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The superorder of the Dinosauria, more commonly known as dinosaurs, are a well known group within the reptiles (Reptilia). Dinosaurs emerged in the Triassic. Some groups, more in particular the birds (Aves) are still present today. The other groups, called non-birdlike dinosaurs, went extinct during the mass extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous. A likely hypothesis is that a meteorite hit on the Yucatan peninsula caused this extinction event in which several other iconic taxa disappeared from the face of the Earth. Some of them may sound familiar, such as ammonites, belemnites and pterosaurs. 

Dinosaurs can be divided into the Saurischia and Ornithischia. The main distinction between both types of dinosaurs is the shape of the pelvis and pubis. Within the Saurischia, birds have evolved through Theropods. Recent discoveries of dinosaur- and bird fossils in Chinese Lägerstatten have shown that many dinosaurs already possessed feathers, some of which had a distinct ornamental function. Other dinosaurs possessed a scaled skin, comparable to extant reptiles. Several rare discoveries, such as mummified specimens or specimens that left behind skin imprints in the surrounding sediment have shown this.

There were herbivores as well as carnivores among dinosaurs. They had a terrestrial way of life. Dinosaurs are an extremely diverse group that shows lot's of differences when it comes to body size or body type. Dinosaurs laid eggs and in some cases had some kind of parental care. If dinosaurs were either warm- or cold blooded is still being discussed by scientists. It is likely, however, that this was a variable attribute within the different groups of dinosaurs.

Until now, over 1300 species of dinosaurs have been found. Some well known genera are Tyrannosaurus, Allosaurus, Triceratops, Spinosaurus and Iguanodon. Marine reptiles such as Mosasaurus or flying reptiles like Pterosaurus are not being regarded as dinosaurs but they did live during the same periods of time.


Dinosaurs appeal to the imagination of many people (Image Michael Gray)


Dinosaurs often appeal to people, not in the least because of the variation in size and body type between the different groups. Because of this they're able to play an important role in generating people's interest in the Earth's history in general but also more specifically when it comes down to fossils. Dinosaurs are often the first extinct group of animals people (usually already at young age) come into contact with. This group has inspired artists, movie- and documentary makers as well as writers far more than any other type of animal has. Dinosaurs often draw large crowds to musea. Because of this, musea are able to gather more funds and resources. Unfortunately, this has created a large -and often illegal- international trade in fossil remains of dinosaurs.


Mounting an Iguanodon from Bernissart


Many discoveries of dinosaurs have been documented wordwide. One of the most iconic discoveries has been that of a large amount of Iguanodon specimens and an associated fauna in a coalmine, back in 1878 at Bernissart, Belgium. Many other famous discoveries of dinosaurs have been made in China and the USA.



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