Meet the dinosaurs – and their friends and relations
Prehistoric creatures came in all shapes and sizes – with feathers, fur, and even fins. Not all were as ferocious as the Tyrannosaurus rex; some were tiny mammals which ate slugs and snails and looked just like a badger. Read on to discover which was the fastest, the brightest, the heaviest – and even who ate who!
The fact that Tyrannosaurus rex means ‘tyrant king’ says it all. This lethal killer had the most powerful bite of any land animal ever, with its jaws opening 1.5 metres to expose teeth the size of bananas that could tear flesh and crush bone. However, while the T. rex was able to run 18mph in a straight line, this dinosaur wasn’t very good at turning around.
The Diplodocus measured the length of three buses! With eyes on either side of its head to watch out for predators, this dinosaur could live for up to 80 years. A true herbivore, it ate nothing but leafy greens. However, it’s thought that the creature would sometimes swallow stones to help digest all that bulky vegetation.
The Stegosaurus probably wasn’t the brightest of dinosaurs, as it had a brain the size of a tangerine in a body the size of a bus. This slow-moving creature was in fact a herbivore, eating plants with small, flat teeth. However, when attacked, the stegosauruswould use its four-spiked tail to warn off predators.
You’d most likely have found this stocky-looking Iguanodon foraging in the greenery, for it ate mostly trees and shrubs, grinding them up with its specialised back teeth. The dinosaur’s five-fingered hands were thought have been helpful for grasping food – just like we can! The large spike on each thumb would also have been useful for defending itself from predators.
The Triceratops is believed to be one of the last ever dinosaurs to become extinct. It probably spent much of its life alone. Weighing as much as an average car, it had an enormous head measuring a third of its body size! It walked on four powerful legs to help carry this heavy build. Amazing fact: the averageTriceratops, a hungry herbivore, would have gone through 800 teeth over its lifetime.
The Deinonychus is famous for its ‘terrible claw’, a talon on each toe used to attack and pin down prey. This agile scavenger and hunter also had very keen eyesight and sported some 70 curved teeth that could bite through bone! It’s thought that the dinosaur moved in packs to capture prey.
Other reptiles, mammals and birds
This marine reptile is thought to have evolved from an earlier land reptile. The Ichthyosaur is believed to have been warm-blooded, to breathe oxygen, and to give birth to live young – so, much more like a whale than a fish. The carnivore ate things like squid and fish.
The Plesiosaur lived underwater and weighed up to 12 tonnes. With a diet of snails, crabs, squid and other small sea animals, it’s thought that this dinosaur swallowed pebbles to help digest its food. This marine reptile gave birth to its offspring whilst swimming! A Plesiosaur fossil unearthed in Dorset, UK, in 2009 is the largest ever found.
This ancient mammal was very like a badger. The Didelphodonburrowed underground during the day, sneaking out at night to track down things like snails and insects. Its powerful jaws and huge bulbous teeth were designed to crush its prey, which is thought to have also included young hatchlings.
The Quetzalcoatlus had an enormous wingspan – nearly as long as a bus! It’s not known if this pterosaur could fly, but fossils suggest it was the largest flying animal ever to have lived. While it’s thought to have been a glider, it also moved around on all four legs – which is how it stalked prey. This tended to be fish and even small dinosaurs. The creature surprisingly had no feathers like birds today, but fur!
With thanks to Emily Ould.