Identification of the Three Main Types of Dinosaurs

Apr. 11, 2022

The three main types of dinosaurs are the theropod suborder, the lizard-foot suborder, and the ornithischian suborder. These three groups of dinosaurs appeared during the Triassic period, shortly after the dinosaurs separated from the other main dinosaur groups. You can find out how to identify the dinosaurs in each group below.


Quetzalcoatlus


Theropod identification

Typical characteristics of theropods: bipedal, carnivorous, blade-like, serrated teeth.

Theropods usually have three toes per foot, and many have three fingers per hand, although there are some variations.

The suborder Theropoda is a member of the evolutionary branch of theropods (an evolutionary branch is the "evolutionary branch" of a species). Most theropods are predatory.

Birds are the only dinosaurs that survived the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event that occurred 66 million years ago, and they are theropods.

Most theropod dinosaurs resembled birds because they were bipedal (they walked on two legs) and had bird-like hind feet. In addition, many theropod suborders had feathers.

Although the long, narrow skull and narrow teeth of Spinosaurus were very different from the wide, heavy skull and thick, serrated teeth of Tyrannosaurus rex, both were clearly designed for a predatory lifestyle.

Not all theropods were carnivores, and Therizinosaurus had huge sickle-like claws, used not to catch prey but (probably) to collect leaves and protect itself from predators. It had beak-like jaw tips and no teeth.


Pentaceratops


lizard foot identification

Typical characteristics of lizard-footed dinosaurs: herbivorous, large size, long neck, small head, quadrupeds, long tail.

Lizard-footed dinosaurs are dinosaurs that belong to the evolutionary branch of the lizard-footed dinosaurs, which also includes dinosaurs related to the lizard-footed dinosaurs.

Lizard-footed dinosaurs usually had long necks, long tails, and small, light heads. They were tetrapods (i.e., walked on all fours) and herbivores (fed on plants).

The hind feet of lizard-footed dinosaurs had five toes and usually two outer fingers without claws. Their forelimbs had only one claw. Some later lizard-footed dinosaurs (such as Titanosaurus) did not have any fingers on their forelimbs, but stood on fingerless, columnar forelimbs.

Paleontologists believe that lizard-footed dinosaurs evolved long necks to be able to reach leaves high up in the trees. Unlike the teeth of theropods, lizard-footed animals' teeth meet at the tip - probably to bite off a clump of vegetation.

The bones of lizard-footed animals contain cavities with air pockets inside. This made the bones of these large animals light enough to move around. The air sacs also helped the dinosaurs breathe.


Dilophosaurus


Bird-rumped recognition

Typical characteristics of the Ornithischians: bird-like rump, toothless premaxillae at the tip of the lower jaw, beak-like mouthparts, and herbivory.

Ornithischia dinosaurs belong to the Ornithischia evolutionary branch, and the name Ornithischia means "bird rump," referring to the pelvic structure of the dinosaurs in this group. Confusingly, it was the theropods, not the ornithischians, that eventually evolved into birds.

Early ornithischians were bipedal, and most later ornithischians were quadrupeds. Some ornithischians, such as Avianosaurus, were capable of bipedal and quadrupedal locomotion.

A characteristic of ornithischian dinosaurs is that they had beaks. A distinctive bone called the anterior dentary is found at the tip of the lower jaw of ornithischian dinosaurs. At the tip of the upper jaw is the premaxilla, which in most ornithischians has no teeth. These bones support a rostral structure at the tips of both jaws.

Ornithischian dinosaurs developed a wide range of adaptations, including horns, frills, armor, bones, and crowns.


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