Troodon was a small but agile dinosaur, built like a bird and covered with feathers. About the weight of a child, it wasn’t powerful enough to tackle large dinosaurs, but it was swift on its feet and adept at catching small animals in the undergrowth of woodlands. With an unusually large brain for a dinosaur and sharp eyes, Troodon seems to have been a quick-witted hunter with the lightning reactions and killer instinct of a cat.
■ When: 74–65 million years ago (Late Cretaceous)
■ Fossil location: N. America
■ Habitat: Wooded plains
■ Length: 10 ft (3 m)
■ Diet: Small animals and possibly plants Troodon had unusual teeth with very jagged edges. Although small animals probably made up most of its diet, the teeth might also have been used for shredding leaves. The name Troodon means “wounding tooth.”
Scientists used the tiny bones in a fossil egg to recreate this lifelike model of a baby Troodon about to hatch. Both parents sat in egg-filled nests, using their feathered arms to protect the eggs.
Troodon’s eyes, unlike those of most dinosaurs, faced forward rather than sideways. This gave it 3-D vision in the area seen by both eyes (as in humans).This special ability enabled Troodon to judge the distance to its prey before pouncing for the kill.
ON THE CHASE
Long, slender legs and an athletic build made Troodon a fast sprinter, able to outrun small animals such as lizards and baby dinosaurs. The second toe on each foot had a large, sickle-shaped claw that Troodon may have used to pin down prey. The claw could swivel upward to stay off the ground while Troodon was running.
Troodon had perhaps the largest brain relative to its body weight of any dinosaur. But while it may have been a quick thinker by dinosaur standards, its brain was only as big as that of a flightless bird such as a cassowary and much smaller than the average mammal’s brain.