Dinosaurs were a group of pre-historic reptiles that first appeared approximately 210 million years ago. They lived during the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods, a time period spanning over 150 million years. By the end of the Cretaceous, about 65 million years ago, most species of dinosaur had become extinct, but there is considerable evidence to suggest that modern birds are the descendants of one or more types of dinosaur. Birds are classed with dinosaurs by those who believe groups should be monophyletic.

The formal name Dinosauria was first proposed by the English scientist Richard Owen in 1842. The term is a combination of the Greek words deinos ("terrible" or "fearfully great") and sauros ("lizard").

Dinosaurs varied greatly in size. The smallest known species were about the size of a chicken, but most were much larger. The biggest dinosaurs were the Sauropoda; they were the largest land animals ever to live, and overall are second in size only to certain species of whale.

Many other types of reptiles lived at the same time as the dinosaurs. Some of these were very large, and are commonly, but incorrectly, thought of as dinosaurs. See Plesiosaur.

Dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago, in the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event. The most common explanation of this event is that it was caused by a very large meteorite hitting the earth (a theory first proposed by Walter Alvarez). However, this theory is contested.

Table of contents
1 Classification of dinosaurs
2 External links
3 Other Meanings

Classification of dinosaurs

Dinosaurs are divided into two major groups, the Saurischia and the Ornithischia, on the basis of hip structure.

  • Saurischia
  • Ornithischia
    • Thyreophora
      • Stegosauria (e.g. Stegosaurus)
      • Ankylosauria (e.g. Ankylosaurus, Euplocephalus, Nodosaurus)
    • Neornithischia
      • Ornithopoda (e.g. Anatosaurus, Parasaurolophus, Hypsilophodon, Iguanodon)
      • Pachycephalosauria (e.g. Pachycephalosaurus)
      • Ceratopsia (e.g. Psittacosaurus, Protoceratops, Triceratops)

External links

For the most comprehensive family tree of dinosaurs yet available, see

For the Dinosauria On-Line Dinosaur Omnipedia, with dictionaries of terms, pronunciations, maps and cladograms, see Active research Museum with 35 complete skeletons and more than 110,000 specimens

Other Meanings

Dinosaur is sometimes used as a derogatory term to describe things that are perceived as being out of date or no longer in touch with the spirit of the times, and therefore ought to be extinct. An example was the manner in which the punk movement described the 'progressive' bands that preceeded them as 'dinosaur groups'. Considering that dinosaurs were actually highly successful life forms for some 150 million years, this term could be seen as quite ironic. It is even more ironic when one considers that birds are most probably direct descendants of dinosaurs, which implies that not only the dinosaurs aren't extinct (in the sense of, say, trilobites), but also that their modern descendants are themselves a highly successful group that have been able to colonize almost every habitat on the planet.