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Carnivorous Dinosaurs: Types & Names

Instructor: Heather Pier

Heather has taught high school and college science courses, and has a master's degree in geography-climatology.

In this lesson, we will explore the major types of carnivorous dinosaurs. We will define what a carnivore is, and determine what types of dinosaurs were carnivorous.

What is a Dinosaur?

When most people think of dinosaurs, they think of the classic raging tyrannosaurus rex or the long-necked brontosaurus, wandering through the Jurassic-era world. But did you ever stop to think about what dinosaurs are, in a scientific sense?

A dinosaur is a vertebrate reptile that lived during the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous time periods (between approximately 230 to 65 million years ago).

They could be found all over the prehistoric world, taking advantage of the warmer climate that was a direct result of most of the world's land masses being located closer to the equator.

All dinosaurs became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous time period. Recent fossil evidence suggests that some dinosaurs may have evolved over time into the ancestors of modern day birds.

So depending on how you want to interpret the science, the ancestors of dinosaurs may technically still be among us!

The large-jawed Tyrannosaurus rex is among the best known carnivorous dinosaurs.

What is a Carnivore?

You may recall from middle school science class that a carnivore is an animal that eats meat. Some dinosaurs were carnivores, while others were herbivores (consuming only plant material).

The carnivorous dinosaurs were capable of eating the plant-eating dinosaurs, which meant that they were higher up on the food chain.

Like most organisms near the top of their food chain, the carnivores required large amounts of energy to sustain their bodily processes. This meant that many other dinosaurs (and other animals too) had to be killed and eaten by the carnivorous dinosaurs.

Those fierce and menacing tyrannosaurs probably weren't being intentionally mean to the other dinosaurs, they were simply hungry!

Though lesser known, the spinosaur was larger and perhaps more ferocious than the Tyrannosaurus rex.

Carnivorous Dinosaurs

The best known group of carnivorous dinosaurs is probably the tyrannosaurus group. The tyrannosaurus was a large dinosaur with a large, prominent jaw.

Its large jaw was used for killing its prey, which usually consisted of larger animals like other dinosaurs.

Even larger than the tyrannosaurus was the largest carnivore, the spinosaurus. In addition to being large, spinosaurs also had spines on their back, hence the spine reference in their name.

Ornithomimosaurs were another group of carnivorous dinosaurs, with a more bird-like form than the tyrannosaurs. These were ostrich-like dinosaurs, with long legs. They fed on much smaller prey because of their smaller size.

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