Dinosaurs went extinct millions of years ago, yet humans only became aware of their existence a few centuries ago. In 1676, a man named Robert Plot came across the end piece of a massive femur belonging to what we know call the Megalosaurus. The more we discover about these prehistoric creatures, the more we are fascinated, and picking the top ten coolest dinosaurs is no easy task!
Our top pick of 10 of the coolest dinosaurs are:
Selecting which dinosaurs would make it into our top ten list of the coolest dinosaurs was difficult, but we think the following collection is pretty darn sub-zero. Here’s a description of each one and why they made it onto the top 10 coolest list!
Meaning of the name: The name Ankylosaurus means ‘stiff lizard’ or ‘fused lizard’. This name was given to these dinosaurs because of the flat plates of bone that covered their back and sides from the neck to the tip of their tails.
Discovery: Paleontologist Barnum Brown discovered the first remains of an Ankylosaurus in Montana—the Hell Creek Formation, to be specific. In 1906, he uncovered the upper portion of a skull, some vertebrae, ribs, and a shoulder girdle.
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Size: The Ankylosaurus was 7 m (23 ft) long and weighed 4,000 kg (8,800 lbs).
Method of moving: The Ankylosaurus walked on all four legs.
Diet: The Ankylosaurus had a horny, beaked mouth with grinding teeth, which helped this herbivore munch its way through low-lying plant matter.
When it lived: Ankylosaurus dinosaurs lived 67-74 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period.
Where it lived: Based on fossil recoveries, the Ankylosaurus lived in Western USA and Canada.
Why it’s on the cool list: The Ankylosaurus takes its place on our list because of its built-in armor and weaponry.
First, the armor. Oval-shaped bone plates called osteoderms were arranged in horizontal rows and covered the top and flanks of these dinosaurs. The osteoderms had big bumps on them, much like a crocodile’s back, but on a larger scale. This plating was heaviest at the neck region, making it difficult for predators to get a killer grip on the Ankylosaurus.
Then there was the weaponry. While carnivorous dinosaurs had the standard—albeit very effective—teeth, the Ankylosaurus had a tail with two hard knots on each lateral side, which they could swing like clubs. Scientists propose that this tail was strong enough to damage bones in the legs of the Ankylosaurus’ predators.
Meaning of the name: The name Argentinosaurus simply means ‘Argentina lizard’. As you may have guessed, it got its name because it was found in Argentina.
Discovery: A new dinosaur was discovered in Argentina in 1987, and its unearthing was enough to shake the foundations of paleontology. Why? Its size! But you will have to wait just a little bit longer before we tell exactly how big the Argentinosaurus was.
No one has found a complete Argentinosaurus skeleton as yet, but some vertebrae and ribs, plus a massive femur bone (5 ft long and 4 ft in circumference!), give the scientists a pretty good indication of what it looked like.
Size: The size of the Argentinosaurus depends on who you ask. Even though the bones that have been found provide an indication that these dinosaurs were massive, their exact proportions are debatable. According to the Natural History Museum in London, the Argentinosaurus was 35 m (115 ft) long and 70,000 kg (over 154,000 lbs)!
Method of moving: The Argentinosaurus walked on all four legs.
Diet: The Argentinosaurus was a herbivore who fed on tough plant matter.
When it lived: Argentinosaurus lived about 90 million years ago in the Cretaceous period.
Where it lived: The Argentinosaurus lived in South America. With their large size, they would need a lot of land to live on. This means that, even though their remains were found in Argentina, it is a guess as to how much area around this spot was occupied by these massive dinosaurs.
Why it’s on the cool list: Even though there are other dinosaurs vying for the title of ‘World’s Biggest Dinosaur’, it is still tentatively held by the Argentinosaurus, and the title is what earns this dinosaur a spot on our list.
Meaning of the name: The name Centrosaurus means ‘sharp-pointed lizard’. This name was given to these dinosaurs because of the row of pointed spikes that were arranged along their osseous neck-frill. They possess a single pointed horn located on the end of their snouts, but this was found after they were named.
Discovery: The first Centrosaurus remains were uncovered in Alberta, Canada, by Lawrence Lambe in the very early 1900s.
Size: The Centrosaurus was about 6 m long (20 ft) and weighed approximately 1,000 kg (2,200 lbs).
Method of moving: The Centrosaurus walked on all four legs.
Diet: The Centrosaurus had a horny, beaked mouth with which they ate tough plant matter.
When it lived: Centrosaurus dinosaurs lived 74-76 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period.
Where it lived: Based on fossil recoveries, the Centrosaurus lived near what is now known as Alberta, Canada, or at least migrated through this area.
Why it’s on the cool list: Centrosaurus earned its place on our list because of the incredible amount of proof of their existence. After Lambe’s discovery of the first specimen, digging in Hilda, Alberta uncovered massive dinosaur bone beds containing the fossils of thousands of individual Centrosaurus!
But what caused so many dinosaurs to die in one place? Some scientists speculate that these dinosaurs were part of a gigantic migrating herd, which was caught in a devastating flash flood. Others suggest that these dinosaurs gathered together at a dry riverbed and died of thirst.
Meaning of the name: The name Diplodocus means ‘double beam’. This name refers to the two rows of bone that ran along the underside of the Diplodocus’s long tail.
Discovery: The first Diplodocus remains were found in 1877 by Benjamin Mudge and Samuel W. Williston. The fossil was found in Colorado, near Cañon City.
Size: The Diplodocus has been reconstructed from an almost complete skeleton. According to this reconstruction, the Diplodocus was 26-28 m long (90 ft) and weighed approximately 20,000 kg (44,000 lbs). Most of its length was taken up by a 21 ft long neck and an even longer tail!
Method of moving: The Diplodocus walked on all four legs.
Diet: The Diplodocus was an herbivorous dinosaur that probably subsisted on soft plants and tree leaves.
When it lived: Diplodocus lived 145-155 million years ago during the Late Jurassic period.
Where it lived: Diplodocus remains have been found in the Rocky Mountain areas around Colorado, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming.
Why it’s on the cool list: The Diplodocus is on our cool list because of its tail. Not only was it incredibly long, but it was also incredibly flexible. The double row of bone in the underside of the Diplodocus’s tail provided support for its length and increased mobility. But what was the purpose of a flexible tail in these dinosaurs?
Well, it was for intimidation, communication, and courtship. The Diplodocus could whip its long tail around so fast that it would produce a sonic boom like cannon fire!
Meaning of the name: The name Edmontosaurus comes from the place where the first specimen of these dinosaurs was found. Namely, the Edmonton Rock Formation.
Discovery: Lawrence Lambe first discovered the Edmontosaurus in 1917.
Size: The Edmontosaurus was 13 m long (43 ft) and weighed approximately 3,400 kg (7,500 lbs).
Method of moving: The Edmontosaurus walked on its hind legs but was able to move on all four legs while grazing.
Diet: The Edmontosaurus was herbivorous, using a combination of a horned beak and 1,000 teeth designed for griding. We can say that they definitely at pine-needles, cones, seeds, and twigs (more on this later).
When it lived: Edmontosaurus lived in the Late Cretaceous period; 65-76 million years ago.
Where it lived: The Edmontosaurus dinosaurs lived in portions of Canada and the USA, namely, in Albert and Alaska, Montana, New Jersey, and Wyoming.
Why it’s on the cool list: Edmontosaurus is on our list because of two well-preserved fossils. These fossils include the mummified remains of a stomach (allowing us to see that they ate pine-needles, cones, and twigs) and also skin! We can only guess as to the color, but the skin had a leathery texture.
Meaning of the name: The name Megalosaurus simply means ‘big lizard’. Of course, we now know that dinosaurs are not lizards. But way back when the Megalosaurus was named, they were assumed to be ancient ancestors of today’s lizards.
Discovery: Megalosaurus was first discovered in 1676. Robert Plot came into possession of the bottom end of a massive thigh bone. However, after studying and sketching it for a time, he came to the conclusion that it belonged to an ancient race of giant humans. It took another two hundred years or so before it was identified as a dinosaur bone.
Size: The Megalosaurus was 9 m long (30 ft), 3 m tall (10 ft), and weighed approximately 1,000 kg (2,200 lbs).
Method of moving: The Megalosaurus was a bipedal dinosaur, walking on its two powerful hind legs.
Diet: The Megalosaurus was a confirmed carnivore. Most believe it was a fierce predator of large herbivores, but some suggest it might have been a scavenger.
When it lived: The Megalosaurus lived in the Mid-Jurassic period; 155-170 million years ago.
Where it lived: Based on where its remains were found, Megalosaurus lived in what is now known as England, UK.
Why it’s on the cool list: The Megalosaurus makes it onto our list of the coolest dinosaurs for this main reason: it was the first. It all started with that partial femur back in 1676, so we can never forget or exclude this magnificent prehistoric beast.
Meaning of the name: The name Oryctodromeus means digging runner. Their reason they got this name is also the reason why they are included in our list, so we will explain below.
Discovery: Oryctodromeus was pieced together in 2007 from an upper beak, twenty-nine vertebrae, ribs, a shoulder girdle, an arm, both tibiae, a partial fibula, and one metatarsal. This is not bad, considering that many dinosaurs are extrapolated from the discovery of one or two partial or complete bones.
Size: The Oryctodromeus was probably around 2.1 m long (7 ft) and weighed between 22-32 kg (50-70 lbs).
Method of moving: The Oryctodromeus would have walked on its two hind legs.
Diet: The Oryctodromeus was an herbivorous dinosaur.
When it lived: The Oryctodromeus lived 94-99 million years in the Late Cretaceous period.
Where it lived: Oryctodromeus remains were first discovered in Montana, USA.
Why it’s on the cool list: Oryctodromeus is on our list because of where it was found and what this means. As we have already mentioned, the first specimen was uncovered in Montana, but it was actually found inside a burrow, which scientists assume it dug itself!
If you look at a picture of a reconstructed Oryctodromeus, you will notice its incredibly short forelegs. So, how did it dig? It probably used its long, pointed snout.
Meaning of the name: The name Parasaurolophus means ‘like Saurolophus’. The Saurolophus is another type of dinosaur. Its name means ‘crested lizard’. So, you could say that the name Parasaurolophus means ‘like the crested lizard’.
Discovery: In 1922, an almost complete skeleton of Parasaurolophus was discovered and described by William A. Parks. The site of this excavation was Alberta, Canada.
Size: The Parasaurolophus was 11 m long (36 ft) and approximately 3,500 kg (7,700 lbs).
Method of moving: The Parasaurolophus walked on its hind legs but was able to move on all four legs while grazing.
Diet: The Parasaurolophus was a herbivore, dining on land plants like pine-needles, twigs, and leaves. Fossilized stomachs of these dinosaurs have been found to confirm this.
When it lived: The Parasaurolophus lived 74-76 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous period.
Where it lived: Based on the location of fossil remains, Parasaurolophus lived in Alberta, Canada, as well as Utah and New Mexico in the USA.
Why it’s on the cool list: Parasaurolophus is cool because of its hollow head crest. This extended backward, parallel to the neck and back. It was about 6 ft long. A Parasaurolophus’s nostrils are thought to have linked to tubes extending up into the crest.
The exact purpose of the crest has been debated. At some point, scientists thought it was used as a snorkel-like device and that these dinosaurs spent large amounts of time underwater. However, there is no breathing hole in the crest, so this theory has been dismissed.
Another and more widely accepted theory is that the hollow crest enhanced the Parasaurolophus’s sense of smell and could also be used to produce a loud, low-frequency sound. We think that a dinosaur with an in-built foghorn is pretty cool.
Meaning of the name: The name Spinosaurus means ‘spine lizard’. These dinosaurs are named after a ridge of tall spines running along their back.
Discovery: In 1912, Richard Markgraf unearthed remains in Western Egypt. These remains would go on to be classified as the Spinosaurus in 1915. Very few fossilized remains have been found for these dinosaurs.
Size: The Spinosaurus is known as the biggest carnivorous dinosaur. With a length of 18 m (60 ft) and a weight of approximately 4,000 kg (8,800 lbs), the Spinosaurus certainly would have made a fearsome predator.
Method of moving: The Spinosaurus moved on its two hind legs.
Diet: The Spinosaurus was a predator thought to have feasted on fish and other dinosaurs.
When it lived: The Spinosaurus live 70-95 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous period.
Where it lived: Spinosaurus remains have been found in Egypt and Morocco.
Why it’s on the cool list: The Spinosaurus is not on our list because it is the largest carnivorous dinosaur. Instead, it’s on the list due to the spines along its back, which gave it the name Spinosaurus.
These spines were vertebral extensions, and the longest of the spines (around the middle of the back) were about 7 ft tall! But that’s not all. The spines were joined together by sheets of skin so that the entire structure looked like a fantastical sail.
Meaning of the name: The name Tyrannosaurus means ‘tyrant lizard’.
Discovery: The Tyrannosaurus was first discovered in the Hell Creek Formation of Montana in 1902 by Barnum Brown.
Size: The Tyrannosaurus was about 12 m long (40 ft) and weighed approximately 7,000 kg (15,500 lbs).
Method of moving: The Tyrannosaurus was a bipedal dinosaur, walking around on its two powerful hind legs.
Diet: The Tyrannosaurus is probably the most well-known carnivorous dinosaur who had sixty, eight-inch long, razor-sharp, pointed teeth.
When it lived: The Tyrannosaurus lived in the Late Cretaceous period; 66-68 million years ago.
Where it lived: Tyrannosaurus roamed over what is now known as western North America.
Why it’s on the cool list: Tyrannosaurus, and specifically Tyrannosaurus rex, made it onto our list because of its reputation. If you ask anyone to name a dinosaur, most people will immediately mention the Tyrannosaurus.
Some people make fun of the Tyrannosaurus’s short, two-fingered arms, but with a bite force equivalent to the force exerted by an elephant sitting down, these dinosaurs didn’t need arms!
From tails that could be whipped to create a sonic boom, sails of skin and bone, and sheer magnitude, to the level of preservation, the number of specimens, and widespread fame, there are so many reasons why dinosaurs are awesome.
This list does not include animals such as the fantastic Plesiosaurus and the fascinating Pterodactyl simply because these animals are not technically dinosaurs.
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