

Deinonychus ("terrible claw") was (re)discovered in 1964. It lived 115--108 mya in North America and was one of the larger raptors, 11 ft / 3.4 m long and weighing 160 lb / 73 kg. It was described by John Ostrom in 1969 in an influential monograph that kicked off the Dinosaur Renaissance. Some years later, more complete remains of Velociraptor were found, showing that it was similar to Deinonychus (only smaller). Paleontologists began to debate if the traits ascribed to Deinonychus should be extended to all dromaeosaurids, or possibly to all theropods, or even to all dinosaurs. Also, one paleontologist claimed that Deinonychus and Velociraptor were actually the same taxon and that the species Deinonychus antirrhopus should be renamed "Velociraptor antirrhopus"; author Michael Crichton picked up this idea.

Works from before the 1970s never represent dromaeosaurids, simply because they were too obscure at the time. Between 1970 and the Jurassic Park mania in the 1990s, the most represented "raptor" (though not yet known as such) in popular culture was Deinonychus. For instance, see Dino Riders, Dinosaurs Attack!, and the RuneQuest Borderlands tabletop RPG adventure. It was Jurassic Park that caused Velociraptor to displace Deinonychus as the stock sickle-clawed dino and started the usage of "raptor" for dromaeosaurid in the mind of the public. (Prior to this, "raptor" was used only to indicate birds of prey.) There are several issues with the depiction of raptors in the film.

At the same time that the name Velociraptor became popular, a new dromaeosaurid was discovered in Utah. This animal was older and larger than Deinonychus, living 128--105 mya and being 23 ft / 7 m long and as tall as a human. It was named Utahraptor, beginning an awesome case of science culture Sure Why Not -- before Jurassic Park, no genus of dromaeosaurids except Velociraptor had the -raptor suffix to its name. Since the film, paleontologists started to use it for naming most new dromaeosaurids.

  1. Entry Time: 1970s (Deinonychus); early 1990s (Velociraptor); late 1990s (Utahraptor)
  2. Trope Maker: The “Dinosaur Renaissance” (Deinonychus); Jurassic Park (Velociraptor); Walking with Dinosaurs (Utahraptor)

Post-rex stock theropods

Since the nineties several large theropods have started to filter into pop-consciousness, but none of them has managed to replace T. rex as the "King Dinosaur" (at least for now).

Bigger and Badder: Spinosaurus **

File:Spinosaurus - copia 7863.png

Egyptian Spine Lizard

Lived in Northern Africa from 112 to 97 million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period. At present, this is the best candidate for usurping the royal title from T. rex.

Spinosaurus is one of the most recognizable theropods with its 5ft / 1.5 m tall spines on its back. In the most common interpretation the spines form a "sail" similar to that of the non-dinosaur Dimetrodon. Some suggest they could also have formed a hump, but this is unlikely. A sail could have been useful as a thermoregulating device and/or a display tool, and a hump could have been for display, making the animal seem larger.

Spinosaurus was first described in 1915 by a German paleontologist, but its remains are very scanty: its skull is incomplete, and we have no limb bones. In older drawings Spinosaurus had a tyrannosaur-like head; today it is generally accepted that it was crocodile-headed. Due to the fragmentary nature of its remains, the actual overall size is in debate; once thought the same length of an average Tyrannosaurus (40 ft / 12 m), many paleontologists wanted to set the length at 50ft / 15 m. Lack of real evidence for this left T. rex with the official record until the discovery of Giganotosaurus in the middle 1990s.

Meanwhile, the spinosaur remained an only-known-among-dino-lovers dinosaur… until, in year 2001, Jurassic Park 3 (which fans don’t really like to talk about but was nonetheless popular) changed this situation in a blink. This film introduced the spinosaur to the audience as “bigger and badder” than a Tyrannosaurus rex. Many dino-fans complained that the JP spinosaur was oversized and altered to make it a sort of Pseudo-Rex thing. Then, new discoveries told us Spielberg wasn't totally wrong: Spinosaurus really was bigger than Tyrannosaurus rex. Not only that, it was indeed the biggest of the lot, and is still considered to be so.

There is some controversy regarding Spinosaurus’ diet and way-of-life: did it prey on fish like its smaller cousin Baryonyx (see later), or on giant herbivores like Tyrannosaurus? Experts tended to prefer the first option at the time Jurassic Park 3 was produced, and this fostered even more criticism about the film portrayal as the Ultimate Superpredator. Today Spinosaurus is generally believed a middle-way between these two extremes: an opportunist like a prehistoric grizzly, attacking other smaller dinosaurs when given the opportunity, as well as eating fish (even freshwater sharks), and using its size to steal kills from other predators. We're unsure about the latter, though: if it did have a fragile sail, it might break in a fight against other giant predators such as Carcharodontosaurus, likely causing the spinosaur to bleed to death.

  1. Entry Time: 2001
  2. Trope Maker: Jurassic Park 3

Bigger and Badder 2: Giganotosaurus *

File:Giganotosaurus - copia 882.png

Carolini's Giant Southern Lizard

Here is a late entry in Pop Culture Carnivore World: Giganotosaurus from late Cretaceous South America 97 million years ago, sometimes misnamed “Gigantosaurus”. A close Allosaurus relative, it had a bigger head (6 ft / 1.80 m long, even longer than a Tyrannosaur's) and a stockier build: its looks seems rather like a cross between an allosaur and a tyrannosaur - incidentally, making the classic hybrid allo/tyranno so often seen in classic films (Fantasia, One Million BC… ) a sort of Truth in Television.

Discovered in 1993 and officially described two years later, Giganotosaurus was celebrated as “the biggest predatory dinosaur ever”, surpassing Tyrannosaurus, of whom the largest specimen known (the famous Sue) was discovered a few years before. The "giga" remained the record-holder until new Spinosaurus fossils were discovered in the 2000s, and the re-examination of the descriptions of older finds, reminded us that the latter was even larger, something already postulated but ignored for 80 years.

At the same time, re-examination of Giganotosaurus remains show an animal not much larger that Tyrannosaurus; the only advantage in length is due to a longer snout, and had the two animals been placed side to side, they'd seem to be the same size. Its close relative Carcharodontosaurus (known since the first half of the 20th century in the form of teeth, but rediscovered in 1996), got the same treatment in the 1990s, ultimately lost the struggle for widespread recognition; and both ended up overshadowed in popular culture by Spinosaurus.

Giganotosaurus remains one of the most powerful meat-eaters that ever lived; and it's just starting to gain popularity. The fact that it could have possibly hunted some of the largest sauropods - namely, the utterly vast Argentinosaurus - means that it may become very popular in the future. If that doesn't sound cool enough, then consider that to do so, it would have had to be a pack hunter. Walking with Dinosaurs did a special on just how Badass such a hunt would be (even though in the show the argentinosaur that became prey was a juvenile). Though there isn't any evidence for pack behavior in Giganotosaurus, there might be for its relative, the recently-discovered Mapusaurus, which was the same length but had a more slender frame.

  1. Entry Time: 1995
  2. Trope Maker: Dinotopia: The World Beneath

A meat-loving bull: Carnotaurus *

File:Carnotaurus - copia 6645.jpg

Sastre's Flesh Bull

Another South American theropod like the former, Carnotaurus lived in the late Cretaceous in a younger age, 70 million years ago. Discovered only in 1985, it is known from a single specimen, but this was one of these things every paleontologist wishes to find: the only big theropod so far found with evident skin impressions. As these prints are from the whole right side of its body, Carnotaurus is the only large dinosaur whose external look is known with a reasonable degree of sureness (but see also the extraordinary "hadrosaur mummies").

But this is not all: our carnotaur has revealed to be one of the strangest-looking dinosaurs known. Forelimbs even tinier than those of T. rex, a sort of useless stubs with no true fingers (though three clawed fingers appear in many portrayals) that contrast vividly with the long legs apt for high-speed runs. Robust head with a short, bulldog-like snout. And, above all, a couple of unique bull-like horns above the eyes which no other known theropod had (Carnotaurus means "meat-eating bull"). These “devilish” horns, along with its skin being covered by rows of horny tubercles, make Carnotaurus a quite dragon-looking dinosaur. Ironically, with its slender body, tiny forearms, and fragile lower jaws, it's hard to imagine how it could kill large prey in Real Life.

Though it doesn't come close to rivalling Tyrannosaurus in size (it was only about 22 ft / 7 m or so in length, while a big rex would be about 43 ft / 13 m), Carnotaurus has become somewhat popular in the last decades, thanks to its striking look. It was portrayed as an oversized, pseudo-rexing villain in the 2000 Disney’s Dinosaur. Before that, it also showed up in Michael Crichton's second Jurassic Park book, where its size was portrayed more accurately, but to up the threat level, it was given (quite implausible) chameleon-style stealth abilities. Note that neither modern birds nor crocodilians can change their colors like chameleons do.

Carnotaurus may be the responsible for the recent decline of the classic carnivore Ceratosaurus in media, as both dinosaurs had a similarly horned/tubercled look and the two dinos might be confused with each other, even though their look was rather different (see also Ceratosaurus in another section). But also note a bit of resemblance both in shape and in name between the Carnotaur and a mythical critter, the Minotaur. This association may have at least subconsciously led to it becoming a go-to bad guy dinosaur.

  1. Entry Time: 1995
  2. Trope Maker: The Lost World - Jurassic Park (novel)

Heavy claws: Baryonyx *

File:Suchomimus-baryonyx 877.jpg

Walker's Heavy Claw

A cousin of Spinosaurus that lived in Europe in the Early Cretaceous, 130--125 mya, alongside Iguanodon. Discovered in 1983 in Southern England and named in 1986, its find got massive media coverage at the time (especially the British media); in part because, being 30 ft / 9 m long, Baryonyx was the largest and most complete European giant theropod, but mostly because it was very different to other dinosaurs known at the time, with its crocodile-like face (Spinosaurus was still portrayed as tyrannosaur-like in the 1980s), and very special forelimbs.

Baryonyx means "heavy claw" and the animal has been nicknamed "Claws" because of its 10 inch / 25 cm long, hook-like thumb-claws, bigger than the other two fingers on each hand. Since its forelimbs were longer and stronger than in most other theropods[1], it is speculated that it might have fed by resting on its front legs on a riverbank and swept large fish such as the carp-like Lepidotes from the river with its powerful claw, a bit like grizzly bears do with salmon. We know for sure fish were included in its diet: scales of Lepidotes were found inside the ribcage of the only well-known Baryonyx specimen.

Baryonyx was the first discovered fish-eater among dinosaurs, and several traits scientists today assign to Spinosaurus were initially based on Baryonyx. Together, these dinosaurs (plus Suchomimus and few others) form the Spinosauridae family. Their gharial-like jaws seem to suggest they were fish-eaters or at least generalists eating fish, small prey, and carcasses.

Since the 1980s, Baryonyx has been one of the most frequently-portrayed large theropods in popular dino-books. On the other hand, it has long been ignored in Fictionland or even most TV documentaries. It came into the spotlight only in 2009 thanks to the Ice Age 3: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs film. Here an oversized Baryonyx is the Pseudo-Rexing Big Bad who even defeats the T. rexes just like the JP3 Spinosaur (in Real Life Baryonyx was slightly smaller than T.rex).

  1. Entry Time: 2009
  2. Trope Maker: Ice Age 3

The "spitter": Dilophosaurus **

Dilophosaurus lived 197 million years ago in Early Jurassic North America and maybe China. It was one of the first theropods to have exceeded human size (20 ft / 6 m long and weighing 500 kg). Smaller and more slender than the other carnivores listed above, it's closest relative was the dog-sized Coelophysis. Its most easily recognizable trait is the two parallel crests on its skull (perhaps only in males). These fragile and vulnerable structures indicate that it was no Badass dinosaur. Its head was long and narrow with weak jaws and teeth, so maybe it was a mere scavenger or a small prey hunter.

Dilophosaurus was first described in 1954 in Arizona from scant remains lacking the head, and was initially thought to be another species of the "wastebasket taxon" Megalosaurus. The first head complete with double-crest was found only several years later; in 1970, the animal received the name Dilophosaurus, "double-crested lizard". It's unlikely that many people outside the dino-fandom had ever heard of Dilophosaurus before the novel Jurassic Park was published in 1990. Here it was depicted as capable of spitting venom like some species of cobra, which it probably couldn't do in Real Life (venomous saliva is unknown among modern birds and crocodiles).

Two years later, the JP movie made the dilophosaur even more popular and even more incorrect. Its size was greatly decreased (it's possible that the animal seen is a juvenile), but above all, Spielberg added a totally improbable Frilled Lizard -like cowl on its neck. It certainly did not have this frill; it would require a lot of specific musculature on the neck, and the imprint of this would be visible on the skeleton (it isn't). Still, all later popular depictions have represented Dilophosaurus with this thing.

Just like Velociraptor, Dilophosaurus became a household name after the film, commonly known as the Spitting Dinosaur. Even though it has not appeared in any of the sequels, the JP portrayal has remained in pop-consciousness, coincidentally preventing the Real Life animal from become more widely-known. Today, the ever-increasing public interest in dinosaurs (mainly started thanks to Jurassic Park) is making Spielberg’s Mix and Match Critter more and more of a Lost Subtrope.

  1. Entry Time: 1990
  2. Trope Maker: Jurassic Park (novel)

Pre-rex stock theropods

It's interesting to note that some large meat-eaters entered in pop-culture before T. rex, but have become less-portrayed just since T. rex was discovered.

The usurped big brother: Allosaurus **

File:Allosaurus - copia 5858.png

Fragile Different Lizard

Allosaurus lived 155 to 150 million years ago in North America, Europe and maybe Africa. [2] Along with Tyrannosaurus, it has traditionally been the large carnivorous dinosaur. First discovered in 1877 during the Bone Wars, it’s the scientifically most well-known large theropod. Dozens of specimens have been found so far in Western USA, including a veritable “graveyard” in Utah. The name Allosaurus literally means "other lizard": Othniel Charles Marsh's article naming it gives no reason for the bland choice.

Allosaurus was the top predator in the Late Jurassic. Its hunting behavior is still uncertain, but in documentaries and pop-books it usually appears as a pack-hunter capable of bringing down the biggest sauropods like Diplodocus (like in the memorable The Ballad Of Big Al), Apatosaurus, or even Brachiosaurus. Maybe Allosaurus more often hunted medium-sized prey such as young sauropods, and ornithopods like Camptosaurus.

Allosaurus entered pop culture before Tyrannosaurus. After its description, was briefly considered the “biggest land carnivore ever” together with “Megalosaurus”. In Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (1912) the two scientists encounter a giant carnivore, and argue about whether it is an Allosaurus or a Megalosaurus (maybe a reference to the recent "bone wars".). When Tyrannosaurus Rex found its way into pop-consciousness, Allosaurus automatically became its Poor Man's Substitute, as the two animals tend to be easily confused with each other in the public mind.

Actually, Allosaurus is rather easy to distinguish from T. rex. It was smaller, less heavily built, its head was narrower with two small bosses protruding in front of its eyes, and it had longer, stronger front arms with three clawed fingers rather than two. All these differences tend to be glossed over in popular media. The fact that T. rex itself has often been depicted with strong arms with three functional digits (e.g. in Disney's Fantasia) doesn't help, either.

Among the official Allosaurus appearances in cinema, the Ray Harryhausen ones are the most remembered. The allosaur is the go-to carnosaur of his movies, appearing in One Million Years BC and playing the role of Gwangi in The Valley of Gwangi. Ray's critters looked just like that of Fantasia, with the same mishmash of allosaur and tyrannosaur features; the only difference is that Harryhausen's theropods have Evil Eyebrows (this may be forgivable for some, considering the aforementioned eye bosses).

  1. Entry Time: 1912
  2. Trope Maker: The Lost World

Horned rex, or what?: Ceratosaurus *

Ceratosaurus lived in the same place as Allosaurus in the late Jurassic, 153-148 mya. Usually 17-23 ft / 5-7 m long, it was smaller than most other Stock Theropods above, but still a powerful animal. Its look was that of an undersized allosaur, with the same eye-bosses and long forelimbs. Its name, “horned lizard”, underlines its more distinctive anatomical feature: a laterally-flat crest on its nose, classically described as a “nasal horn”. It was also the only known theropod to have armor in the form of bony plates along the middle of its back. Despite the resemblance, Ceratosaurus was actually more archaic than Allosaurus. [3].

Ceratosaurus was first found during the "bone wars" like Allosaurus, but is much rarer in the fossil record than the latter. In paleo-art and documentaries Ceratosaurus is usually shown either as a scavenger or an underdog predator. While the allosaur is seen as the "lion" of its time, the ceratosaur might be considered the "hyena"; with its smaller size, longer teeth and stronger jaws, the comparison works. Since Real Life spotted hyenas are not lions' underdogs (as seen in the Lion King) with both co-dominating the top-predator niche, its possible that ceratosaurs and allosaurs had a similar relationship.

The horn on its nose and the armor make Ceratosaurus the most "dragon-looking" of the theropods known at the start of the 20th century. It's not a big surprise that it appeared in so many classic dino-films, from simple cameos (like Fantasia) up to being the main dino-actor (like the Harryhausen Movie Animal World, in which two ceratosaurs get into a fight and fall off a cliff). Ceratosaurus holds the record of being the first dinosaur ever shown in non-animated cinema --the 1914 film Brute Force pitted cavemen vs dinosaurs and started the Dinosaurs Are Dragons trope. In the following fiction Ceratosaurus received the same treatment of Allosaurus, acting as a T. rex substitute for the Big Bad part. With its distinctive look, the ceratosaur has lower chances than the allosaur to be confused with the tyrannosaur; on the other hand, its size was often exaggerated to make it more of a "horned tyrannosaur".

Ceratosaurus is quite rare in films these days: the only relevant example is a short cameo in Jurassic Park 3, in which it’s not even named (but at least is correct-sized). Even modern documentaries rarely represent it –the Walking with Dinosaurs series didn’t show it at all. The recent Ceratosaurus decline is probably due to the occurrence of other, newly-discovered theropods since the seventies: Carnotaurus in particular, being similar yet even more Badass looking.

  1. Entry Time: 1914
  2. Trope Maker: Brute Force (film)

The first named non-bird dinosaur: Megalosaurus *

File:Megalosaurus - copia 7102.jpg

Buckland's Great Lizard

We’ll already mentioned Megalosaurus more than once. Why? Well, both because it was the first giant theropod known to science, and because shows neatly how Science Marches On is normal stuff in dino-science. Its first remain, a lower jaw with a single tooth left, was found in Southern England in 1824 and described by Reverend William Buckland as belonging to a “big lizard” (the meaning of its name). Buckland didn’t realize to have named the very first non-avian dinosaur. At the time, the Dinosaur category didn't even exist in scientific literature.

The scientific and popular view of what a megalosaur was has gone through several drastic changes. The first attempt at reconstruction, the life-size sculpture in Crystal Palace Park constructed in the 1850s, made the Megalosaurus a dragon-like animal walking on all fours. Next to the Megalosaurus was an Iguanodon sculpture (also quadrupedal), and for several decades this was the stock image of the world of dinosaurs: one herbivorous dragon facing a carnivorous dragon in combat. From this time is Charles Dickens' novel Bleak House (1853) where Megalosaurus is mentioned, described as an "elephantine lizard". New genera of large carnivores were described during the Bone Wars, such as Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus, whose better remains showed clearly bipedal animals. Since then, Megalosaurus has been reconstructed bipedal as well. Even with their correct shapes, the “Megalosaurus vs Iguanodon” battle has remained a classic in non-fictional portrayals (a bit like “Tyrannosaurus vs Triceratops”), even though in Real Life the megalosaur was a middle Jurassic animal (166 mya), while the iguanodont lived 40 million years after in the Early Cretaceous.

The tendence to classify theropod fossils of every kind as Megalosaurus started soon after its first description. After the Bone Wars, Megalosaurus still remained a "Wastebasket taxon" to which all finds that were too incomplete or too ambiguous were assigned. Megalosauruses cropped up everywhere from North America to Africa and from Early Jurassic to Late Cretaceous. Finally, scientists sorted out outsiders into more than 20 genera (Carcharodontosaurus, Dilophosaurus, and Eustreptospondylus among them). This clean-up ended only in the 1990s.

The “modern” Megalosaurus is a fairly generic theropod some 30 ft / 9 m in length, similar to a robust allosaur but smaller and more primitive. Even though is mentioned in dinosaur books and some docus due to its historical significance, it stayed anonymous in pop-culture, and was rarely if ever found in recent popular works. The TV show Dinosaurs has one “megalosaur” in the form of Bob Sinclair: but he doesn't look particularly like any dinosaur at all. A near appearance is the Eustreptospondylus in Walking with Dinosaurs, which was a smaller and more slender close relative.

  1. Entry Time: 1852
  2. Trope Maker: Crystal Palace Park

Other large theropods

Sorry, these ones aren't here. If you're looking for Tarbosaurus, Albertosaurus, Megaraptor, Suchomimus, Majungasaurus, and so on, go here.

Bird-like / small theropods

Here is a list of several bird-like and/or small theropods that make some appearance in media, although less commonly than the iconic "Raptors".

The "first bird": Archaeopteryx **

File:Archaeopteryx - copia 6453.png

Stone-Engraved Ancient Wing

Archaeopteryx [4] lived around 150-148 million years ago in Late Jurassic Europe. Its name means "ancient wing" or "ancient feather"; another obsolete synonym very common in old textbooks was Archaeornis, "ancient bird". Both terms are very meaningful about its historical relevance. It is sometimes known as the "Urvogel", which is German for "original bird".

Archaeopteryx was discovered 1861 in the famed Solnhofen deposit in Germany, whose rocks have preserved fossils so well that even soft parts of animals are visible. Because of this, most specimens of Archaeopteryx found later in Germany were found with impressions of feathers. Charles Darwin had published On the Origin of Species two years earlier, and in the following debate this "half-reptile" / "half-bird" became a key piece of evidence. A century later, Archaeopteryx was again used as crucial evidence, this time in John Ostrom's theory that modern birds had evolved within the theropod group - before, the archaeopteryx was believed a descender from non-dinosaurian Triassic archosaurs.

Archaeopteryx has had a somewhat unique role among stock prehistoric animals: just like the Dodo is the icon of Extinction, Archaeopteryx has been that of Evolution. Within the long-lasting debate between evolutionists and creationists, the latter went so far to claim Archaeopteryx fossils are just fake.

According to modern knowledge Archaeopteryx is just another feathered theropod (possibly a bird, possibly a deinonychosaur, possibly more primitive than either). [5] It has a long tail, three claws on its forelimbs, running feet with an enlarged second toe claw, jaws with small, pointed teeth, and feathers. The main difference is that its feathers aren't just skin-covering down; it has flight feathers of very modern-looking shape in its wings and tail. Archaeopteryx could probably fly as well as a modern pheasant, peacock, or roadrunner, according to research published in Nature Communications in March 2018 and reported by Reuters in the mass media. Its classic status as “the first bird” is merely traditional at this point, and the start of the “bird lineage” within the theropod branch depends on the chosen criteria to define what’s a bird and its exact position. Still, it remains one of the most ancient known dinosaurs found with prints of feathers.

In media, Archaeopteryx is fairly established as the "first bird". It will fly like a bird, and perch like a bird, neither of which was possible for the real-life Archaeopteryx. Media archeopteryges will lack the sickle claws on their feet, and possibly also their wing-fingers and teeth. Like deinonychosaurs, expect also to see them with a naked head, making them resembling “feathered lizards”. Actually, their head would have been almost totally feathered like deinonychosaurs and most modern birds (see Raptor Attack).

  1. Entry Time: 1861
  2. Trope Maker: Itself

Lighter and softer: Ornithomimus, Struthiomimus, and Gallimimus **

File:Struthiomimus - copia 3461.jpg

Tall Ostrich Mimic

Ornithomimus was a small, agile animal (the antithesis to the classical Mighty Glacier dinosaur) that lived in North America between 75--65 million years ago, in the Late Cretaceous. It was 12 feet / 3.5 meters long and weighed around 220--330 lbs / 100--150 kg. Its shape was similar to a long-tailed ostrich. It had a long neck with a birdlike skull and a toothless beak. The brain and eyes were large, possibly an adaptation to support quick movement. Its tail was very long, balancing the animal when running. The legs were similar to modern running birds, with short muscular femurs, elongated tibias / shins, and three toes each. With this anatomy, it may have been the fastest non-avian dinosaur. It was most likely feathered. However, it probably only had down-covering, not true vaned feathers or “wings”.

The diet of Ornithomimus and its relatives is still uncertain, as no stomach remains are known for now. Their large numbers, among other things, seems to indicate that they were mainly herbivorous with insects, eggs, and small animals as a supplement. In the middle 2000s, it was suggested they were filter-feeders like flamingos (as seen in Prehistoric Park), but now this hypothesis is disproved.

Ornithomimus is the prototype of the Ornithomimids (“bird-mimic dinosaurs”, also known as "ostrich-mimic dinosaurs"). It also includes Struthiomimus and Gallimimus among the others. The former was almost identical to the namesake of the family, lived in North America in the same period, and has in some places outside the USA been treated as the prototypical ornithomimid. The genus “Dromiceiomimus” was briefly separated from Ornithomimus during the 1970s, but has since been merged back. This means the character Dromiceiomimus in Dinosaur Comics is actually an Ornithomimus.

Discovered in the 1970s, Gallimimus was one of the largest ornithomimids - 20 ft / 6 m long, with some reports of sizes up to 8 meters long, as long as several giant predatory theropods. It lived in Mongolia in the late Cretaceous, 70 mya. Apart from its longer, blunter snout and slightly shorter legs, its appearance was that of an enlarged Ornithomimus. With its large fossil record Gallimimus has become a common sight in dino-books since the eighties, but has entered the pop-consciousness only after Jurassic Park (the film, not the novel, which has Maiasaura in the stampede scene).

In popular media, ornithomimids were fast-moving and graceful even before the Dinosaur Renaissance. They were often depicted as egg-stealers outwitting larger dinosaurs, like in the Land Before Time (possibly due to confusion with Oviraptor). Even though they could have eaten some eggs, there is no evidence this was a major part of their diet. Furthermore, being not "maniraptorans" ("robbing hands"), they probably couldn't grasp things so easily as the latter did. Today, the "robbing" role is more often attributed to other small theropods like the deinonychosaurs.

  1. Entry Time: 1940 (Ornithomimus/Struthiomimus); 1993 (Gallimimus)
  2. Trope Maker: Fantasia (Ornithomimus/Struthiomimus); Jurassic Park film (Gallimimus)

Cannibals, or what? Coelophysis *

One of the first true dinosaurs to appear on Earth, Coelophysis lived in Late Triassic North America 216 to 203 million years ago, although fragmentary material suggests a near worldwide distribution lasting up to 188 million years ago. Described during the Bone Wars from some pieces of bone, today it is by far the most abundant early theropod in fossil record. In the 1940s, a whole graveyard with hundreds of specimens was found in New Mexico; traditionally said to have dead all together in a flood, this could not be true however.

Coelophysis was a slim, fast-running dinosaur growing up to 10 ft / 3 m. Coelophysis looks like a fragile animal, with a narrow head, weak jaws with small pointed teeth, and a long, stork-like neck (sometimes improperly described as "snake-like"). As an early theropod, Coelophysis was not very closely related to birds. For example, it had still a remnant of the forth digits on each hand, and the presence of feathers is unlikely. Still, it had bird-like features showing how far back in time the dinosaur--bird link goes. For example, its bones were hollow and had airsacs within them (its name just means "hollow frame"), and it also had a wishbone, a typical bird trait.

Coelophysis probably hunted down small prey, which it swallowed whole. While it could have hunted in packs, there is no evidence for such behavior. Bones found in the stomachs of adult specimens from the aforementioned "graveyard" were reported to belong to young Coelophysis, leading the dinosaur to be described as cannibalistic. Later studies have determined that the bones in question were animals of other species.

Coelophysis has been very common in books and documentaries as an example of an early dinosaur. For example, it appears as the show-opener of Walking with Dinosaurs (displaying cannibalism and pack behavior). It has been less common in popular media, since it is too humble-looking and generic to be interesting; the most known appearance may be "Spot" from the 1974 children's television series Land of the Lost.

  1. Entry Time: 1974
  2. Trope Maker: Land of the Lost

Dinosaurs as pets: Compsognathus *

File:Compsognathus - copia 4382.jpg

Long-Footed Elegant Jaw

Compsognathus was native to Europe 150 million years ago, lived alongside the famed "first bird" Archaeopteryx, in the same habitat made of small islands. Like the “urvogel”, it was one of the first dinosaurs described, in the same years of the latter. Even though is little-known, it could have been the first dinosaur ever found from an almost-complete skeleton.

Only 4 ft long and weighing few kilograms, Compsognathus is the smallest Stock Dinosaur (not counting Archaeopteryx and Microraptor, which could be considered stock by some at this point). It had an elegant frame, running legs, long tail, and elongated head with weak jaws and peg-like teeth. In paleo-art, is usually shown as a hunter of insects, small vertebrates and sometimes archaeopteryges (the latter is unlikely though). Once portrayed with two-fingered, T. rex-like hands and sometimes even fin-like hands, Compsognathus actually had typical three-fingered hands (the errors were due to the incompleteness of the two known specimen's hands).

If you hear about it in documentary media, it will likely be for two things: its former record of "the smallest dinosaur" (classically described as chicken-sized, its size was upgraded by later finds) and its former status as "the closest relative of Archaeopteryx" (despite similarities, it was possibly less-close to birds than tyrannosaurs). Though Compsognathus may at least have had downy covering, it had not pennaceous feathers.

A common sight in classic dino-books, the apparition in The Lost World: Jurassic Park in 1997 brought Compsognathus some popularity among a wider public. In the film, it is a deceptively cute critter which attacks in huge packs and kills humans with a paralytic bite. While Compsognathus may have been cute (its name means "dainty-jaw"), in Real Life there is no indication of social behavior, and its jaws and teeth were strictly adapted to catch small prey. The fact that the original specimen's stomach cavity contained only a small lizard would tend to support this.

  1. Entry Time: 1997
  2. Trope Maker: The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Brooding or robbing, lord or thief: Citipati, going by the name of Oviraptor *

File:Citipati - copia 138.jpg

Osmolska's Pyre Lord; NOT Horned-faced Loving Egg Thief

Lived in Late Cretaceous Asia 75 million years ago. First discovered in Mongolia in 1924 together with Protoceratops and Velociraptor, this emu-sized, toothless theropod was originally thought to be an ornithomimid. Since the 1970s it is classified into its own family, even closer related to birds. Oviraptor is considered to have had a very bird-like covering of feathers, with feathered wings and a feathered tail fan. It probably had a crest on its head.

It was given the name Oviraptor, meaning "egg-thief", because its first remains (a crushed skull) was found next to a clutch of eggs which were thought to belong to the small ceratopsian Protoceratops. In the 1990s the eggs were found to contain oviraptor chicks: the specimen was brooding its eggs. This was further confirmed few years later, when an oviraptorid skeleton was found just above a nest full of the same kind of eggs. The actual diet of oviraptorids is a matter of speculation – they could have been fruit-eaters, predators, or both; they could even have fed on eggs if given the chance.

Interestingly, the most complete Oviraptor skeletons have been recently reclassified in a brand new genus, Citipati. The most common image of the oviraptor, with the square bony crest, probably belongs to this new genus. Note that this is not a "Brontosaurus"/Apatosaurus case: the genus Oviraptor is still valid, it's just that many specimens that used to be considered to belong to the genus are now considered Citipati, and that the actual Oviraptor is very unlike its depictions, lacking any known crest and being far smaller that its emu-sized relative.

In media, expect to see featherless oviraptors (sometimes mixed up with ornithomimids), stealing eggs from other dinosaurs' nests. E.g. in the 2000 Disney movie Dinosaur, a featherless Oviraptor steals Aladar's egg (but loses it before it has a chance to eat the contents). More recently, an Oviraptor appeared in The Land Before Time TV series: feathered, not egg-stealing and with a Citipati-like tall crest on its head. In Dinotopia, one (featherless) variation of Oviraptor is known as "Ovinutrix" ("egg-nurse"); the other variation is feathered.

  1. Entry Time: 2000
  2. Trope Maker: Disney's Dinosaur

The big brain: Troodon and the "Dinosauroid" *

File:Troodon - copia 9534.png

Handsome Wounding Tooth

Living in North America some 75--65 million years ago alongside giant tyrannosaurs, Troodon was a small dinosaur only around 7.9 ft / 2.4 m in length and weighing some 110 lb / 50 kg. It was still the largest member of the troodontid family, a sibling family to Dromaeosauridae and among the closest relatives to birds. Troodontids looked a lot like dromaeosaurids (see Velociraptor, above), including having feather covering, but their toe claw was less formidable and their legs were longer.

Troodon had larger eyes and ears than most dinosaurs, and a relatively large brain. Its forwards-pointing eyes show binocular vision. With its small, relatively blunt teeth, It was likely a mostly-carnivorous omnivore, but has been classically portrayed as a quick, cunning nocturnal hunter of small mammals, with grasping hands, bulbous eyes, and cat-like or even gecko-like pupils.

Its first remain was a single tooth (hence the name, “wounding tooth”), one of the very first north-american dinosaurs found (1856), but initially believed a lizard, then a pachycephalosaurian. Meanwhile, a small theropod, Stenonychosaurus, was described in the 1920s, and classified as a generic “coelurosaur”. In the 1980s, one scientists found the two animals being one and the same, and Stenonychosaurus fell in disuse in favor to Troodon. In the same years, scientists found the troodont’s brain being the biggest respect-to-the-size among all dinosaurs: this gave to it the reputation of “the smartest dinosaur” in popular books - despite this, its brain was still smaller than most modern birds.

However, the troodont’s presence in fiction has been only occasional (despite an emergent tend to feature it in documentaries), and not related to the actual animal but to that could be called its “altmode”. In 1982 Canadian paleontologist Dale Russel conjectured a possible way that descendants of Troodon could have evolved had it not gone extinct along with the rest of the dinosaurs. If its brain had kept increasing in size, today it would have been comparable to a human's. Combined with further evolution of its bipedal movement, binocular vision, and semi-manipulative hands, the resulting "Dinosauroid" was proposed to be a blend of (featherless) dinosaurian and humanoid features. The Dinosauroid has made a few appearances in novels and TV series; its Real Life dino-ancestor usually gets mentioned. It's worth noting that the Dinosauroid model resembles the Sleestaks of Land of the Lost (1974--1977), possibly a case of Sure Why Not

  1. Entry Time: uncertain
  2. Trope Maker: the "Dinosauroid" hypothesis in the 80s.

Other small or birdlike theropods

Sorry, these ones aren't here. If you're looking for Dromaeosaurus, Ornitholestes, Therizinosaurus, Mononykus, Deinocheirus, and so on (and the Liaoning feathered dinosaurs of course), go here. Or here.

Long-necked plant-eaters

The Sauropodomorphs ("sauropod-shaped") include dinosaurs with long necks. Most of them pertain to the Sauropods subgroup, while all the other members are traditionally called Prosauropods.


Sauropods are the (mostly) gigantic quadrupedal plant-eating dinosaurs with long necks and tails. Some of them were the largest land animals that ever lived, but not quite as massive as they seem: the weight was brought down significantly by a system of air sacs in hollow bones, similar to theropod (and hence, bird) skeletons. Since sauropods are rather similar to each other in size and appearance, only a few of them will usually be identified / identifiable in Fictionland. All the stock members were from the late Jurassic period, but sauropods from the early Jurassic to the end of the late Cretaceous are known as well. Although their distribution was worldwide, the most popular species were all North American.

If a writer relies on the science of the sixties, a featured sauropod is up to its armpits in water and living in swamps while lazily munching some swamp weed. There was a widely-spread but wrong hypothesis that they needed to spend most of their time in water to support their massive bulk: in Real Life, they would have slipped in the mud with fatal consequences. If lucky enough to survive the fall, they'd starve to death from lack of nutritious food. If submerged, their ribcage wouldn't even be capable to expand due to water pressure, suffocating them.

Another common mistake when portraying sauropods is to show them with elephant-like nails or hooves; they actually had true claws. They had a thumb-claw on each forefoot (the remaining four digits were greatly reduced) and three claws on each hindfoot (which had five, or sometimes four, toes). Even so, in most portraits that do show clawed sauropods, they usually have four or five claws on each feet.

Apatosaurus, aka "Brontosaurus" ***

Lived in the Late Jurassic (154 to 150 million years ago) in what is now the USA. It was large, 75 ft / 23 m long and weighing at least 23 metric tons (equal to roughly four elephants). The neck and tail added up to about 2/3 of its total length. The head was small and slender; the teeth were peg-like and only in the jaw-tips. The nasal openings were fused and, curiously, placed on the tip of the skull. The neck was rather short compared with other sauropods; cervical ribs widened it. The body was stocky and deep; the hips were taller than the shoulders. The legs were robust (even more so than in most sauropods), the hindlimbs longer than the forelimbs. The tail was very long, thin and whiplike near the end. The size is often exaggerated in popular writing, for instance by claiming that it was the largest dinosaur, or that it weighed as much as 10 elephants.

Found in the 1870s during the "bone wars", for a long time this was the iconic image of a sauropod. Apatosaurus and Tyrannosaurus were the ultimate stock dinosaurs in their respective roles as herbivore and carnivore, and contenders for the title of overall iconic dinosaur. In classic dino-stories the apatosaur's designated role is the Gentle Giant (while T. rex is the Big Bad and Triceratops the Badass)... unless Everything Trying to Kill You, of course. In the classical version of King Kong, apatosaurs are meat eaters.

Apatosaurus ("deceptive lizard": a stunningly apt name) is actually better known as "Brontosaurus" ("thunder lizard"), though the name change is beginning to penetrate into public consciousness. The name confusion stems from the fact that in the 1870s, two Apatosaurus finds were individually described as the type species of a new genus, Apatosaurus in one case and "Brontosaurus" in the other. In 1903, it was determined that the specimens belonged to the same genus, and as the name Apatosaurus had precedence being created first, the name "Brontosaurus" was dropped.

When the first ever mounted display of a sauropod skeleton was erected at Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History in 1905, it was based on a mostly complete Apatosaurus skeleton, with missing parts borrowed from other sauropod specimens[6]. However, the Museum chose to label the display "Brontosaurus". Other museums followed suit with similar "Brontosaurus" displays. Popular writing and dino-art kept spreading the incorrect name, and the ghost of "Brontosaurus" still haunts Apatosaurus, as does the image of the short, round head.

Peter Jackson's King Kong Remake referenced this situation by having a newly-discovered dinosaur on Kong Island be named Brontosaurus in the special features on the DVD. A nice homage, but in reality, once a name is used, even if it's invalidated, it can never be used again for a new animal, lest later researchers be left with no idea which Brontosaurus you're talking about.

Winsor Mackay's famous 1914 Gertie the Dinosaur made "Brontosaurus" the very first dinosaur in cinema. Interestingly, she’s shown as a land-animal, anticipating a largely-discarded theory for more than half a century. Gertie has also the correct head-shape of an apatosaur. However, since the “brontosaur” head was considered round at the time, some hypothize she’s actually a stocky Diplodocus.

  1. Entry Time: 1905
  2. Trope Maker: display at Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History (as "Brontosaurus")

The "longest": Diplodocus **

File:Diplodocus - copia 5265.png

Carnegie's Double Beam

The second well-known sauropod is Diplodocus. Like Apatosaurus, this dinosaur lived in western North America during the Late Jurassic Period, 154--150 million years ago. Both dinosaurs belonged to the same family, Diplodocidae, and many features of Apatosaurus (the whip-like tail, the skull-shape, and the longer hindlimbs) are shared by Diplodocus as well. Unlike Apatosaurus, Diplodocus’ portraits have always had a narrow-ended tail and the long head with a flattened snout typical of diplodocids (the Diplodocus’ skull and tail-end are known since the first discoveries). This means, the two animals can be easily distinguished from each other in older media (unless the artists Did Not Do the Research or They Just Didn't Care).

In more updated depictions, their overall profile is the main key to tell Diplodocus apart from Apatosaurus. The various Diplodocus species were longer than apatosaurs, from about 80 ft / 24 m to 115 ft / 35 m, but weighed only about half as much (10--16 metric tons); the Diplodocus shape was more slender and elegant than the robust Apatosaurus, with a longer, slimmer neck. Diplodocus has classically been qualified as “the longest dinosaur”, but this record is now contended by other diplodocids, like Supersaurus.

All diplodocid sauropods had long tails, but Diplodocus took this to an extreme. Its tail had 80 vertebrae and was 14 m long, longer than a T. rex! It has been speculated that the thin end of the tail could have been used as a whip directly against threats, or indirectly by making whip-cracking sounds. The tail vertebrae also had double beams (hence the name Diplodocus: "double beam") that may have protected the blood vessels inside the tail when the tail pressed against the ground. The animal could have been using its tail as a support together with its hindlimbs, lifting its forequarters to reach higher vegetation.

Found during the Bone-Wars like Apatosaurus, Diplodocus was introduced to the public courtesy of Andrew Carnegie some decades later. He sponsored an expedition that discovered a new Diplodocus species (which was named Diplodocus carnegii), and had the remains mounted in his museum in Pittsburgh. He then donated replicas of it to museums all over the world; as a result, in some places (expecially Britain) Diplodocus became the iconic sauropod, rather than "Brontosaurus" as in the USA.

In recent years, the documentary Walking with Dinosaurs has made popular some recent theories about Diplodocus and sauropods in general: the straight, horizontal neck posture and the iguana-like spiky back. The first is due to analysis of the neck vertebrae using computer models; the second arose from a discovery made in the 1990s of a diplo with prints of horny spikes near its back. Both theories are now disputed: maybe sauropods could fold their neck and lift it like most modern long-necked animals, while the spikes might be spread over the animal's back instead of one a single line. We don't know if other sauropods did have such a feature, but spiky longnecks are now a common sight in books and art.

  1. Entry Time: 1905
  2. Trope Maker: Carnegie Museum skeleton and subsequent replicas

The "tallest": Brachiosaurus **

File:Brachiosaurus - copia 4555.png

High Chested Arm Lizard

This is the third member of the iconic sauropod Power Trio and lived along Apatosaurus and Diplodocus in Late Jurassic North America, 154-153 mya. Since its first description at the start of the 20th century, it was considered “The biggest land animal ever!” until really or allegedly new sauropod kinds were described since the 1970s (see further). Generally thought to weigh between 30 and 50 tons, Brachiosaurus has often been oversized in popular books, so far as to triple its size up to 130 tons, which would make it heavier than any animal alive today, except for the blue whale.

Brachiosaurs are visually distinct from diplodocids in several ways: short, blunt tails; very long, strong, giraffe-like necks; the back slopes backwards instead of forwards, and the forelegs are longer than the back legs (hence Brachiosaurus, "arm-lizard"). The classic portrayals also show a domed head with the nostrils on its tip. We now know it was more squared. [7]

As with other sauropods, it was associated with water in older reconstructions. To accommodate its upright shape, Brachiosaurus was often shown totally submerged in lakes, with only their head and, sometimes, only their nostrils above the water level. Needless to say, this is quite unrealistic. [8] In modern portrayals, Brachiosaurus has often been described as a "prehistoric giraffe" capable of browsing the highest vegetation that other sauropods were not capable to reach – unless diplodocids were able to stand upright on their hindlegs. Brachiosaurs probably weren’t capable of the latter having their center of gravity much farther forward, and their shorter tails didn't provide support (it would only bring a little bit of extra reach anyway). In popular media, they still do: in Jurassic Park, a brachiosaur is rearing up its hindlegs to reach a tiny branch. In Disney's Dinosaur, the brachiosaur Baylene is able to remain in a fully erect position for 30 seconds to break the wall of a cave with her forefeet.

Also in Jurassic Park, a brachiosaur is shown with an oversized head with fleshy lips, chewing vegetation like a cow. Sauropods didn't chew: their teeth were more suited to cutting plant material (in the case of the brachiosaur), or to raking it like a comb (like the diplodocids). Even worse, some toys and drawings show brachiosaurs with diplodocid body and legs. They are usually still recognizable, however, having upright necks and the classic domed head.

Sadly, Brachiosaurus recently also went through some naming troubles, but its situation isn't as severe as the Apatosaurus-Brontosaurus deal – the name Brachiosaurus remains valid, however its best-known species, B. brancai, had to be placed in a different genus, named Giraffatitan.[9] This means that much of what we know of Brachiosaurus, as well as its stock-status, should actually be attributed to this "new" dinosaur. Giraffatitan (“titanic giraffe”) was found in Africa in the Tendaguru site, two decades after the original brachiosaur, and, unlike the latter, is known from complete remains. An impressive, 12 m tall Giraffatitan skeleton with a domed-head was mounted in the Berlin museum in the 1930s: this skeleton has been the model of the popular image of the brachiosaur.

  1. Entry Time: 1930s
  2. Trope Maker: Berlin Natural History Museum (now recognized as Giraffatitan)

The "heaviest": Argentinosaurus *

Argentinosaurus was discovered Argentina in 1993. It lived in the Early Cretaceous, 95 mya, unlike the more famous sauropods, the diplodocids and brachiosaurids, which lived earlier during the Jurassic. Argentinosaurus belonged to a group of sauropods called Titanosaurs, which evolved within the Titanosauriformes (which included Brachiosaurus) and replaced the earlier sauropods worldwide in the Cretaceous.

Titanosaurs are based on the genus Titanosaurus which was first described in 1877 and used as a "wastebin taxon" since then. The classification of titanosaur genera is still in debate and many (including Argentinosaurus) are based on fragmentary remains. New finds and further cladistic research may still change the descriptions of these animals. Titanosaurs seem to have been more compact than earlier sauropods, with shorter necks and tails, solid bones, and wider frames. At least some titanosaurs had crocodile-like skin armor; in one case (Saltasaurus) this was fully developed as bony plates similar to Ankylosaurus.

Length and weight estimations of Argentinosaurus are necessarily speculative, but the consensus seems to put the length at 98 ft / 30 m (like Diplodocus) and the weight at about 73 metric tons (about twice a Brachiosaurus). Few people know, however, than another South American titanosaur, Antarctosaurus, has left some remains almost the same size of the argentinosaur, which were found several decades before. Being very scant and dubious, they have been largely ignored.

In 2002, a Walking with Dinosaurs special (Chased by Dinosaurs) featured a herd of Argentinosaurus. In a memorable scene, Nigel Marven hurries to place weight sensors in front of the herd as it approaches, walking straight towards the camera and messing with the viewer's perspective: a very effective demonstration of the immense size of these animals. It’s strange, however, unlike its predator Giganotosaurus, Argentinosaurus has not received much attention in fiction since that. Maybe because, size-related impressiveness apart, the argentinosaurs here do nothing sensational - the adults continue to walk apparently unmoved after the giganotosaurs bring down one of their young.

  1. Entry Time: 2002
  2. Trope Maker: Chased by Dinosaurs

Size matters *

Let's face it--paleontologists are people too. While they carefully excavate fossils in some dusty badlands location, or sort through boxes of collected fossils in chilly museum basements, they can't help but secretly hope to be the one that discovers or describes Badassosaurus mynamii. Sometimes they do strike gold. Most of the time, they report an unremarkable animal and get the satisfaction of a job well done but very little glory. Then, there are cases like these...

  • Supersaurus was found in the 1970s by the same guy who later named “Ultrasaurus”. It was described from a few bones as a brachiosaurid of unusual size, twice as long as Brachiosaurus, and hailed as the first sauropod “bigger than the brachiosaur”. When more remains were found, Supersaurus was reclassified as a diplodocid, longer and more massive than those previously known but not excessively so.
  • Ultrasaurus; this is a story written across The Eighties and The Nineties about two sets of bones and one name. The US set of bones (a bit of backbone and a shoulder girdle) was described as "Ultrasaurus", the largest dinosaur ever... to the press, not in a scientific paper. The South Korean set of bones (a bit of backbone and an upper forearm) was a described few years later as an Ultrasaurus. It later turned out to be a much smaller animal, but kept the name. This, however, prevented the US animal from being called Ultrasaurus officially, so they had to settle for "Ultrasauros". It was still the largest dinosaur, though. Well, at least for a few years, until it was realized that the US set of bones was actually from two different animals, a Supersaurus and a Brachiosaurus: the name "Ultrasauros" was consequently discarded in favor of Supersaurus. The US ultrasaur was depicted as a brachiosaurid 30 m long, 16 m tall and with a weight up to 130 tons. It showed up in some documentaries of the time, and is cited in Calvin and Hobbes as well as in the first JP novel (which mentions the following example, too.)
  • "Seismosaurus"; in the first 1990s “Ultrasaurus” had to face a rival for “the biggest” title: the Seismic Lizard, popularly nicknamed the “Earth-Shaker”. An US diplodocid with an estimated length of 177 ft / 54 m and an estimated weight of 112 tons, which makes it almost twice as long as a Blue whale, and almost 2/3 of the Blue whale's weight. Impressive? Well, when other experts got a look at it they determined that the size calculation had been thrown off by misplaced vertebrae, that 95-110 ft / 29-33 m was a more accurate estimation, and that the seismosaur was simply an old, well-grown Diplodocus. The name "Seismosaurus" is now discarded.
  • Sauroposeidon (the god Poseidon was known too as the "Earth Shaker", geddit?) was described in 2000 based on four neck vertebrae (which were, incidentally, first thought to be petrified logs). As a brachiosaurid, it was probably the tallest animal ever. Living in Early Cretaceous USA along with Deinonychus, some portrayals have depicted deinonychosaurs bringing down adult Sauroposeidon.
  • Paralititan is one of the several newly-found titanosaurians cited as possible contenders of Argentinosaurus for “the biggest” title (another example is Puertasaurus). From the same habitat of Spinosaurus, it is known from a bit of backbone, a shoulder girdle, and an upper forearm. By comparing the bones with the skeleton of a more complete titanosaurid such as Saltasaurus, Paralititan appears to have been 85 ft / 26 m in length and have weighed 59 metric tons. You know, unless it turns out to be a mistake.
  • Bruhathkayosaurus; found in India in the 1990s, this one makes, for now, the Up to Eleven example. Described as a titanosaurian sauropod and extimated up to 220 metric tons, it would be even more massive than a blue whale. However, its formal description is extremely inadequate, and it is speculated that the leg and hip bones found are actually petrified wood. But this is not all: our exotic-named giant was initially regarded as a theropod. Imagine a carnivorous dinosaur 50 times heavier than a T. rex… Unfortunately, Bruhathkayosaurus must now join Amphicoelias below as another "one that got away;" it seems that its bones were never properly stored out of the elements and got washed away during rainstorms.
  • Amphicoelias fragillimus was a diplodocid that may have been 190 ft / 58 m long, and weighed 100 metric tons (making Diplodocus look like a Labrador retriever in comparison)... but the only find since 1878 is a single vertebra, which has been lost. This remain get forgotten until its original description made by Edward Cope became more widely-known in the last decade, mainly thanks to Internet. Considering Cope's efforts to outcompete the archrival Othniel Marsh as “the greatest dino-hunter”, it’s not to exclude that he could have intentionally upsized his vertebra in its drawing.

So, which one is the biggest? Definately Amphicoelias if it really existed, and Argentinosaurus otherwise. Good luck to all of you bone-diggers out there.

  1. Entry Time: 1970s
  2. Trope Maker: sensationalism in media and wishful thinking among paleontologists

Other sauropods:

Sorry, these ones aren't here. If you're looking for Camarasaurus, Mamenchisaurus, Saltasaurus, Cetiosaurus, Barosaurus, and so on, go here.

Sauropod predecessors

Prosauropod means "before the sauropods". Living in the Triassic or Early Jurassic periods, prosauropods were among the very first dinosaurs to appear, and the first dinosaurs to reach elephant size. Some of them may have been the ancestors of the sauropods. The name Prosauropoda isn't formally used nowadays (members of the group are now being referred to as basal sauropodomorphs). Plateosaurus has been considered the prototypical "sauropod predecessor", is the most common in fossil record and one of the largest as well.

The first giant: Plateosaurus *

File:Plateosaurus - copia 1203.jpg

Engelhardt's Broadway Lizard

Lived 216-199 million years ago, in the Triassic Period. Plateosaurus is one of the scientifically better-known dinosaurs, and also the most abundant dinosaur in European fossil record. More than 100 specimens are known, and even a "graveyard", in Southern Germany. Plateosaurus was also one of the first dinosaur described, even before the word “dinosaur” was invented, but Owen didn’t include Plateosaurus in his new group. When the genus was being classified into Dinosauria, it was first placed in the theropod branch and thought carnivorous; later, was moved to the prosauropod group.

Its adult size was astonishingly variable, from 16 ft / 4.8 m up to 33 ft / 10 m, and its weight ranged from 600 kg to 4 metric tons. At a first glance, Plateosaurus looks like a cross between a diplodocid and a theropod. The general body-shape was sauropod-like, with a small head, long neck, sturdy body, and long flexible tail (and also the typical thumb-claws). The limbs and stance were theropod-like; it was bipedal, walking on hind legs that were slightly folded, rather than pillar-like. The hindfeet had distinct digits with a claw on each. The head was rather theropod-shaped too, but their teeth were small and blunt, apt to grabbing vegetation instead of tearing meat.

Traditionally depicted as a slow quadruped which rears up its hindlegs to reach higher foliage (like diplodocids), today Plateosaurus is thought an exclusively bipedal beast, and believed to have been capable of rapid runs if necessary. It may have defended itself with its thumbclaws.

The two stock Triassic dinosaurs, Plateosaurus and Coelophysis, are among the most abundant in fossil record but among the least common in pop-culture. Plateosaurus appearances in fiction are very rare; in documentaries, it is usually shown only to emphasize the rise to power of the dinosaurs - like in Walking with Dinosaurs. Here it appears as mainly quadrupedal, as in most other portraits made before few years ago. However, some Plateosaurus-looking dinosaurs occasionally crop up in TV (like Dino). But they are more likely humanized sauropods or Mix and Match Critter things.

  1. Entry Time: 1940
  2. Trope Maker: Fantasia

Other sauropod predecessors

Sorry, these ones aren't here. If you're looking for Massospondylus, Anchisaurus, and so on, go here.

Armor-bodied plant-eaters

The Thyreophorans ("shield bearers"), were a group of dinosaurs notable for their body armor. Originally small bipeds, later forms were large quadrupeds with distinctive body plans (some members of the group were wider that they were tall). Their armor coverage also tended to get more complete over time, and many developed weapons on the tips of their tails. All but the most primitive forms belong to one of these two groups: stegosaurians and ankylosaurians.


The less-armored thyreophoran group, Stegosaurians were small-headed, mostly Jurassic herbivores that developed large bony plates along their backbone for uncertain purposes, and had pairs of spikes on their tail and sometimes on their shoulders as well. Stegosaurus is the namesake of the group as well as the largest member.

Too dumb to live?: Stegosaurus ***

File:Stegosaurus - copia 4758.jpg

Armored Roof Lizard

Lived in Late Jurassic North America, 155 to 150 million years ago, and was discovered during the Bone Wars like several other Stock Dinosaurs (Allosaurus, Diplodocus, Apatosaurus etc.) [10] One of the most easily recognizable dinosaurs thanks to its bony plates, spike-tail and distinctive silhouette, Stegosaurus has always been one of the most iconic dinosaurs of all, along with T. rex, Triceratops, and a token sauropod. It is regularly portrayed both in films and in cartoons, though usually with a secondary role in respect to sauropods and carnivores.

The several Stegosaurus species were from 24 ft / 7.5 m up to 30 ft / 9 m long, and weighed from 1.5 up to 5 metric tons. Its plates and deep body made it looking bigger than it was when watched from the side: actually, the stegosaur’s body was laterally-flattened, and not so heavy as it seems. Its front-legs were much shorter than hindlegs, and the neck was set low above the ground (but not the same degree as in old portraits). Despite its overall size, Stegosaurus had a remarkably small head, with room for only 2.8 oz / 80 g of brain (often stated as "walnut-sized") [11]. This has made it the most iconic dinosaur within the “Dinosaurs Are Dumb” subtrope (even though sauropods are not far away). The small brain does not mean that stegosaurs and sauropods were witless, though. And they didn’t have a secondary brain in their hip region as is often stated; the extra space there probably accommodated the nerves for the hindquarters.

The back plates were the most distinctive stegosaurian feature, but it isn't entirely clear what their purpose was. Defense, thermoregulation, and display (mating or threat) are the classic hyps, but we haven’t definitive proof for any. The early defense-theory is the most unlikely: the plates were dermic structures not attached to the skeleton, and were rich in blood-vessels (if wounded, they’d have bled a lot, bringing the animal to death). The “solar panel/radiator” theory was the most followed until recent years: it could explain the vessels, and also the singular arrangement of these plates--they were asymmetrically-placed, giving more surface to solar rays. Walking with Dinosaurs popularized the third theory, showing a Stegosaurus reddening its plates and scarying an Allosaurus.

Even the configuration of these plates was until recently debated. Even though Stegosaurus has left dozens of specimens, they are usually found with misplaced plates, making them a sort of puzzle to rebuilt. All combinations were proposed, from a single line to two paired lines. One early theory was they were flat on the back like tiles: this gave to the dinosaur the odd name "Stegosaurus", "roof-lizard". The first still-articulated stegosaur skeleton was found only in the 1990s, and shows alternated plates.

Stegosaurus' tail was muscular and flexible, and could have been put on the ground to lift the animal on its hindlegs and reach higher vegetation (this is not sure however). When swung from side to side, this tail made a powerful weapon against enemies. Near the tip of the tail was a group of four long spikes known as the thagomizer, a term that originates from a Far Side cartoon, later adopted by the paleontological community (you can find it used in serious scientific publications) in an even more awesome case of Sure Why Not than "raptors".

If you see Stegosaurus in popular media, don't be surprised to see inaccuracies. To this day, it could have paired plates or even plates in a single line, instead of zigzagging in two lines. And it could have two, three, five, six, or even eight spikes. In some cases the neck is unrealistically long, like Dinny in Alley Oop, making it resemble a cross between a stegosaurian and a sauropod. In many old films, Stegosaurus is shown as a sorta "predestined loser" against big meat-eaters like Allosaurus, Ceratosaurus or Tyrannosaurus, being too slow to defend itself effectively. On the other hand, in modern portraits Stegosaurus tend to be more a more Badass guy, like in The Lost World: Jurassic Park or Walking with Dinosaurs.

  1. Entry Time: 1912
  2. Trope Maker: The Lost World

Other stegosaurians

Sorry, these ones aren't here. If you're looking for Kentrosaurus, Tuojiangosaurus, and so on, go here.


These are the most well-armored thyreophorans (and dinosaurs), with low frames, quadrupedal stance, strong short legs and armor consisting of bony plates covering the upper part of their body. They were herbivorous and mostly lived during the Cretaceous. They aren't as common as stegosaurians in works, but still crop up occasionally.

The group consists of two, or possibly three, families: ankylosaurids, nodosaurids, and polacanthids (if the latter aren't actually nodosaurids). For a simplified classification scheme, ankylosaurids had a broad head, their armor plates formed a keratin-covered shell with short spikes in many directions, and they usually had a tail club; nodosaurids had a narrow head, rows of osteoderms on their backs and flanks, and longer spikes jutting out sideways; polacanthids were like nodosaurids but with weaker armor and spikes.

An (un-)well-known critter: Ankylosaurus **

Lived in North America around 66-65 million years ago alongside Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops at the end of the Dinosaur Age. It was 20.5 ft / 6.25 m long and possibly weighed up to 6 metric tons, even though some extimations scale it up to 9-10 m. This because, despite its size, its remains are quite scant, with no complete skeletons still found. Its iconic status among ankylosaurians could be explained by its sheer size (it’s often said “the largest ankylosaurian”), but also because its own dinosaurian group is called with its name. Ankylosaurus was also one of the most strongly-armored ankylosaurians – several sources have described it as a “living tank”.

Discovered in 1908 and famous since the 1940s, Ankylosaurus is often portrayed defending itself against some large theropod like T. rex (e.g. the finale of Walking with Dinosaurs), either repairing under its armor or using its tail-club as a medieval mace, breaking the legs of its opponent. This could be actually Truth in Television to a degree since both animals are from the Hell Creek formation, and thus shared the same habitat. It is realistic for ankylosaurians to be depicted as loners, since their fossils are more rare than those of other large herbivores and almost always found isolated.

In works (even documentary ones), the size, shape, and composition of Ankylosaurus are often pictured incorrectly; this is in part due to the incompleteness of the remains. One common mistake is to leave out the tail club, or to have it shaped incorrectly - for example, making it two-lobed like that of its scientifically better-known relative Euoplocephalus: actually it should be elliptical. Another mistake is to add spikes to the "club".

The bony covering on its back should be a snugly fitting mix of large and small plates and be interspersed with short spikes. Many classic portraits, on the other hand, show long spikes only on the sides, in a similar way of the related Nodosaurids. Finally, the broad head should have four horns behind the eyes and the ends of the mouth. Ironically, one of the few correctly-shaped ankylosaurs in cinema is the dog-like Url from Disney's Dinosaurs (he was strongly undersized, but this may be justified if he was a young).

Being related each other, Stegosaurs and Ankylosaurs shared many features. They had the typical Ornithischian jaws, with teeth only on the back and a toothless beak on the tip. However, their beak/teeth were weaker than other ornithischians (ceratopsians, ornithopods); maybe they chewed only soft plant material near the ground-level. Like sauropods, stegosaurians and ankylosaurians tend to be shown as rather slow-moving animals, and pre-“renaissance” depictions did portray four-legged dinosaurs with splayed legs and dragged tails. Actually quadrupedal dinos had erect limbs (among them only sauropods had true claws), and footprints show they usually kept their tails above the ground when walking around.

  1. Entry Time: 1940s
  2. Trope Maker: "The Age of Reptiles" Mural

Other ankylosaurians

Sorry, these ones aren't here. If you're looking for Euoplocephalus, Polacanthus, Nodosaurus, Gastonia, Scelidosaurus, and so on, go here.

Armor-headed plant-eaters

The most recent group of ornithischian dinosaurs, marginocephalians were closer to ornithopods (see further) than to thyreophorans (see previous), and are divided in two very different subgroups: ceratopsians and pachycephalosaurs, unified by their armored head.


The ceratopsians were a group of dinosaurs characterized by a bony "frill" at the back of the neck. Starting as small bipedal animals like all the main dinosaur groups, they evolved towards a heavy quadrupedal body plan, while lengthening the frill and growing horns on their eyebrows and nose. Even though ceratopsians had erect limbs like every other quadrupedal dinosaur, several portraits have shown them with splayed frontal legs.

The ceratopsid family contains all the largest members of the group. Apart from the frill-shape and number/length of the horns, ceratopsids shared the same basic look. They are classically divided in two subgroups: those with long frontal horns, short nasal horn and (usually) long frills; and those with short frill, no frontal horns, and (usually) a long nasal horn. Triceratops is a short-frilled member of the first subgroup, while Styracosaurus is a good example of the second one.

Mr. Three-Horn: Triceratops ***

File:Triceratops - copia 1219.jpg

Horrible Three-Horned Face

Lived 68 to 65 million years ago in Late Cretaceous North America. It was one of the last discoveries from the Bone Wars. [12] Its name means "three-horned face" and is due to its most prominent feature. It was about 26—29.5 ft / 7.9—9 m long and weighing about 6—12 metric tons. Hundreds of skulls are known so far, but not a complete skeleton. Two main species are recognized today, even though up to 15 species were described at one point.

Triceratops has traditionally been considered the largest ceratopsian; its size and abundance in the fossil record have contributed to making it the most popular one. It has always been beloved by dino-fans. Maybe because with its short tail and rhino-like body, it is the least reptilian-looking among the Great Stock Dinos even in older depictions; or maybe, because of its historical reputation as "the only plant-eater able to defeat the Big Bad Tyrannosaurus Rex". Its portrayal in Jurassic Park consolidated Triceratops' popularity even more: the touching scene of the sick triceratops with the caring humans around has remained in public consciousness. And how could we forget the strong temper of Cera in the Land Before Time film?

Compared to other stock dinosaurs, Triceratops and his relatives have been portrayed fairly accurately. The ceratopsids in the original movie The Lost World (the Trope Maker, from year 1925) are nearly as realistic as those seen in the 1999 docu Walking with Dinosaurs (which are actually Torosaurus [13]). Science Marches On even for “Mr. Three-Horn” however, and recent finds indicate that it was covered in bristles.

Triceratops and T. rex have been shown fighting in modern works from the first dino-movies and through the whole paleoartistic tradition (including one especially iconic painting). Though it may even be Truth in Television, it's likely that the tyrannosaur preferred younger and more vulnerable prey than an adult Triceratops. The evident resemblance with rhinos means writers can’t resist the urge to make triceratopses acting like rhinos or even bulls. They’ll be ill-tempered, will charge everything, and could even moo like bovines.

The ceratopsids’ horn structure was more like cattle’s than to a rhino’s: that is, bony protrusions covered with a horny sheath. Their function is still debated: maybe ceratopsian horns were simply display devices. The frequently-seen “Triceratops goring to death a big carnivore” scene could not be realistic, and some think the frontal horns were too fragile and not pointed enough to go through flesh. Another classic hypothesis is that triceratopses locked their horns like deer in head-vs-head combats, based on possible “wounds” found in ceratopsian skulls. However, only some Triceratops specimens show curved frontal horns apt for that, others had straight horns. The frill was variable, too: some individuals had tubercles on its edges, while others had smooth shields. Generally, most media Triceratopses have tubercled frills.

The parrot-like jaws are rarely mentioned, to the point that some authors omit the shape from their models to make Triceratops more like a rhino or a bull. These jaws were the strongest among all plant-eating dinosaurs, filled with sharp cutting teeth behind the parrot bill. These "snips" arguably allowed Triceratops to eat the most fibrous plants. Some thought the powerful maxillary muscles were anchored to the frill, but this is not proven.

  1. Entry Time: 1925
  2. Trope Maker: The Lost World (film)

Mr. Multi-Horn: Styracosaurus **

File:Styracosaurus - copia 6991.jpg

Alberta's Spiked Lizard

Several genera of horned dinosaurs other than Triceratops existed in Late Cretaceous North America, but only some of them have made appearances in pop-culture, and Styracosaurus is the only one to do so with regularity, sometimes as substitute for Triceratops, other times together with it. Being more spectacular but less-common in fossil record than other ceratopsids, this makes the usual Rule of Cool example.

Styracosaurus lived in North America 76—75 million years ago, slightly earlier than Triceratops. It was discovered in 1913 during the second great North American "dino-rush". [14] About half as long as a triceratops (only 18 ft / 5.5 m, weighing nearly 3 tons), the styracosaur was actually even more rhino-like. It had much longer horn above the nose but only hints of horns above its eyes. It had a round, short frill, but this headgear was one to match: several pairs of long spikes protruding from the end of the frill in a rayed manner, and shorter protuberances in the anterior edge. This sort of Horned Hairdo incidentally makes its head resemble the Statue of Liberty. No other known dinosaur had such an ornamentation: other relatives had one isolated pair of spikes at the most, for example Centrosaurus.

Styracosaurus spikes were not true horns as commonly said, but only an Up to Eleven version of those protuberances seen in almost all ceratopsid species. Even though the most common portrayal has six spikes, it seems most specimens had only four. But don’t exclude to see styracosaurs with eight spikes or more in popular works, or even with no frill and the spikes protruding directly from the back of the neck.

Why do ceratopsids have their frill? The bony core has a pair of large holes that make it less heavy but also less useful as protection (Triceratops was the only ceratopsid that didn’t have those holes). The frill could have been raised for threat display. Another hypothesis is that it was a thermoregulating device (like Stegosaurus plates, Triceratops shield seems rich in blood-vessels). Maybe the frill was for making the several ceratopsid species more distinctive (like the hadrosaur crests, see further). It is also possible that frills show sexual dimorphism.

The styracosaur has appeared in several works since the first portrayal in 1933 (in Son Of Kong), and is also a common feature in toys and popular books. On the other hand, recent documentaries haven’t represented it so frequently. Maybe because in Real Life Styracosaurus could not battle Tyrannosaurus Rex as Triceratops did, but only smaller carnivores like Daspletosaurus.

  1. Entry Time: 1933
  2. Trope Maker: Son of Kong

Mr. No-Horn: Protoceratops *

File:Protoceratops - copia 1232.jpg

Andrew's First Horned Face

Protoceratops lived 83—70 million years ago in Late Cretaceous Asia, unlike the giant ceratopsids, which were mostly North American in distribution. It was around 6 ft / 1.8 m in length and weighed no more than 400 lbs / 180 kg. Protoceratopsids are generally smaller and more primitive than ceratopsids, and were once considered the ancestors of the latter group (hence the name, meaning "first horned face"). At a first glance, Protoceratops resembled a miniaturized Triceratops -- four-legged, with the same robust body, short tail, and unmistakeably ceratopsian head. However, it differed from ceratopsids mainly in having no true horns. Other differences include: a simpler frill lacking protuberances; bigger cheek-spikes; stronger parrot-jaws; and legs more adapted to running. The genders could have been sexually dimorphic (larger skulls with a nasal bump and a couple of upper “canine teeth” probably belonged to males).

First discovered in Mongolia in 1922, Protoceratops was the most famous Asian dinosaur until Jurassic Park made Velociraptor famous. Its discoverer, Roy Chapman Andrews, [15] attributed to it some elongated eggs which now are known to belong to Oviraptor. These were the very first dinosaurian eggs ever identified. The original crushed Oviraptor skull was found nearby (see above). A classic in paleo-art is showing Protoceratops hatching its eggs and chasing or even trampling an egg-robbing Oviraptor. However, several nests complete with eggs were found later in Asia, which were actually laid by protoceratopses.

Protoceratops is one of the most abundant Asian dinosaurs in fossil record, with hundreds of specimens discovered so far - earning it the nickname "the sheep of the Cretaceous". Given the large numbers of animals found together, they probably lived in herds. Many juveniles have also been found, and its growth pattern is one of the best understood among dinosaurs. One especially spectacular find (from 1971) consists of a Protoceratops and a Velociraptor clutched together: they were probably fighting each other when they were buried by a sudden sandstorm or a collapsing sand dune. It still remains the best evidence of a “dinosaur battle” between a vegetarian and a carnivore.

Because of its relatively modest appearence, Protoceratops is less-portrayed in pop-media than Triceratops and Styracosaurus. Maybe the most well-known protoceratops is B.J., that yellow guy seen in Barney and Friends. In the much more beloved book-series Dinotopia, the talking dino-character who befriends humans is also a Protoceratops.

  1. Entry Time: 1940
  2. Trope Maker: Fantasia

Other ceratopsians

Sorry, these ones aren't here. If you're looking for Torosaurus, Centrosaurus, Chasmosaurus, Pentaceratops, Psittacosaurus, and so on, go here. Or here.


They were the more conservative branch of marginocephalians, and unlike ceratopsians, they kept the original bipedal body plan, but evolved a thick skull roof. Like ceratopsians, there is the possibility that were omnivores. Needless to say, the iconic member of the group is also the biggest one, Pachycephalosaurus.

Headbutts, or what?: Pachycephalosaurus *

File:Pachy - copia 1484.jpg

Wyoming's Thick-Headed Lizard

Lived during the Late Cretaceous 70--65 million years ago in North America like many well known dinosaurs. It usually shows up when an author feels like showing an "exotic" dinosaur. Pachycephalosaurus[16] ("thick-headed lizard") is by far the biggest known pachycephalosaur. Its actual length is uncertain: popular books often set its size at up to 30 ft / 9 m; a length of 15--18 ft / 4.6--5.5 m is more likely. Described in 1931 from a single skull, it was initially identified as Troodon[17], and renamed Pachycephalosaurus only in 1943. No other parts of the body have been found since then: reconstructions are typically based on a smaller, less famous Pachycephalosaurian, Stegoceras.

Pachycephalosaurus is distinguished by its dome-like head which makes it look very intelligent. However, the height of the dome was almost entirely made of one foot thick bone, and its brain wasn't larger than other dinosaurs'. Its nickname "The Bone-headed Dino" is quite understandable. A number of bony knobs and blunt spikes around the base of the dome and on its nose contrasted with the smoothness of the dome to create a look of partial baldness or of a monk's tonsure[18]; hence the epithet "Friar Tuck -osaurus" in The Lost World: Jurassic Park film.

Pachycephalosaurians are one of the most recent groups of herbivores/omnivores in formal dinosaur classification, established just after the discovery of Pachycephalosaurus, which became the type genus for the group. Consequently, pachys don't appear in works until the 1980s. The ur-example was perhaps the 1988 The Land Before Time film where it shows up as a predatory villain trying to kill the Triceratops character Cera with headbutts. The headbutting is a standard trait when pachycephalosaurs appear in works. It used to be that males were shown trying to impress females by ramming their heads into each other (the classic theory), or bashing each others' flanks (as proposed in the 2000s). Since females had thick heads too, this seems unlikely; also, their heads would have slippered each other if rammed against each other. Finally, their necks were probably too weak to withstand such an impact. Maybe pachycephalosaurs simply used their dome heads to display maturity like an over-sized toucan bill.

The large Pachycephalosaurus was once the only bonehead portrayed in fiction. This changed in the 2000s when two smaller relatives, Stygimoloch and Dracorex hogwartsia (the latter discovered as recently as 2006) started making occasional appearances as well, thanks to their even spikier heads. A very recent theory (2009) suggests that these two horned pachys were just juvenile Pachycephalosaurus; if so, the latter will remain the only pop-cultural bonehead.

  1. Entry Time: 1988
  2. Trope Maker: The Land Before Time

Other pachycephalosaurians

Sorry, these ones aren't here. If you're looking for Stegoceras and so on, go here.

Bipedal plant-eaters

The Ornithopod group contains several ornithischian dinosaurs of different size. The most conservative of the ornithischians if the body plan is concerned, these herbivores varied from partially to completely bipedal, and lacked the thick defenses of the ornithischians above mentioned, but often made up from that either with speed or sheer bulk.


Hadrosaurs are nicknamed "duck-billed dinosaurs" because of their wide, flat beak especially evident in some species, less in others. The most evolved Ornithopods, their grinding maxillary mechanism was the most efficient of all reptiles ever, and they also developed complex prominences above their skull with social function.

Hadrosaurs have an unusually high number of kinds portrayed in popular media, but four have received the greatest attention: Parasaurolophus and Corythosaurus thanks to their evident headgears; Edmontosaurus (called “Trachodon” or “Anatosaurus” in old media), because is the most duck-billed duckbill, and one of the first described too; and Maiasaura, which has heavily contributed to the “dino-renaissance”. Breaking the usual rule, none of them is the biggest known hadrosaur.

Noisy Nature: Parasaurolophus **

Lived 76 to 73 million years ago in Late Cretaceous North America. 35 ft / 10 m long and weighing 4/5 metric tons (like an elephant), Parasaurolophus was a typical hadrosaur, with longer and stronger hindlimbs than forelimbs, three-toed feet ending with blunt nails, a long powerful tail, a small “hump” on its shoulders, a flexible neck, and the classic “duck-billed” head (although the “bill” was not as wide as other relatives). Its long, backwards-pointing protrusion made its skull a bit longer than a human’s height. Even though is often called a “horn”, it was actually an extension of the nasal cavities, and ended with a blunt point. [19]. Its unique crest makes Parasaurolophus one of the most popular hadrosaurs (if the most popular). Significatively, parasaurolophus’ remains are rarer than other duckbills.

The hadrosaurs’ lacking of specific weapons has made them nicknamed “the Cretaceous antelopes”. They are usually shown in dino-books and documentaries as "chosen preys" for tyrannosaurs, “raptors” and even giant crocodiles, uncapable to offer resistence and obliged to flee away from them. This could be Truth in Television, but in Real Life “duckbills” were not exactly gazelle-like things. Adult hadrosaurs were strong and heavily-built: in a high-speed collision against a tyrannosaur, the hadrosaur had less chances to fall down (and more chances to rise again thanks to its longer forefeet). It's easier to imagine tyrannosaurs hunted young hadrosaurs more often than adults.

Like the sauropods, hadrosaurs used to be associated with water in “pre-Renaissance” times. The early discover of some mummified hadrosaurs whose skin on their hands was believed to be remnants of webbing, made scientists believe they were semi-aquatic creatures with literally duck-like webbed “hands”. We know now this skin bound the fingers together into a single, toughened "hoof" apt for walking on dry soil. Also, when on land, hadrosaurs were once shown assuming the same upright posture of an old-fashioned theropod. After the “renaissance”, scientists described hadrosaurs as terrestrial animals, similar to modern ungulates but capable to shift from a quadrupedal to a bipedal pose. Needless to say, amphibious hadrosaurs with webbed hands and upright stance still appear in recent media (see The Land Before Time).

Specifically about Parasaurolophus, countless hypotheses have been made about the function of its “horn”: among them, a tool to thread its way through the dense forest foliage, or even a snorkel when swimming underwater. The latter just plain doesn't work; there aren't any holes on its tip. The most commonly accepted scientific theory is that the complex series of tubes found within were used for amplifying calls. Scientists have even turned out to reproduce these calls, which quite resemble a brass instrument. [20] It's highly probable the headgear had also a display function: it might be brightly colored to attract attention, and could have had a flap of skin stretched from it to the neck, but both hyps are unproved.

This dinosaur has a rather strange destiny in fiction: it has appeared in almost every dino-film, but almost always with minor roles – basically with the only purpose to increase the variety of the "dinosaur world". And don’t expect to hear its name, too. [21]. A good example is in the Jurassic Park films. Some Parasaurolophuses are visible behing the Brachiosaurus in the famous “Welcome to Jurassic Park!” scene; some are seen in both sequels, too. But all these were simple cameos, and the animal is never named. Other unnamed apparitions are in Disney’s Fantasia and Dinosaurs. One rare example of a major-character Parasaurolophus is seen in The Land Before Time… at least, Ducky and her parents are officially labeled so: they’re actually another hadrosaur, Saurolophus.

  1. Entry Time: 1940
  2. Trope Maker: Fantasia

The literal duckbill has many names: the Edmontosaurus / Trachodon / Anatosaurus / Anatotitan case **

File:Edmontosaur - copia 7594.jpg

Connected Edmonton Lizard and Cope's Titan Duck (if they are not the same)

No other stock dinosaurs has had such a Mind Screw story than the Edmontosaurines (The Brontosaurus/Apatosaurus is nothing in comparison). Here, Science Marches On is to a Up to Eleven degree, coupled with a huge Taxonomic Term Confusion and I Have Many Names. Edmontosaurines roamed North America at the very end of the Cretaceous, 73-65 mya. Two genera are recognized for the moment, Anatotitan and Edmontosaurus, but they could be reunited into one in the possible future 2010s. If so, Edmontosaurus will become the only valid name for this dinosaur. Two Edmontosaurus species are currently recognized, Edmontosaurus annectens and Edmontosaurus regalis. While the former was the same size of Parasaurolophus, E. regalis and Anatotitan were among the biggest hadrosaurs, 12/13 m long, as long as T. rex but even three times heavier than it. Despite this, their bulk didn't preclude them to be among the rex's favorite prey. [22].

Edmontosaurus is one of the most scientifically known dinosaurs (or even the most of all). More than 10,000 known specimens show every evidence about its life (even diseases). The most striking ones are the “petrified mummies”, which have preserved not only skin prints, but also hardened muscles. If you don't believe us, see here. The second find is very recent, and shows an unexpected thing: hadrosaurs had a much more massive tail than traditionally thought. If this’d be true for all dinosaurs, then many classic studies about dinosaur biomechanics should be reviewed. For example, hadrosaurs and Iguanodon are often thought mainly quadrupedal, but a heavier tail would made their center of gravity just under their hips, perfectly balancing their body on two legs. Maybe hadrosaurs mainly walked on two feet and stayed on all fours only when grazing or resting, like kangaroos. [23]

Anatotitan deserves the "duck-billed dinosaur" title more than any other hadrosaur, with its flat head and spatula-like beak. Edmontosaurus had a stockier head and a an undulating-edged upper bill, but was still more duckish than most relatives. Their Donald Duck-like face made these dinosaurs unusually nice-looking. In popular work, their “duckness” may be strongly exaggerated, rendering its flat bill literally identical to a duck's, without any teeth or cheeks. In Real Life, hadrosaurs were not exactly toothless. Behind their bill they had up to a thousand teeth closely packed together in “batteries” and capable to grind the toughest vegetation—fossil pine needles have been found in the aforementioned mummies. Maybe edmontosaurines had a flap of inflatable skin on their nose to amplify their calls, but this is only a supposition.

Here’s a brief summary of the edmontosaurines’ awesome taxonomic tangle Their first remains, isolated teeth found in USA, were named “Trachodon” (“rough-tooth”) in 1856. During the Bone Wars, two skeletons were discovered and named Trachodon copei. Soon later, two spectacular hadrosaur "mummies" were popularly referred as the "Trachodon mummies". In 1917, a gigantic hadrosaur was discovered in Alberta near Edmonton, and named Edmontosaurus regalis. In year 1942, one scientist found that Trachodon must be only used for the original teeth, and coined a brand new name, Anatosaurus (“Duck lizard”), for both the Bone Wars skeletons (Anatosaurus copei) and the mummies (Anatosaurus annectens). However, in the 1990, new studies showed A. copei being much more different than A. annectens and E. regalis put together, and scientists changed Anatosaurus annectens in Edmontosaurus annectens. At this point the copei was the only remained Anatosaurus, but... taxonomic rules say "Anatosaurus" should indicate only the "annectens". This meant it should be renamed, too. Being scientists often very nostalgic, they decided to recall it with a similar name: Anatotitan ("giant duck"). And now it's been suggested that Anatotitan should be sunk into Edmontosaurus as well. Quite clear, isn’t it?

Trachodon first appeared in pop-media in 1925 (The Lost World film adaptation), in which is portrayed as a prey for a giant carnivore. Since then, it became THE duckbill in public consciousness, to the point “trachodont” was also used as a popular synonym of “hadrosaur”. Since the “renaissance” times, “Anatosaurus” has become the most widely-used name. [24] After 1990, Trachodon and Anatosaurus are rapidly disappearing in pop-consciousness – even though their ghost is still seen sometimes, like the "brontosaur" one. As it seems, Edmontosaurus and Anatotitan haven’t gone a long way in non-docu media: when an edmontosaurine appears, is simply known as “duckbill”, and the crested Parasaurolophus has become the most portrayed hadrosaur today. Compensating this, edmontosaurines are quite common in modern CGI documentaries, being the only hadrosaurs which could have met Tyrannosaurus Rex in Real Life. “Anatotitan” became popularized by Walking with Dinosaurs, and has also appeared in Primeval. Edmontosaurus has not received the same attention in TV, but is the most common in current dino-books.

  1. Entry Time: 1925
  2. Trope Maker: The Lost World (film)

Greek helmet: Corythosaurus *

Hadrosaurs were very diversified in Real Life. Even though they shared the same body-plan, their head was wildly diverse. They are divided in two main lineages: basically, those with hollow crests, and those without. Other than Parasaurolophus, the only hollow-crested duckbill with a significant number of appearances in pop-media is Corythosaurus. Naturally, the latter has been a much rarer sight. In the Jurassic Park film series Corythosaurus joins Parasaurolophus only in the third film. Just like “Parasaurolophus”, good luck if you'll ever hear “Corythosaurus” named outside documentary media.

Corythosaurus was the same size of Parasaurolophus (10 m long), and lived in Late Cretaceous North America 77-76 mya. A classic error in paleo-art is to depict these two dinosaurs living alongside Tyrannosaurus Rex. Since the “rex” was discovered in more recent terrains (68-65 mya), this makes a slight Anachronism Stew case. First discovered in 1912 by Barnum Brown [25], the “cory”, unlike the “para”, has one of the richest records among hadrosaurs. Several complete specimens known to science, including many juveniles.

The corythosaur’s cranial structure was similar to the parasaurolophus, with expanded nasal bones which formed a crest. However, the Corythosaurus crest was very different than Parasaurolophus: it was laterally-flattened, round-shaped, and put upright above the head. It shape has often been compared to a Greek helmet (Corythosaurus just means "helmet lizard"), but some have (more prosaically) defined it as frisbee-like or dish-like. This crest was hollow like that of Parasaurolophus, but with less-complex internal structure. It seems very different-sized and also different-shaped between genders and growth stages: adult males have the biggest, tallest and roundest ones, while those of females and youngsters were smaller and narrower, and the hatchlings were born devoid of it.

Issues regarding the possible functions of the corythosaur’s crest are like those regarding Parasaurolophus. Like Corythosaurus, female Parasaurolophus could have had shorter crests than males. Even though some skulls do show some variability, Parasaurolophus fossils are too rare to make a correct comparison -- maybe the different-crested specimens are just different species within the genus. Since hadrosaurian crests are so differently-shaped, experts have concluded that they had also the function to distinguish visually the different hadrosaur species/genders/growth stages from each other, just like modern antelopes with their distinctive horns (let’s face it, comparisons with antelopes do work very well when talking about hadrosaurs). Moreover, the different-sized crests made differently-pitched sounds. As trombones emit lower notes than trumpets, adult males’ voices were lower than females, which in turn were lower than youngs. Then, as French horns and bassoons have a different timbre, so would have been for Corythosaurus and Parasaurolophus.

  1. Entry Time: 1940
  2. Trope Maker: Fantasia

A good mother: Maiasaura *

This hadrosaur deserves a special mention. The same size of Parasaurolophus and Corythosaurus and contemporary to them, 74 mya, Maiasaura had no such striking headgear (only a small relief above the eyes), nor did it have such a wide bill like the edmontosaurines. Nonetheless, it has been one of the most important dino-finds ever. Hundreds of Maiasauras were discovered together in Montana in year 1980 by famous paleontologist Jack Horner [26], in what is known today as the “Egg Mountain”. His mountain showed not only adults, but also many fossilized, 6 ft wide, crater-like nests made of earth and full of hadrosaurian eggs, hatchlings of all ages, and even skeletons of embryos still inside the eggshells!

Before the 1980s only few dinosaurian eggs were known to science, and parental caring among dinosaurs was still a very speculative issue. Horner's discovery was a true snapshot of daily dino-life. He noted that the youngest specimens still had incomplete limb-bones: this meant they were incapable of leaving their nests. And yet, their teeth were noticeably worn, as they were already eating tough vegetation. How could they feed on themselves? Here is the proof of parental care: only adult maiasaurs could feed the young to make them surviving until they grew larger and finally could leave their nest alone. Horner gave a Meaningful Name to his caring dinosaur: Maiasaura means "good mother lizard" (note the unusual feminine suffix -saura). It was just his deep study about this dinosaur that has given to Horner his current prestige in the scientific community.

Horner and then other scientists made this possible reconstruction of Maiasaura lifestyle. Huge herds of possibly 10.000 individuals used to migrate across Western North America from the northern Canada south to Montana to winter in their island. Here, they mated, built their nests, laid their eggs, and filled their nests with decaying vegetation to keep the precious eggs warm. [27] After the hatching, adults feed their helpless babies with good food, moved by their cute appearance (the babies’ skulls show large eyes and short muzzles like modern mammal cubs). After having developed their skeleton, the youngsters started to search their food on their own; finally, the whole herd undertook again their migration toward the North, to pass here the Polar summer. In short, an overall behaviour very similar to many modern migrating birds.

This reconstruction made the top of the Dinosaur Renaissance, definitively debunking the old “big, stupid, unfeeling, oafs” thing. Some years later, the discover became known among pop-writers, too. Only… Maiasaura’s uncospicuous appearance was not interesting enough. Even though the “good mother dinosaur” and the whole argument are widely mentioned in the 1st Jurassic Park novel [28], this was totally overlooked in Steven Spielberg’s following film. Other Hollywoodians resolved the problem in another way: giving Maiasaura’s behaviour to other relatives. In The Land Before Time, the hadrosaurs (actually, every herbivorous dinosaur) migrate through the lands and hatch their young in crater-like nests made of earth. This was copied later by Disney's Dinosaurs (this time the duckbills were substituted by Iguanodon). All OK? Obviously, not. We have no proof if other dinosaurs really behaved the same. It's like saying that if sparrows build cup-like nests, then every other bird must build cup-like nests just because is a bird. Mind this: have you ever seen an ostrich or a penguin brooding their eggs in a cup-like nest built on a branch?

  1. Entry Time: 1988
  2. Trope Maker: The Land Before Time (indirectly)

Other hadrosaurs

Sorry, these ones aren't here. If you're looking for Hadrosaurus, Kritosaurus, Saurolophus, Lambeosaurus, Tsintaosaurus, and so on, go here.

Hadrosaur predecessors

There were many non-hadrosaur ornithopods as well, but only one of them has made significant appearances in fiction, Iguanodon. If you are lucky Hypsilophodon may also show up, but it's almost never named.

A veteran: Iguanodon **

File:Iguanodon - copia 1718.jpg

Bernissart's Iguana Tooth.

Living 126 to 125 million years ago in Early Cretaceous Europe, this is the most iconic non-avian dinosaur from the “old continent”. It’s also one of the most scientifically well-known dinosaurs, and one of the most abundant in fossil record. Iguanodon has had a special role within the stock dino-ensemble. Along with Megalosaurus, it’s the only dinosaur that has covered the whole history of scientific and popular portraits, but unlike the megalosaur, has managed to preserve its fame still today.

Although nearly as big as Tyrannosaurus (10 m or more, and up to 4 tons), Iguanodon is perhaps the least striking-looking among stock dinosaurs. Being an earlier relative of hadrosaurs (and possibly their ancestor), its shape resembled one of the latter, with three-toed hindfeet, short but strong forelimbs, long tail stiffened by bony tendons, massive body, hindlimbs much longer than forelimbs. Non-hadrosaurian traits include: the backbone not curved at the shoulder level; grinding teeth much less numerous and put in one single row on each half-jaw; a totally crest-less head; a deep, narrow beak very unlike the duck-billed one. The hands of Iguanodon contain all the "oddities" in its skeleton. The most known is the spike on its hand made of the first digit's phalanxes fused together and encapsulated in a horny sheath, usually shown in books as a weapon against enemies. And it had an opposable “pinkie” finger, maybe to grasp vegetation. Like hadrosaurs, the three central digits were fused together in a hoof-like structure and supported the weight of the dinosaur when on four legs (though incorrect freely-fingered iguanodonts-hadrosaurs often appear in portraits). We don’t know for sure if iguanodonts (and hadrosaurs) were mainly tree-browsers or ground-grazers. However, classic portaits usually show iguanodonts in the usual “tripodal” stance and browsing like a giraffe. Several paleo-works have also added a long extendable giraffe-like tongue to reach tree-foliage, but this is unlikely.

Iguanodon is one of the three animals along with Megalosaurus and the obscure ankylosaurian Hylaeosaurus which were called "dinosaurs" for the first time in history (1842), by the English paleontologist Richard Owen. Iguanodon was already identified in 1825, just one year after Megalosaurus, by English doctor and fossil-collector Gideon Mantell. It was initially described from its iguana-like teeth and few other incomplete remains: hence its name meaning iguana's tooth. But then, in 1877 about 40 Iguanodon skeletons were discovered within a coalmine in Belgium near the town of Bernissart, the very first "dino graveyard" ever found. Many other remains were later assigned to Iguanodon (often found outside Europe), but many have recently split in other genera (see Prehistoric Life).

Most dinosaurs have changed their look at least once: Iguanodon has done this twice. The first attempt of reconstrution showed a huge dragon-like quadruped, and one of its thumbspikes was inaccurately put on its nose--this is justified by the very fragmentary nature of its original remains. [29] After the discover of the complete skeletons from the "dinosaur mine" in the 1870s, the iguanodont became bipedal and upright, but still reptile-looking, often shown with iguana-spikes running along its back, and with an overall theropod appearance. Finally, studies started in the 1970 and led by English paleontologist David Norman made Iguanodon returning quadrupedal again (though still capable to stay and run on two legs), and with cheeks hiddening the teeth in the living animal. [30]. An excellent example of this new portrait is seen in Disney's Dinosaur, which made Iguanodon the main character in the story -- exaggerating its horse-like look with fleshy lips instead of the proper bill.

Even though has been extremely common in dino-books and other non-fictional media, Iguanodon has not made significative apparitions in cinema or TV before Disney’ Dinosaur and Walking with Dinosaurs were broadcast during the XX-XXI century change. Rule of Cool easily explains why: with its generic look and weak weapons, it don’t bear the comparison with Tyrannosaurus rex jaws, Triceratops horns, Stegosaurus plates, “raptors” claws, or the immense size of sauropods. [31] However, its historical and scientifical importance won’t ever be deleted in dino-fans’ consciousness, as no other dinosaur has run the whole two centuries of popular portraits: from Crystal Palace rhinos, to giant two-legged iguanas, up to Disneyan horses.

  1. Entry Time: 1852
  2. Trope Maker: Crystal Palace Park

Other hadrosaur predecessors

Sorry, these ones aren't here. If you're looking for Hypsilophodon, Camptosaurus, Ouranosaurus, Tenontosaurus, Dryosaurus, and so on, go here.

More primitive dinosaurs

Sorry, these aren't here. If you're looking for Staurikosaurus, Herrerasaurus, Guaibasaurids, Eocursor, Tianyulong, and others, see here.

  1. the structure of the forefeet seems to preclude quadrupedal walking, though
  2. While the poor remains of the alleged Australian “Allosaurus” pertain to a totally different theropod, Australovenator.
  3. Allosaurus belongs to the Tetanuran branch of theropods, while Ceratosaurus is the namesake of its own branch, Ceratosaurs. Most of the other theropods discussed here are Tetanurans, except fellow ceratosaur Carnotaurus, and the more primitive Dilophosaurus and Coelophysis
  4. OK, this dinosaur might actually be avialian, but belongs here anyway.
  5. One archaeopterygid skeleton with no signs of feathers was long classified in another theropod genus, Compsognathus (see later).
  6. which also gave the display skeleton a short, boxy head and blunt tail, both incorrect
  7. This because its correct skull was identified only recently. Ironically, this was the head shown in the iconic “Brontosaurus” mount, but was once believed from another sauropod, Camarasaurus.
  8. Since sauropods’ skulls have high-settled nasal openings, they are classically shown with their nostrils on the top of their heads like the blowholes of a whale; it was recently hypothized they could actually be on the end of their snouts like every other dinosaur.
  9. Gregory S. Paul first suggested they were distinct in 1988. This suggestion was followed by George Olshevsky in 1991 and Dougal Dixon in 2006. Otherwise, it was not taken seriously until Michael Taylor proved Paul, Olshevsky and Dixon correct in 2009.
  10. but not Tyrannosaurus: this one was found fairly after the end of the "wars".
  11. actually it was substantially larger than a walnut
  12. Its original find, an isolated horn-core, was believed from a bison.
  13. however, recent research suggests that Torosaurus is just a more mature form of Triceratops
  14. Most Cretaceous dinosaurs were actually described during this “rush”, But only the coolest-looking ones joined the stock dinosaur ensemble: Styracosaurus, Ankylosaurus, Struthiomimus, Parasaurolophus, and to a lesser degree, Corythosaurus.
  15. This US scientist matched the Adventurer Archaeologist trope in such a way, he could have been the real inspirer of Indiana Jones.
  16. Pronounced "pAcky-sEfalo-SAURus" ("-kEfalo-" is OK too)
  17. Troodon was at the time known only from one tooth, which is similar to some pachycephalosaur teeth
  18. I.e. a "Roman tonsure".
  19. Of course, don’t exclude to see “paras” in media with the crest looking like a literal horn
  20. Hilarious in Hindsight, this’d really make its crest like a “horn”: the musical one.
  21. Even though not one of the shortest dino-names, it remains coolly-sounding anyway
  22. though it more often attacked the young, sick, injured and dying than the healthy adults, which could weigh up to 15 tons: like an average Diplodocus
  23. It’s worth noting most hadrosaur and iguanodont tracks do not show prints of forelimbs.
  24. Note that "Anatosaurus" and "Edmontosaurus" (regalis) were both valid before 1990, described as two distinct hadrosaurs in dino-books and documentaries.
  25. Barnum Brown is better-known for having found the very first Tyrannosaurus skeletons in Montana some decades before
  26. better known as the Jurassic Park official consultant
  27. Remains of fossilized rotting plant material have been found in these nests. Being too heavy adult Maiasauras didn't brood their eggs like modern chickens do.
  28. which, by the way, had Horner as the consultant.
  29. The life-sized Iguanodon and other extinct animals were sculpted by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkings and shown to public during the 1956 Universal Exposition in London, in the famous Crystal Palace. A banquet was organized to celebrate the event… inside the still incomplete iguanodon model! Even though the palace got ultimately destroyed by a fire, the sculptures survived the incident, and are still visible in the eponymous park.
  30. Once, all ornithischian dinosaurs were portrayed with no cheeks and a wide mouth running from ear to ear, like saurischian dinosaurs: this was based on modern reptile, which are unvariably cheek-less. The shape of ornithischian jaws showed they could have had cheeks to store plant matter during th mastication, like modern herbivorous mammals. This is confirmed by the “hadrosaurs mummies”. If alive today, ornithischians’ head would resemble an ungulate mammal but with a beak
  31. And some portraits could even leave the beak or the thumbspikes, making it even more generic.
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