By | September 9, 2016

Theropods were the world’s top predators throughout much of the dinosaurs’ reign. This branch of the dinosaur family tree gave rise to some truly gigantic carnivores (although not all were meat-eaters). A selection of these immense animals is shown here. Interestingly, one group of theropods would evolve into the birds that share our world today.


Key features
■ Long skulls with large eye sockets, and often horns or crests on top
■ Air-filled bones
■ Many had a furcula, or wishbone. Birds today have this feature.
■ Immense jaws with curved teeth
■ Strong arms with three-fingered hands
■ Three-toed feet

Theropods flourished from the Late Triassic to the Late Cretaceous (230–65 million years ago).

Giganotosaurus (gig-AN-oh-toe-SORE-rus)


When: Late Cretaceous

Fossil location: Argentina

Habitat: Woodlands

Size: 39 ft (12 m) long

Giganotosaurus was a formidable predator—it was as heavy as 125 people. It was more than capable of preying on the giant sauropods that roamed South America in the late Cretaceous.

Monolophosaurus (MON-oh-LOAF-oh-SORE-rus)


This dinosaur was probably reasonably agile

When: Middle Jurassic

Fossil location: China

Habitat: Woodlands

Size: 20 ft (6 m) long

Monolophosaurus had a thick and bumpy head crest. This was hollow and may have acted as a means for the dinosaur to produce loud noises, possibly to attract a mate or to warn off a rival. It had a particularly slender lower jaw, but enormous nostril openings.

Sinraptor (SIN-rap-tor)


Sinraptor was a close relative of Allosaurus

When: Late Jurassic

Fossil location: China

Habitat: Woodlands

Size: 25 ft (7.5 m) long

“Sinraptor” means “Chinese hunter.” Scientists have found tooth marks on a Sinraptor’s skull that seem to have been made by another Sinraptor, which suggests that these dinosaurs may have engaged in vicious fights.

Carcharodontosaurus (CAR-ka-roe-DON-toe-sore-us)


When: Late Cretaceous

Fossil location: North Africa

Habitat: Floodplains and mangroves

Size: 39–43 ft (12–13 m) long

Carcharodontosaurus was one of the biggest carnivorous dinosaurs ever. This monster was twice the weight of an elephant and had massive jaws equipped with teeth 8 in (20 cm) long. Its name means “sharktoothed lizard”—it was named for the rough similarity once observed between its teeth and those of Carcharodon, the great white shark.

Gasosaurus (GASS-oh-sore-us)


When: Middle Jurassic

Fossil location: China

Habitat: Woodlands

Size: 11. ft (3.5 m) long

Just a few of this dinosaur’s bones were discovered accidentally in 1985 when a Chinese gas-mining company was using dynamite to clear rocks. This unusual means of its discovery is reflected in its name, which means “gas lizard.” No skull has ever been found, so its proposed shape is based on other
similar dinosaurs.



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