My 30 Favourite Dinosaurs

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Dinosaurs are the most incredible beasts. They have captured the public’s imagination for over 100 years, but whilst all Dinosaurs were in their own way unique and interesting, I think its fair to say that some Dinosaurs are the more interesting than others.

Its no coincidence that mighty killers like Tyrannosaurus Rex, and Spinosaurus and gentle lumbering giants like Bronotsaurus are more popular than say Microceratops.

So I’ve decided in this article to take a look at my top 30 Dinosaurs. I will be looking at just how deadly the meat eaters really were, debunk some famous myths and look at their most famous depictions in popular culture.

As always let me know what you think in the comments below.

30/ Dilophosaurus

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Name Meaning: Two Crested Lizard

Size: 23 feet in length, 400 kilograms in weight

Prey: Prosauropods 

Fossil Range: Middle Jurassic

Dilophosaurus was a medium sized carnivore, though it would have been the largest meat eater in its territory.

Originally thought to be nothing more than a scavenger dues to its apparently weak jaws, more recent studies have shown that Dilophosaurus teeth were stronger than previously thought.

It is believed that Dilophosaurus may have been like a lethal reptillian Kangeroo, jumping up and down on its tail slashing at victims with its massive claws and then biting them.

It is also believed that much like the later Spinosaurus, Dilophosaurus used its claws to scoop up fish.

The two famous crests on the beasts head were very delicate and so would not have been used in any form of defence. Instead they may have been used to help it attract a mate or to cool down in the hotter climates.

In Popular Culture

Dilophosaurus was featured in Michael Crichton’s classic novel Jurassic Park and the  subsequent film adaptation. Here however it was depicted as being much smaller and having the power to spit poison and a massive frill.

In many ways the Jurassic Park version was more terrifying than the real animal.

Sadly whilst this horrifying sequence is one of the most iconic from the original Jurassic Park, the Dilophosaurus, save for a tiny cameo as a hologram in Jurassic World, has yet to appear in any of the sequels.

I’d personally love to see a fight between a pack of Dilophosaurus’ and Velociraptors.

The success of Jurassic Park has meant that whenever Dilophosaurus does appear its often the Jurassic Park version rather than the real one. I can understand in a way, as from a story perspective, the spitting Dilophosaurus is a more unique and terrifying animal.

The actual Dilophosaurus would just be another giant meat eater, except not anywhere near as scary as the T-Rex, Spinosaurus or Allosaurus.

29/ Carnotaurus

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Name Meaning: Meat Eating Bull

Size: 29 feet

Prey: Sauropods

Fossil Range: Late Cretaceous

Carnotaurus was a member of the Abeliosaur family. Famous for its distinctive appearance, Carnotaurus was the only meat eating Dinosaur to have two horns above its eyes.

Its arms were the smallest of any meat eater (even more so than T-Rex.) Recent studies however have shown that it had one of the strongest bites of any non Tyrannosaur Dinosaur.

Its bite was over 6 tons, over twice that of the American Alligator, which has the strongest bite of any terrestrial animal alive today. This would have easily enabled a Carnotaurus to bite an animal the size of a human in half no problem. It may also have been able to partially dislocate its jaws like a snake too.

Carnotaurus was also one of, if not the fastest large meat eater. It is believed that it could run at over 35 mph, which is faster than any animal of a similar size today, such as a Rhino, or an Elephant.

Its horns it seems may have been used more for fighting for mates than for hunting, but whatever the case they were very strong and would have acted as shock absorbers when the animal attacked its victim.

In Popular Culture

Image result for Carnotaurus Disney

Due to its unusual look, Carnotaurus has become quite a popular Dinosaur in films and video games. Undoubtedly its most prominent role was in the 2001 Disney animated movie, Dinosaur, where it was the main antagonist. Apparently the standard Tyrannosaurus was to have been originally used, but the films makers at the last minute decided to switch to a Carnotaurus simply because they thought it looked better.

The Carnotaurus in this movie was obviously made much larger than the real animal.

Carnotaurus has long been associated with the Jurassic Park franchise too. It plays a significant role in the novel of The Lost World, where it is given the ability to camoflauge.

Despite this however it didn’t make an appearance on screen until Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom where it fell victim to a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

28/ Megalosaurus 

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Name Meaning: Great Lizard

Size: 30 feet

Fossil Range: Middle Jurassic

One of the original giant meat eating Dinosaurs, Megalosaurus was also fittingly one of the first Dinosaurs to ever be discovered. In fact Megalosaurus was discovered long before the name Dinosaur was even conceived.

Somewhat paradoxically however a full skeleton of Megalosaurus has never been found. Still from its remains scientists can gather a fairly accurate picture of what the beast would have looked like.

Megalosaurus had a somewhat more sturdier build than many other meat eating Dinosaurs, with its arms in particular being much more muscular than those of other large meat eaters.

Still in many ways Megalosaurus is a reminder of just how little we know about the ancient world. We have had fossils of this creature for over 100 years, yet we still have not only been unable to find a complete skeleton, but even draw up a completely accurate picture of what the animal would have looked like.

In Popular Culture

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Megalosaurus was possibly the first Dinosaur to be referenced in popular culture. In Charles Dickens famous novel, Bleak House he mentions.

“Implacable November weather.  As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the Earth, and would it not be wonderful to meet Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill.”

Several statues of Megalosaurus and other giant Dinosaurs like Iquanodon were built in the Crystal palace. However in the century since the models are now considered woefully inaccurate, but they can of course still be appreciated as pieces of art.

Megalosaurus also was listed as being one of the candidates for the giant meat eating Dinosaur that stalks our main heroes in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World. Professor George Challenger mentions that the monster could be either Megalosaurus or Allosaurus, though certain reprints and editions will just choose one Dinosaur.

As larger and more ferocious Dinosaurs were discovered in the ensuing decades such as Allosaurus, Tyrannosaurus Rex and of course Spinosaurus, then Megalosaurus began to fade from the public’s consciousness, though it does still occasionally feature in some works of fiction such as the Jim Henson series Dinosaurs, where a Megalosaurus is the main character and the video game ARK.

27/ Baryonyx

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Name Meaning: Heavy Claw

Size: 33 feet in length, 2 tons in weight

Diet: Primarily fish, other smaller Dinosaurs, Pterosaurs

Fossil Range: Middle Cretaceous

A medium sized member of the Spinosaur family of Theropods. Baryonyx had a somewhat more unusual appearance than most other meat eating Dinosaurs with its long Crocodile like snout and the massive claws on its hands.

Most experts believe that Baryonyx was like the Dinosaur version of a large grizzly bear, living by lakes, using its claws to scoop up fish and snatching smaller prey. Whilst its diet appears to be mostly fish, there is some evidence that it fed on smaller Dinosaurs, with the remains of a baby Iquanodon, a plant eating Dinosaur having been found in its stomach.

Baryonx would have killed its prey by using its long claws to pin its victims down whilst it bit them. It claws may also have been used to disembowel its victims.

It is possible that Baryonyx may have had a semi aquatic lifestyle and moved on all fours like its much larger cousin Spinosaurus, but there is no concrete evidence for this yet.

In Popular Culture

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Baryonyx’s most notable appearance in popular culture is in the movie Ice Age 3 Dawn of the Dinosaurs.

Set in a lost valley below the ground where Dinosaurs still roam, the Baryoynx who is named Rudy is the main antagonist of the movie, and is shown to be even larger than the Tyrannosaurus Rex, Big Momma, who is actually scared of Rudy.

Ultimately however in tradition with many other Dinosaur movies such as Jurassic Park, the T-Rex makes a heroic appearance at the end and saves the main characters by pushing Rudy off a cliff (though he survives and even cameos in the next entry in the series.)

Baryonyx also recently appeared in Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom.

26/ Ceratosaurus

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Name Meaning: Horn Lizard

Size: 23 feet long

Prey: Smaller herbivores, possibly larger prey in packs.

Fossil Range: Mid to late Jurassic

A small to medium sized meat eater from the Jurassic era. Ceratosaurus is most famous for the single horn on its nose, a unique feature among meat eating Dinosaurs. Whilst many initially assumed that Ceratosaurus used this horn as a weapon, it is now primarily believed to have been used for a mating display.

Small, nimble and agile, but lacking in tremendous power, Ceratosaurus most likely preyed on smaller herbivores or infants of larger creatures like Diplodocus or Brachiosaurus. It is possible that it may have hunted larger prey in packs, but there is very little evidence for this yet. Some experts believe that Ceratosaurus may also have been a pescavore too.

Ceratosaurus shared its environment with Allosaurus which was a much larger and more powerful therapod. It has been suggested that these two predators sought different prey in order to avoid conflict with one another.

In Popular Culture

Ceratosaurus has been featured in many movies and pieces of Dinosaur fiction. Due its more distinct appearance it often became the other giant meat eater after Tyrannosaurus and Allosaurus.

Its most notable appearance in films was arguably the Ray Harryhausen movie One Million Years BC where a Ceratosaurus was shown to fight a Triceratops before being gored to death.

Of course just as in other films the Ceratosaurus is shown to be far larger and more powerful. There is no way a real life Ceratosaurus would be able to even hold its own against a Triceratops (not that the two creatures would have ever met of course, but then again One Million Years BC is a fantasy film anyway.)

Some of Harryhausen’s best work. This scene would often be used in documentary’s about Dinosaurs to demonstrate how a Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops would have fought each other.

25/ Velociraptor

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Name Meaning: Swift Robber

Size: 7 feet long

Diet: Mammals, small herbivores, baby Dinosaurs

Fossil Range: Late Cretaceous

Velociraptor is of course one of the most famous Dinosaurs of all time. In fact its arguably the second most famous Dinosaur after Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The image of Velociraptor in popular culture is quite different to the real animal. Velociraptor is often depicted as a 6 foot tall, scaly man eater, hunting in packs to bring down giant Dinosaurs like Sauropods, and slicing its prey open with is sickle like claw.

In reality however Velociraptor was the size of a Wolf, covered in feathers and its claw was incapable of disembowling, or even penetrating the hard skin of a modern day Crocodile, never mind a giant Sauropod.

It is also not even known for sure if Velociraptor hunted in packs either. Modern day relatives of Dinosaurs, birds and Crocodillians are shown to work together to bring down large prey, so its entirely possible that Velociraptor would have done so too. Still there is actually no more evidence for Velociraptors living in packs than there is for any other meat eating Dinosaurs.

Nevertheless Velociraptor was still a fearsome killer. It preyed on smaller Dinosaurs like the pig sized Protoceratops as well as baby Dinosaurs of giants like Ankylosaurus.

As to how Velociraptor killed its prey, its believed that it stabbed its sickle like claw into its victims throats and slowly choked them to death.

Evidence for this comes from a truly incredible fossil of a Velociraptor and a Proteceratops caught fighting each other. How these two animals were suddenly killed in the middle of fighting no one knows, but it seems likely they were buried under a sand storm which would have helped to preserve the two Dinosaurs as well.

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You can see how the Raptor in its final moments is thrusting its claw into the herbivores neck to try and escape.

Another way that Velociraptor could have killed its victims would have been to climb to the top of a tree, and glide down like a bird of prey onto its unsuspecting victims back. Its jaws were very strong for an animal of its size and whilst the talons on its feet and hands held its prey down, the Raptor would have eaten them alive!

Velociraptor was also among the most intelligent species of Dinosaurs. It is known that some Dinosaur species, such as Tyrannosaurus Rex were more intelligent than some modern day species of apes, and so in this respect Velociraptor’s intelligence may very well have rivalled among the most intelligent mammals around today.

In Popular Culture

Velociraptor’s most famous appearance in popular culture was of course in Michael Crichton’s novel, and subsequent film adaptation, Jurassic Park.

Following the success of Jurassic Park, Raptors would go on to appear in countless other works of fiction in exactly the same way, as tall, scaly, fiendishly clever, pack hunters, with disembowling claws.

The actual Dinosaur in Crichton’s Jurassic Park was based on Deinonychus, a larger relative of Velociraptors. At the time Crichton was writing, Deinonychus was actually believed to be a member of the Velociraptor family, but this has since been disproven.

Had it not been for this error then Crichton would have most likely used Deinonychus, and Velociraptor, who was discovered as far back as the 1920s would have continued to remain obscure. Thanks to a small error however Velociraptor has now become the second most famous Dinosaur of them all.

24/ Dryptosaurus

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Name meaning: Tearing Reptile

Size: 24 feet long, over 1 ton in weight

Prey: Hadrosaurs

Fossil Range: Late Cretaceous

Dryptosaurus was a member of the Tyrannosaur family of Dinosaurs which obviously included T-Rex. Originally smaller meat eaters, the Tyrannosaurs gradually grew to be the largest and dominant family of meat eating Dinosaurs, out competing other large groups of meat eaters to extinction anywhere they appeared.

Dryptosaurus however was still a relatively smaller Tyrannosaur, though it would have had a stronger bite than any animal alive today, and would have most likely been very fast too. It could possibly have run up to 35 miles per hour, which is faster than modern day carnivores like Tigers and Lions.

What Dryptosaurus lacked in size, it would have made up for in intelligence, speed and power.

In Popular Culture

Image result for Dryptosaurus Charles R Knight

Dryptosaurus was featured in the works of artist Charles R Knight (whose paintings of prehistoric creatures later inspired the works of Willis O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen.)

Knight’s painting depicted Dryptosaurus as an active, fleet footed creature moving in a more bird like stance.

At the time such ideas were not widely held by the scientific community. Dinosaurs were thought of as slow moving, stupid, obsolete creatures destined for extinction. This painting of the two fighting Dryptosaurus however challenged that assumption and would later be influential in reconstructions of similar fleet footed, smaller bird like Dinosaurs such as the Velociraptors in Jurassic Park.

Sadly however despite this Dryptosaurus appears to have been left out of most films, television series and comic books about Dinosaurs. Personally I think it would make a great antagonist as it’s kind of like a combination of a T-Rex and a Raptor.

23/ Centrosaurus

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Name Meaning: Pointed Lizard

Size: 19 feet long

Diet: Plants

Fossil Range: Mid Cretaceous

Centrosaurus was a medium sized Ceratopsian Dinosaur. It had a single horn on the tip of its snout and a massive frill. Like most Ceratopsians it was able to defend itself against the majority of meat eating Dinosaurs, but was still preyed upon by Tyrannosaurs, such as Daspletosaurus (believed to be the ancestor of Tyrannosaurus Rex.)

The horn on the Centrosaurus was used for defence, but its frill was soft and weak and so therefore was most likely used to attract mates.

Whilst nowhere near as large or powerful as the more famous Triceratops, there still have been far more skeletons of Centrosaurus discovered than of Triceratops and so it appears to have been a very successful animal.

Despite this however as there were so many similar and closely related species, then trying to figure out which animals were merely closely related and which were actually specimens of Centrosaurus has been somewhat difficult for experts.

Monoclonius for instance was a famous Ceratopsian Dinosaur, often featured in popular culture that was thought to be a relative of Centrosaurus until recently, where it was revealed to just be a specimen of Centrosaurus itself.

In Popular Culture

Centrosaurus has been featured in many documentaries about Dinosaurs including the recent Planet Dinosaur narrated by the late John Hurt.

One memorable sequence shows several Daspletosaurus’ attack a herd of Centrosaurus, chasing them into a lagoon where a Deinosochus (a prehistoric crocodile, 40 feet long) carries several of the helpless herbivores away.

 

Another memorable appearance from the Dinosaur in popular culture was an animated short by Phil Tippet which depicted a Centrosaurus being hunted by a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The Centrosaurus was actually meant to be a Monoclonius, but since Monoclonius is no longer a valid species, then this technically marks an appearance of Centrosaurus.

Tyrannosaurus did not live at the same time as Centrosaurus, (the Centrosaurus is also a bit bigger too, as obviously a real life Tyrannosaurus would snap a Centrosaurus in half effortlessly.) Still this short titled Prehistoric Beast is absolutely superb.

Not only is the animation still top notch, but this scene also develops a very intense and frightening atmosphere leading up to the T-Rex’s appearance. It feels almost like a horror movie!

We see the Rex slowly stalk the herbivore through the dark and unrelenting forest. The Centrosaurus is clearly scared, but can’t see anything and as it starts to frantically try and get away, it ends up not only becoming separated from its herd, but unwittingly stumbling into the Tyrannosaur’s nest, where it sees the mangled remains of the Rex’s previous kill. The Centrosaurus is too scared at the sight to even notice the Rex creeping up on it.

When the two fight you are led to think that the Centrosaurus might just have a chance, the way it is able to stab the Tyrannosaurus in the leg, but when the monster just shrugs it off and corners the Centrosaurus, you know there is nothing the poor herbivore can do, and its a genuinely disturbing moment when the Rex slowly moves in for the kill.

Its a shame that Centrosaurus’ most popular appearances on film and television involve it being ripped to pieces, but at least it usually doesn’t go down without a fight.

22/ Ankylosaurus

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Name Meaning: Armoured Lizard

Size: 29 feet, 8 tonnes

Diet plants

Fossil Range: Late Cretaceous

One of the most iconic Dinosaurs, Ankylosaurus was the largest of the armoured Dinosaurs. Ankylosaurus was also among the last dinosaurs to die out and lived alongside the likes of Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus Rex and Velociraptor.

Ankylosaurus was believed to have had the smallest brain of any large Dinosaur, but it of course more than made up for this with its massive body armour. Even its eye lids were said to have been hardened.

Ankylosaurus main weapon however was a massive club on its tail which could swing with a force of over 4 tons.

There is evidence that Anklyosaurus fought with giant meat eating Dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus Rex and Tarbosaurus (with specimens of both carnivores having massive whacks on their legs which were clearly made by Anklyosaurus.)

In addition to this Velociraptors were known to prey on Ankylosaurs young. The massive armour hadn’t grown in yet in baby Ankylosaurs and the much more intelligent raptors would often lure the hapless children away from their parents (possibly through working together in packs, with one Raptor distracting the parents.)

Still despite this Ankylosaurus would have been capable of defending itself from most predators and was one of the most dangerous plant eating Dinosaurs.

In Popular Culture

Ankylosaurus is featured fairly regularly in popular culture, though usually just as a background character.

In the BBC series Walking With Dinosaurs, an Ankylosaurus is cast in a more antagonistic role against a heroic mother Tyrannosaurus who tries to defend her young. Its one of the rare instances of a meat eating Dinosaur being portrayed sympathetically.

Arguably the most famous example of Ankylosaurus in popular culture was in the Godzilla film series. Godzilla’s best friend Angillas, is a mutated Ankylosaurus. Though not the most powerful monster, Angillas is Godzilla’s most loyal sidekick and is always the first by his side.

21/ Oviraptor

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Name Meaning: Egg Thief

Size: 7 feet long

Diet: small mammals, small animals

Fossil Range: Late Cretaceous

One of the most famous small meat eating Dinosaurs. Oviraptor was originally believed to be a sneaky egg thief as its skull had been found near the remains of several eggs.

More recent studies have shown however that this assumption was unfair as the eggs the Oviraptor skull was near were actually its own, and it was in contrast to what its name would suggest, a protective mother.

Oviraptor was one of the most intelligent meat eating Dinosaurs. It was a warm blooded creature, covered in feathers and extremely fast and agile. Its strong beak would have enabled it to crush the bones of its prey.

In Popular Culture

Oviraptor has most frequently appeared as a sneaky egg thief in popular culture that meets a gruesome end at the ends of a larger more formidable meat eating Dinosaur, much to the audiences satisfaction.

A classic example of this can be found in the 80s documentary Dinosaur by Christopher Reeve. Here the Oviraptor is shown to steal several Hadrosaur eggs, but after being chased away by the angry mother, the Dinosaur takes a wrong turn and ends up in a dark forest, surrounded by two Deinonychus.

The Deinonychus corner the Oviraptor and tear its guts out. The effects for this sequence supplied by Phil Tippet (who later went to work on Jurassic Park) are stunning, but much like with the Monoclonious sequence from his earlier short, Prehistoric Beast, its the atmosphere that gets built up that really makes it effective. I always had nightmares from the scene where the Deinonychus first roars at the Oviraptor, with is red eye piercing through the darkness, it looks almost like a Demon.

This sequence is also notable for being one of the first ever appearances of smaller pack hunting Dinosaurs like Velociraptor in popular culture and may have even inspired similar scenes in Jurassic Park, (with the Documentary predating both the film and book of Jurassic Park.)

20/ Brontosaurs

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Name Meaning: Thunder Lizard

Size: 72 feet long, 20 tons

Diet: Plants

Fossil Range: Mid Jurassic

One of the most famous of all Dinosaurs. Brontosaurus for many decades was believed to be an invalid genus of Dinosaur.

When the beast was originally discovered it was believed to be its own separate species, but later studies apparently showed that it was in fact a specimen of an already existing species of sauropod Dinosaur called Apatosaurus. Sadly as a result of this Brontosaurus was deemed invalid.

Despite this however the name Brontosaurus persisted in popular culture. Indeed it ironically became arguably one of the most famous Dinosaur names, and the most famous long necked Dinosaur alongside Diplodocus. However in the last year it was discovered that actually the experts had been correct in their original assertion and Brontosaurus was its own separate genus after all.

The Brontosaurus is Back

I personally always preferred the name Brontosaurus to Apatosaurus so I’m glad its back. Its so much more dynamic sounding and it also has a much better meaning “thunder lizard” as opposed to “deceptive lizard” which is what Apatosaurus means.

In Popular Culture

By far and away one of the most famous Dinosaurs, Brontosaurus has appeared in many films, television series and comic books over the years.

It was a regular of the movies of special effects pioneer Willis O’Brien and his protegee, Ray Harryhausen. It appeared in the 1925 version of The Lost World, King Kong, The Animal Kingdom and One Million Years BC.

Unquestionably its most famous moment in popular culture is at the end of the 1925 version of The Lost World where a Brontosaurus is brought back to London, only to escape and go on a rampage.

This marked the first ever instance on film of a gigantic prehistoric monster rampaging its way through a large modern city. Godzilla, The Beast From 20000 Fathoms, King Kong and the T-Rex from The Lost World Jurassic Park would all follow in the Brontosaurus’ destructive footsteps.

Whilst this is the most famous appearance of Brontosaurus on film, my favourite would have to be in King Kong.

Here the Brontosaurus attacks a group of sailors searching for Kong and Anne Darrow whilst they are crossing a lake. After capsizing their boat, the Brontosaurus kills several of them, before chasing one sailor up a tree who it promptly kills. (Probably not the best place to hide from a giant long necked Dinosaur!)

Whilst the herbivorous Brontosaurus appears to eat the sailors, it is actually just mauling them. Though its still probably a lot more vicious than the actual animal would have been, its nevertheless a brilliant sequence, and I wish more directors had used Brontosaurus as a villain rather than just a large docile grazer. Its massive size, and long serpentine neck that can reach in small places makes it a very effective antagonist.

If any of the sailors were Dinosaur fans then they might have been relieved to see the Brontosaurus at first thinking “oh don’t worry they are friendly” only to get a nasty surprise.

19/ Iguanodon

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Name Meaning: Iguana Tooth

Size: 33 feet, 3 tons

Diet: Plants

Fossil Range: Early to Mid Cretaceous

One of the first Dinosaurs to be discovered. Iguanodon was a medium sized (by Dinosaur standards) herbivore that was fairly successful and widespread during the period.

Its size would have scared away most predators, but there is evidence that it fell prey to larger killers including Spinosaurids like Baryonx, and Tyrannosaurids like Eotyrannus. The remains of an Iguanodon have been found in the stomach of a Baryonx.

However Iguanodon was no pushover when it came to larger predators either. It had a massive spike on its thumb which it could have used to bring down some of the deadliest killers around.

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In Popular Culture

Iguanodon was one of the first Dinosaurs to be discovered alongside Megalosaurus, and so was one of the first Dinosaurs to be featured in popular culture. Statues were constructed of the beast outside Crystal Palace. Sadly whilst these models were terrific and still hold up as great pieces of art in their own right. They were completely inaccurate, and depicted Iguanodon as a four legged animal with a horn on its nose.

A more accurate early depiction of the animal was in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. Here Iguanodon is depicted as a gentle herbivore that is easily slaughtered and hunted by both Allosaurus and the humans of the plateau.

Iguanodon would go on to appear in the 1925 version of The Lost World where it is killed in a fight with an Allosaurus that tears its throat out.

Iguanodon would come to be phased out of popular culture when other, larger, more deadly herbivores such as Triceratops, Ankylosaurus and Brontosaurus began to be discovered.

Still Iguanodon has continued to appear in a few works in recent times, such as most notably Walking with Dinosaurs where it is slaughtered by a pack of vicious Utahraptors.

I think its a shame that Iguanodon’s most famous appearances in popular culture, all involve it getting ripped apart by killers like Allosaurus, Giganotosaurus and Utahraptor. It would be nice to see it get a chance to use its spikey thumb at least once on the big screen.

18/ Archaeopteryx

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Name Meaning: Old Wing

Size: 1 foot 8 inches in length

Diet: Small mammals and insects

Fossil Range: Mid Jurassic

A very special animal in the history of Paleontology. Archaeopteryx is a missing link between Dinosaurs and Birds.

At the time of its discovery the idea that small, feathery, warm bloodied birds could have descended from giant scaly meat eating Dinosaurs would have seemed ridiculous, but Arechaeopteryx clearly bore many similarities with both modern birds and Dinosaurs.

It had claws on its hands, a sickle like claw on its foot (similar to Dinosaurs such as Velociraptor.) It also had a mouth full of teeth too rather than a beak. Still despite this Archeaoptryx was covered in feathers, and had hollow bones just like a modern day bird. (Prior to the discovery of Archeaoptryx, hollow bones and feathers were believed to be features unique only to birds.)

Of course the debate would rage on for many decades after Archeaoptryx’s discovery, but still this small feathered Dinosaur begun the debate, and eventually after the discovery of more transitional fossils, as well as the discovery of many more strong similarities between birds and Dinosaurs, it is now accepted that birds not only evolved from Dinosaurs, but that they are classed as a sub group of Dinosaur. Thus ironically Dinosaurs aren’t extinct. They are all around us today.

17/ Tarbosaurus

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Name Meaning: Alarming Reptile

Size: 39 feet long, 8 tons

Diet: Hadrosaurs, Ceratopsians, Anklyosaurs, Sauropods

Fossil Range: Late Cretaceous

Tarbosaurus was a member of the Tyrannosaur family. It was the second largest member of the family after Tyrannosaurus Rex itself.

Slight smaller than T-Rex, Tarbosaurus was nevertheless the apex predator in its environment. It has a stronger bite than the overwhelming majority of large meat eating Dinosaurs.

The similarities between Tarbosaurus and Tyrannosaurus Rex are so great that many believed that Tarbosaurus was actually just an Asian representative of Tyrannosaurus Rex itself!

In Popular Culture

Tarbosaurus has been featured a few documentary’s over the years such as Chased by Dinosaurs, but sadly it was almost always left out of any fictional works about Dinosaurs.

In 2012 however, Tarbosaurus finally landed a starring role in the South Korean film the Dino King, which follows a young Tarbosaurus whose family are killed by a Tyrannosaurus Rex named One Eye. One Eye continues to stalk Speckles throughout the rest of the movie, before their final showdown (see above). Its kind of like The Land Before Time, except with a Tarbosaurus taking the place of Littlefoot. Its a decent, if somewhat surreal Dinosaur movie.

16/ Stenonychosaurus

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Name Meaning: Narrow Claw Lizard

Size: 6 feet long

Diet: Small mammals, dinosaurs 

Fossil Range: Late Creteceous 

Stenonychosaurus was a small, bird like Dinosaur that may have hunted in packs. It was incredibly fast and agile and had large, sickle like claws on its hands and feet. Its teeth however were relatively small and weak, and many experts believe that it may have been an omnivore.

Stenonychosaurus for many decades much like Brontosaurus was believed to be an invalid genus, with Phil Currie in 1987 reassigning Stenonychosaurus as part of the genus Troodon.

However in 2017 it was recognised as its own separate species, though still as a member of the Troodontid family.

Stenonychosaurus was also believed to be among the smartest of all Dinosaurs, with the Troodontids having the largest brain to body ratios of any Dinosaur species. Its not known for sure how intelligent the animals were, but recent studies have shown that Tyrannosaurus Rex may have been smarter than a Chimpanzee, in which case Troodontod’s intelligence may very well have been on a par with some of the most intelligent animals around today.

In Popular Culture

dino 4

The paleontologist Dale Russell published a thought experiment in 1982 where he argued it was possible had Dinosaurs not been driven to extinction that small meat eaters like Stenonychosaurus (then thought to be Troodon.) Would have eventually evolved into a humanoid like life form, which Dale dubbed “Dinosauroid.”

The Dinosauroid Dale proposed would have communicated in bird song, and would have fed its young through reguritation like many modern birds.

Sadly Russell’s reputation would suffer somewhat as a result of this outlandish theory, even though it was just intended to be a thought experiment. Still it is an interesting idea nonetheless that has always fascinated me.

The idea of Dinosaurs evolving into humans had actually been featured in fiction before Russell’s thought experiment.

In the classic British sci fi comic, Dan Dare, the main villains, Venusians called the Treens, were said to have evolved from Dinosaur like aliens. Dan Dare’s version of Venus (which was a planet with an earth like atmosphere, teeming with life) was split into two sections through a naturally occurring phenomenon called the flame belt.

On the cooler side of the planet, mammal like life forms evolved, including a race of human like aliens called Therons. On the warmer side of the planet however, Dinosaur like reptiles evolved to become the dominant life form. (Dan even refers to one of them as a Triceratops.) The Treens meanwhile evolved from small meat eating Dinosaurs, and eventually became the dominant life forms on their planet.

The Treens even look like Dale Russell’s Dinosauroid, with their green skins, bald heads, and beak like mouths. However any similarities between the two is coincidental as Dan Dare was never popular in America where Russell was born and raised.

Image result for treens dan dareImage result for Dinosauroid

Maybe somewhere across the universe there is a planet where Dinosauroid’s like the Treens are the dominant life forms?

15/ Therizinosaurus

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Name Meaning: Scythe Lizard

Size: 33 feet

Diet: plants

Fossil Range: Late Cretaceous

A very strange looking plant eating Dinosaur that looked like a cross between Wolverine and an pigeon.

The three massive claws on Therinzinosaurus forearms were the largest ever to exist in any animal (topping even the legendary Spinosaurus’ killing claws.) It is not known exactly what they were for. Many believed that they were primarily used to fend off large predators, but they may have ironically, primarily been used for the mundane task of scrapping leaves off of branches for it to eat.

14/ Gorgosaurus

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Name Meaning: Dreadful Lizard

Size: 30 feet long, 2 tons

Diet: Hadrosaurs, Ceratopsians 

Fossil Range: Mid Cretaceous

Gorgosaurus was a medium sized member of the Tyrannosaur family. Interestingly enough it shared its environment with another large Tyrannosaur, Daspletosaurus (the ancestor of Tyrannosaurus Rex.)

The two large predators however did not compete as they hunted different types of herbivores. Daspletosaurus, that was more heavily built and had stronger jaws, hunted the more heavily armoured Dinosaurs such as the Anklyosaurs and Ceratopsians, whilst the more fleet footed Gorgosaurus hunted the faster Hadrosaurs.

More specimens of Gorgosaurus have been found than of any other Tyrannosaur and so we actually know more about Gorgosaurus than almost any other meat eater including Tyrannosaurus Rex itself.

In Popular Culture

Gorgosaurus appears as the main antagonist in the CGI movie, Walking with Dinosaurs. Based on the popular BBC television series of the same name. This film however was more of a fantasy movie akin to the famous Land Before Time film series, as it featured Dinosaurs being able to talk.

13/ Stegosaurus

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Name meaning: Roof Lizard

Size: 29 feet long, 7 tons

Diet: Plants

Fossil range: Mid Jurassic

One of the most famous of all Dinosaurs. Stegosaurus was a relatively simple animal, with one of the smallest brains of any known Dinosaur species. At one point it was actually believed that Stegosaurus’ brain was so small that it needed a second brain, near the back of its legs to control the second half of its body! However subsequent studies have shown that it not only didn’t have a second brain, but that its brain was larger than previously believed, though it was still one of the smallest of any large Dinosaur.

Nevertheless despite it’s limited intelligence, Stegosaurus was also one of the most successful Dinosaur species, lasting for over 10 million years.

Stegosaurus whilst a large herbivore, was not big enough to scare off the massive predators it lived alongside such as Allosaurus. Instead it relied on the 4 massive spikes on its tail to ward off predators. Each spike was up to three feet long and made of solid bone.

Evidence shows that Stegosaurus and Allosaurus regularly came into conflict with one another, with bite marks made by Allosaurus, that have healed having been found on Stegosaurus skeletons, and Stegosaurus spike marks that have healed being found on Allosaurus skeletons.

Stegosaurus has always been one of my favourite Dinosaurs because of its truly spectacular appearance. The reason for the massive plates along its back have been a source of debate among experts with some arguing that they were used as armour, similar to the later Anklyosaurus, whilst others have argued that they may have simply been used to regulate the animals body temperature. Finally another theory is that the plates were used to ward off attackers like Allosaurus

In Popular Culture

Stegosaurus is one of the most famous and beloved Dinosaurs. It has appeared in some of the earliest fictional works about Dinosaurs and much like Tyrannosaurus Rex, Allosaurus and Triceratops it has continued to be featured regularly since.

Stegosaurus appears in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Lost World, being the first Dinosaur that Challenger discovers on the plateau. It went on to appear in the 1925 version, albeit in a reduced role.

Stegosaurus also appeared in Fantasia in the iconic Rite of Springs passage. Here it is hunted by a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Following this Tyrannosaurus and Stegosaurus would often be depicted as rivals, despite the fact that Stegosaurus died out millions of years before Tyrannosaurus. There is in fact a greater distance between Tyrannosaurus Rex and Stegosaurus, than there is between humanity and Tyrannosaurus.

The predatory Dinosaur in this sequence was intended to be Tyrannosaurus, despite having three fingers, which Allosaurus, Stegosaurus’ actual predator had. This was apparently because Walt Disney thought T-Rex looked better with three fingers.

Stegosaurus would also go on to appear in the likes of Walking with Dinosaurs and the Jurassic Park franchise where it famously attacks Julianne Moore when she gets too close to one of its children.

The Stegosaurus here is depicted as much larger than the real animal.

12/ Styracosaurus

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Name Meaning: Spiked Lizard

Size: 18 feet long, 3 tons

Diet: Plants

Fossil Range: Late Cretaceous

An iconic Ceratopsian Dinosaur, Styracosaurus is known from many fossil fragments, and was distinguished by the massive horns on the top of its frill.

Its not known what the true purpose of its somewhat more extravagant head was. Whilst many believe that its frill and horns were used for defence, others believe that it may have used them to help distinguish one another, or for mating. Its head was so disproportionately large that it may have made Styracosaurus look bigger overall than it was.

Still most experts agree however that Styracosaurus much like its larger relative Triceratops simply used its frill for defence. Styracosaurus shared its environment with many large predators such as Albertosaurus, a member of the Tyrannosaur family.

There is evidence that Styracosaurus would also have lived in herds for further protection.

11/ Carcharodontosaurus

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Name Meaning: Shark Tooth Lizard

Size: 44 feet long, 15 tons

Diet: Sauropods

Fossil Range: Mid Cretaceous

One of the largest meat eaters ever to walk the earth, Carcharodontosaurus, was a member of the Allosaur family and may very well have been larger than Tyrannosaurus Rex itself. Like all Allosaurs it combined tremendous speed with incredible strength. It may despite its massive size have been able to run at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. It had a very powerful bite, though not as strong as Tyrannosaurus Rex, Carcharodontosaurus may also have used its jaws like hatchet in a similar fashion to Allosaurus.

Carcharodontosaurus lived alongside another, even bigger carnivore, Spinosaurus. Carcharodontosaurus and Spinosaurus most likely would not have come into conflict with one another very often. Spinosaurus was a semi aquatic animal that would have preyed on marine life and Dinosaurs straying close to the river, whilst Carcharodontosaurus meanwhile would have hunted Sauropods on the open plains and the forest.

Large predators today also generally tend to avoid each other in case of injury, so its reasonable to assume that Carcharodontosaurus and Spinosaurus would have been the same.

However there is evidence that the two did occasionally fight one another, with a Carcharodontosaurus bite mark having been found on the sail of a Spinosaurus.

As to which of these two apex predators would have been likely to win in a fight, well that’s like saying who would win in a fight between a Crocodile and a Lion. Both are more than capable of killing one another. Spinosaurus was the larger predator, but Carcharodontosaurus had a larger bite, and was faster than Spinosaurus too.

It would depend on circumstances, the age and health of both Dinosaurs, the environment (in the forest Carcharodontosaurus would have had the advantage, whilst by the water, Spinosaurus would have the obvious advantage) and like most things, luck.

Spinosaurus may have never met Tyrannosaurus Rex, (as the two lived several million years and continents apart) but it would have at least on occasion have duelled with an even bigger meat eating Dinosaur.

10/ Brachiosaurus

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Name Meaning: Arm Lizard.

Size: 85 feet long, over 70 tons

Diet: Plants

Fossil Range: Mid to Late Jurassic

One of the most spectacular animals ever to live on the planet. Brachiosaurus was one of the largest sauropods standing over 40 feet tall.

Brachiosaurus was able to reach the very tops of trees with its long neck. It may have been a herding animal, but its massive size would have rendered it immune to most predators. The massive crest on its head was most likely used to attract a mate or perhaps regulate body temperature.

In Popular Culture

Brachiosaurus’ most famous depiction in popular culture is in Jurassic Park where it is the first Dinosaur to be seen in its entirety. Its hard to imagine the impact this scene had on audiences in 1993. In the two decades since the most famous moments from Jurassic Park have become so familiar to modern audiences. Even people who haven’t seen the film, will still have undoubtedly seen these seqeunces spoofed or replicated in other works since.

Still this scene holds up as a very special moment in cinema history as it introduces us to the spectacular visuals (which still surpass most modern attempts) that brought these wonderful creatures to life.

Surprisingly however despite its distinctive appearance and popularity, Brachiosaurus has often been sidelined in popular culture for other sauropods such as Brontosaurus and Diplodocus. Its made a few other appearances such as in Walking with Dinosaurs (where again it only makes a cameo.)

Sadly however despite its iconic status, Brachiosaurus is rather underutilised.

9/ Pachycephalosaurus

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Name Meaning: Head Lizard

Size: 14 feet long

Diet: Plants

Fossil Range: Late Cretaceous

A more unusual looking Dinosaur, Pachycephalosaurus was also one of the last Dinosaurs to die out. It would have lived alongside other famous Dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus Rex, Deinonychus and Triceratops.

Pachycephalosaurus is only known from a few skull fragments, but close study of other similar Dinosaur species have ultimately allowed experts to build a reasonable picture of how the animal would have behaved.

Pachycephalosaurus had a massive dome on the top of its head, that experts believe it may have used to ram rivals, like a modern day bighorn sheep. It may also have used this tactic to defend itself against smaller predatory Dinosaurs such as Raptors and Dromeosaurs.

Some experts however have disputed that they would have rammed each other head on, and may have instead charged at their victims side or underbelly instead.

In Popular Culture

Pacycephalosaurus despite its unique appearance, is sadly often left out of most works about Dinosaurs. However it did make a memorable appearance in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, where it is shown to be powerful enough to ram a man through two windows.

8/ Utahraptor

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Name Meaning: Utah’s Predator

Size: 19 Feet Long

Diet: Iguanodon’s and Therenziosaurs

Fossil Range: Early Cretaceous

Utahraptor was a large Dromeosaurid bigger than a Polar Bear. It was closely related to other famous killers such as Deinonychus and Velociraptor (as well as modern day birds.)

Utahraptor may have been a pack hunter, in which case it would have been able to bring down the largest herbivores of its time. Even if it hunted on its own, it still would have been more than capable of bringing down prey as big as Iguanodon. Utahraptor was not the fastest of the raptors, so it would it may have relied on ambush tactics to catch smaller prey instead.

Utahraptor would have killed larger herbivores by jumping onto them and. It would have used its sickle like claw to hold onto them, and then climb its preys backs, whilst it tore chunks of flesh off with its powerful jaws.

Like all Dromeosaurs, Utahraptor would most likely have been covered in feathers too.

In Popular Culture

The first fragments of Utahraptor were discovered in 1975, but it wouldn’t be until after Jurassic Park in the 90s that they would be given greater attention and the beast was actually named.

Utahraptor for a while became one of the most popular Dinosaurs, as it was actually closer to the Velociraptors of Jurassic Park, than the actual Velociraptors were. In truth it was actually far larger and more powerful than the Raptors of Jurassic Park and may even have been as smart too, well as smart as the Raptors of the first film, not the third.

Ultimately however the name Velociraptor had more staying power and so most standard raptors in popular culture are still called Velociraptor. Still Utahraptor has gone on to make a few prominent appearances in popular culture nevertheless.

In Walking with Dinosaurs a pack of Utahraptors are shown to hunt an Iguanodon. Of course the fact that the episode is set in Europe makes it a little odd that there are Utahraptors at all. (Key’s in the name UTAHraptor) still its a thrilling sequence and definitely the best reconstruction of Raptors hunting other Dinosaurs I’ve ever seen.

Utahraptor was also the star of the novel Raptor Bed by paleontologist Bob Bakker which tells the story of a female Utahraptor trying to survive after her pack has been killed off.

Finally Utahraptor also appeared in Primeval New World where it was shown to battle a Pteranodon.

Raptors also appeared in several episodes of the earlier British version of Primeval. However they were never identified. They did match Utahraptor in terms of size, but it was never stated for sure whether they were Utahraptors, Deinonychus’ or even just oversized Velociraptors like in Jurassic Park.

Still since they matched Utahraptor in size then what the hell. Here’s to the Primeval Raptors, my favourite Raptors after the Jurassic Park ones. In Primeval the Raptors were often ironically cast in heroic roles, albeit unintentionally, such as when a Raptor kills Emily’s abusive husband, or in season 3 when a Raptor kills Helen Cutter and ironically saves the human race in the process.

7/ Diplodocus

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Name Meaning: Double Beam

Size: Over 100 tons, 105 feet long

Diet: Plants

Fossil Range: Mid to Late Jurassic

Diplodocus was a sauropod and possibly the longest Dinosaur of all time. The most extreme estimates for Diplodocus put its top length at 175 feet long!

Diplodocus was not like Brachiosaurus in that it could not raise its neck to feed on the very tops of trees and instead would have primarily browsed low level vegetation.

The Diplodocus’ could live for over 100 years, and at full size would have been too big for most predators, though it is believed that the likes of Allosaurus at the very least preyed on their young.

Like many Sauropods, Diplodocus was most likely a herding animal. It is also known to have swallowed stones to help it digest its food too.

In Popular Culture

One of the most famous Sauropods, Diplodocus has appeared in numerous films, books and documentaries about Dinosaurs over the decades, including Walking with Dinosaurs.

A Diplodocus specimen named Dippy stood for over 100 years as star attraction in the British museum. When the decision was made to replace it in 2017 with a Blue Whale named Hope, there was a massive outcry from the public, but Dippy has since gone on tour around the world.

6/ Triceratops

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Name Meaning: Three Horned Face

Size: 12 tons, 35 feet long

Diet: Plants

Fossil Range: Late Cretaceous

The largest and most famous of the Ceratopsian Dinosaurs. Triceratops was also among the last Dinosaurs to go extinct.

Triceratops’ massive frill was incredibly thick and strong compared to those of other Ceratopsians, whilst the two horns above its eyes were over 8 feet long.

Triceratops naturally used its horns and frill to defend itself from Tyrannosaurus Rex, its main predator.  Contrary to popular belief, Triceratops did not charge at its victim like a Rhino. Whilst the horns were strong, its beak was quite fragile and would have broken had it charged head on.

Triceratops instead would have gored its victims to death by swinging its head from side to side. Whilst Triceratops did fall victim to Tyrannosaurus Rex, it would have been too big and powerful for the Dromeosaurs it lived alongside. Triceratops could not run very fast, and it wasn’t the smartest animal, so it needed to be large and powerful.

However whilst Triceratop’s horns and frill were primarily used to fight off giant predators, experts believe that they may also have been used by males to wrestle with one another over a mate, and for display.

In Popular Culture

Triceratops is one of the most famous Dinosaurs. In popular culture it is almost always depicted as the archenemy of Tyrannosaurus Rex. Unlike other Dinosaur feuds on screen however such as T-Rex and Stegosaurus, Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops actually did live alongside one another, and regularly fought each other.

Fossil evidence shows that T-Rex fought Triceratops head on just like the movies too (though undoubtedly it would have ambushed Triceratops in many instances, with Triceratops frill blocking off its vision behind, allowing the much faster T-Rex to sneak up on it.)

Still we know that T-Rex was willing to bite at the horns and frill of its enemy, as one Triceratops skeleton has Tyrannosaur bite marks on its frill that have healed, with one of the Triceratops’ horns having bitten in half by the Tyrannosaur too. In addition to this horn marks from Triceratops that have healed have been found on Tyrannosaur skeletons too.

Triceratops has often been depicted battling other large predators such as Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus in popular culture too, though neither of these animals lived beside it.

Among Triceratops’ most notable film appearances include The Ghost of Slumber Mountain, possibly the first ever Dinosaur film, with the effects (and story) supplied by Will O’Brien, Triceratops would later go on to appear in his 1925 version of The Lost World as well.

Triceratops also appeared in Ray Harryhausen’s iconic film One Million Years BC, where for once it is shown to triumph over its large meat eating rival, in this case a Ceratosaurus, that it gores to death. This fight sequence was arguably Harryhausens most famous moment, alongside his legendary Skeleton fight, and would go on to appear in numerous Documentary’s over the years as an example of how Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops may have fought one another.

A baby Triceratops named Cera also appeared as one of the main characters in the iconic Land Before Time series, whilst the animal also made a memorable appearance in the first Jurassic Park movie where it prompted the creation of one of Jeff Goldblum’s most notorious memes.

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Jeff Goldblum has to have inspired more memes than any other actor from this film alone. Practically every line out of his mouth in the original Jurassic Park has become a meme.

Triceratops would also go on to appear in all of the sequels too, with its largest role being in The Lost World Jurassic Park.

Sadly however its never been shown on screen with its real life nemesis Tyrannosaurus Rex in the Jurassic Park movies yet.

5/ Giganotosaurus

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Name Meaning: Giant Southern Lizard

Size: 45 feet long, 13 tons

Diet: Sauropods, Iguanodon

Fossil Range: Early to Mid Cretaceous

Giganotosaurus was an Allosaur, and believed to be one of the biggest meat eating Dinosaurs of all time.

Giganotosaurus broke Tyrannosaurus’ record as the largest land based predator that it had held for over 90 years, but Giganotosaurus was only slightly larger than T-Rex however, and since its discovery then Spinosaurus, which is a good bit bigger than both has now taken the title for the worlds largest meat eating Dinosaur.

Giganotosaurus was the apex predator in its region. Having a bite impact of over 6 tons, and being able to run at over 30 miles per hour, it was a surprisingly nimble creature, considering its size.

Giganotosaurus would have preyed on Argentinosaurus, possibly among the largest land animals of all time, though smaller herbivores such as Iguanodon would have probably been more frequent targets. There is some evidence that Giganotosaurus and other Allosaurs may have lived together in herds which would have helped them bring down the biggest prey, but this is not conclusive.

In Popular Culture

Giganotosaurus quickly made a huge impression as the Dinosaur bigger than T-Rex and has appeared in many films and television series, though its place as the biggest meat eater of all time was quickly usurped by Spinosaurus in 2006.

Still Giganotosaurus has made a few noteworthy appearances in popular culture over the years. In The Land Before Time 5, The Mysterious Island, Giganotosaurus appears as the main antagonist, where it is eventually defeated by the heroic Tyrannosaur, Chompers father.

Giganotosaurus also appeared in Primeval, where it was dubbed “G-Rex”. This episode is definitely one of my favourites. The G-Rex looks absolutely spectacular and the script manages to demonstrate both the Dinosaurs speed and strength perfectly.

Giganotosaurus also appears in the video game ARK. Here it is actually depicted as being considerably larger than both Tyrannosaurus and Spinosaurus.

4/ Deinonychus

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Name Meaning: Terrible Claw

Size: 12 feet long

Diet: Small Mammals, and Dinosaurs

Fossil Range: Late Cretaceous

Deinonychus was a medium sized Dromeosaur. Once believed to have been a pack hunter, capable of taking down giant Dinosaurs such as Tenontosaurus, many experts now think Deinonychus was a more solitary killer.

It was still a vicious predator with powerful jaws, incredible speed and large claws on its hands and feet. Like many other Dromeosaurs, Deinonychus had a massive sickle like claw on its foot, whilst it had a bite force of over 1 ton, stronger than any Mammalian carnivore.

Much like Velociraptor it is believed that Deininonychus would have killed its victims by scaling tall trees, and then gliding down onto its preys backs, where its claws would hold them down, whilst it literally ate them alive with its jaws. It would also have used its sickle like claw to pierce its victims necks.

Deinonychus is one of the most important Dinosaurs in the history of Palaeontology. John Ostrom’s extensive study of Deinonychus in the 1960s led to what has been dubbed the Dinosaur renaissance in the 1970s.

Ostrom concluded that some Dinosaurs were warm blooded, agile, fast and intelligent creatures. He also revived the old argument that birds evolved from small meat eating Dinosaurs.

Ostrom’s ideas were controversial at first, but they have now become accepted. Prior to Ostrom’s studies of Deinonychus, Dinosaurs were thought of as slow moving, slow witted, sluggish reptiles, but Deinonychus paved the way for the depiction of clever, fast moving, Dinosaurs in both science and popular culture.

In Popular Culture

Following the Dinosaur Renaissance, Deinonychus would go on to become quite popular for many years before ultimately being usurped by Velociraptor.

It featured in works such as the card series Dinosaur Attack, the Marvel comic book Devil Dinosaur, and the Christopher Reeve documentary, Dinosaur.

Michael Crichton also intended to use Deinonychus in his classic novel, Jurassic Park as the main predatory Dinosaur. However at the last minute he decided to change it to Velociraptor, as he felt it had a better name, and at that point Deinonychus was believed to be a member of the Velociraptor family (which is explicitly stated in the novel, which technically does make the Dinosaurs of the novel Deinonychus anyway.)

However in the film adaptation they were just named Velociraptor, (despite being closer in size and behaviour to Deinonychus. )

Thus Velociraptor shot to fame, but in actual fact the classic Raptor image in films, television and comic books is really of Deinonychus.

Still most Raptors are often referred to as Velociraptors, and Utahraptors instead.

3/ Allosaurus

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Name Meaning: Odd Lizard

Size: 35 feet long, 3 tons

Diet: Sauropods, Stegosaurs, Pterosaurs, Smaller Dinosaurs and Mammals.

Fossil Range: Mid to Late Jurassic

The lion of the Jurassic. Allosaurus was a large, very fast and successful predator that was capable of killing herbivores many times its own size.

Allosaurus may have been able to run at speeds of 35 miles per hour. It could also jump over 2 meters in the air, and had massive claws on its hands which it could use to grab onto its prey.

When hunting large Sauropods, Allosaurus would have jumped through the air and scaled its victims using the claws on its hands and feet, as seen here in Walking with Dinosaurs.

Allosaurus was an incredibly durable animal too, with one specimen of a male sub adult Allosaurus having 19 severe injuries almost all of which had healed.

Allosaurus did not have strong jaws however. In fact its bite force was weaker than that of many modern day predators such as Leopards.

Instead it is believed that Allosaurus used its head like a hatchet against its enemies. Allosaurus could open its jaws wider than any other Dinosaur, and its skull was among the strongest and most reinforced of any theropod too.

This method would have allowed Allosaurus to cleave off greater sections of flesh from its prey than most other theropods.

Some experts however have called the hatchet method into question. A more recent study suggested that Allosaurus may have opened its mouth extra wide to give it a powerful bite, in place of strong jaw muscles.

Whatever the truth, Allosaurus was both a powerful and effective predator that specialised in taking down some of the largest creatures ever to walk the earth, and dominated the other larger carnivores it lived with such as Ceratosaurus.

In Popular Culture

Allosaurus is one of the most famous Dinosaurs. Though not quite as popular as Tyrannosaurus, in many ways it has come to represent the quintessential giant meat eater after T-Rex, even above much larger killers such as Spinosaurus and Giganotosaurus.

Allosaurus appeared as the dominant carnivore in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Lost World, and the later 1925 adaptation. Though a Tyrannosaurus also appears in the 1925 version, it is only in a single sequence.

Allosaurus also appeared as the main (and sole) Dinosaur in The Beast From Hollow Mountain, a rare fusion of the Western and Dinosaur genres.

Beast From Hollow Mountain’s effects were supplied by Willis O’Brien who also supplied the effects for King Kong and the original 1925 version of The Lost World. O’Brien also came up with the concept too.

The later Dinosaur Western, The Valley of the Gwangi, also featured an Allosaurus as the titular Dinosaur, though actually according to Ray Harryhausen, who supplied the films effects, Gwangi was intended to be a hybrid of Tyrannosaurus and Allosaurus which he dubbed “Tyrannosaurus Al.”

Allosaurus also appeared in One Million Years BC where it is shown to attack a tribe of Cavemen. Here it is made much smaller and weaker than an actual Allosaurus as Ray Harryhausen himself said that a real Allosaurus would have destroyed the village with no effort.

I know the uploader got it wrong and called it a Velociraptor, but its an Allosaurus.

A female Allosaurus named Big Alice also appears as a major, recurring antagonist in the 1970s tv series, The Land of the Lost.

Another major appearance of Allosaurus is in Walking with Dinosaurs. Not only does it appear in the second episode, but it is also the focus of the Christmas special called The Ballad of Big Al which details the life of a young male Allosaurus.

Allosaurus also appeared in the 2001 adaptation of The Lost World, made my the same team behind Walking with Dinosaurs and later Primeval.

Interestingly enough despite Allosaurus’ popularity, it wasn’t until the 5th entry in the Jurassic Park series that Allosaurus finally made an appearance.

2/ Spinosaurus

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Name Meaning: Spine Lizard

Size: 59 feet long, 23 tons

Diet: Fish, Iguanodons, Large and Small Dinosaurs, Pterosaurs

Fossil Range: Early to Mid Cretaceous

The largest land based predator ever to live on the planet, Spinosaurus may actually have been semi aquatic and may also have walked on all fours. There is much that is still not known about this predator, with the causes of its famous sail still being a subject of debate, though most experts believe that sail was used either to regulate body temperature or to attract a mate.

Spinosaurus had long thin jaws, and whilst its bite was stronger than any modern day predator, it was still weaker than many other large meat eating Dinosaurs. Still Spinosaurus had massive claws on its hands, bigger than the meat hooks in a slaughter house. Biomechanical reconstructions of Spinosaurus’ claws have shown that they would have been powerful enough to shred through solid bone and steel.

Spinosaurus would have easily been able to disembowel the largest herbivores it shared its habitat with. Despite this however many experts believe that Spinosaurus would have preyed primarily on marine life. Though some have knocked it as not being as impressive as other predators because of this, Spinosaurus would have regularly preyed on sharks and fish, larger and more powerful than modern day Great Whites.

Spinosaurus was an apex predator, but it is known that it shared its environment with two other massive carnivores, Carcharcodontosaurus and a massive crocodile named Sarcosuchus. Whilst all three carnivores would have most likely avoided each other most of the tim, there is some evidence that all three did fight one another on occasion.

In Popular Culture

Spinosaurus remained a relatively obscure Dinosaur for decades until it literally shot to fame overnight thanks to the 2001 movie Jurassic Park 3, where it was cast as the main antagonist. Though controversial, the movie helped Spinosaurus take Giganotosaurus’ place as the meat eating Dinosaur bigger than the T-Rex. This position was really cemented when its true size was finally discovered in 2006.

Since then Spinosaurus has gone on to appear in numerous, films, comic books and television series including Dinosaur Planet, ARK, the Transformers film series and Primeval.

Its not hard to see why Spinosaurus has become so popular. Not only is it officially the biggest of all meat eating Dinosaurs, but its also among the most spectacular looking too. With its crocodile like head, and massive sail, its almost looks like a Dragon from Medeval mythology.

1/ Tyrannosaurus Rex

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Name Meaning: Tyrant Lizard King

Size: 40 feet long, 10 tons

Diet: Hadrosaurs, Ceratopsians, Sauropods, Anklyosaurs

Fossil Range: Late Cretaceous

Okay obvious choice, but that’s only because it’s such a special animal. Tyrannosaurus Rex practically needs no introduction. It is the most famous Dinosaur of them all. Once thought to be the largest land based predator of all time, T-Rex was still nevertheless the apex predator of its environment, and preyed on the likes of Triceratops, Anklyosaurus and Alamosaurus, a gigantic Sauropod. It was also one of the last non avian Dinosaurs to go extinct.

Tyrannosaurus Rex had the strongest bite force of possibly any animal ever to live on the planet, and certainly the strongest of any Dinosaur.

Bio mechanical reconstructions of a T-Rex skull for the 2005 documentary The Truth About Killer Dinosaurs, showed that the animal would have had a bite force of over 4 tons. Not only is this greater than any animal alive today, but it would have meant that T-Rex’s skeleton would had to have been stronger than reinforced steel in order to withstand the pressure, the animal would easily have been able to rip up a small car in its jaws no problem.

See here.

Further studies however, including by Gregory Erickson who worked on this documentary, have shown that it’s results were wrong. Tyrannosaurus would have actually had a bite over twice as strong as The Truth About Killer Dinosaurs claimed. T-Rex’s actual bite force was possibly over 9 tons.

Other studies by Mason B Meers however put Tyrannosaurus Rex’s bite force at over 23 tons.

If this were true, then T-Rex would have had the strongest bite force of any animal, even greater than the Megalodon shark. A bite of 23 tons would also give Tyrannosaurus a bite force 4 times great than that of Giganotosaurus and almost 8 times greater than that of Spinosaurus.

At the very least it is believed that Tyrannosaurus had a bite force of over 9 tons which still gives it a stronger bite than any other meat eating Dinosaur.

In addition to being able to bite with more force, Tyrannosaurus could rip off over 500 pounds of flesh from its victims in just one bite. Tyrannosaurus’ bite may also have been infectious too. It could also lift over 5 tons off the ground in its jaws too, which is comparable to an African Elephant and heavier than an Orca.

Tyrannosaurus was also an incredibly durable animal overall. Many Tyrannosaur skeletons have been found with gruesome injuries, which would have been fatal to other animals, that have still nevertheless healed. These include whacks made by Anklyosaur clubs (that could swing with a force of over 4 tons), scratches made by Triceratops horns, and bite marks made by other T-Rex’s. In one instance one Tyrannosaurus skull has a bite mark made in its brain case which has still nevertheless healed, whilst another specimen appears to have healed from a broken neck!

Tyrannosaurus was also a very intelligent Dinosaur too. Its brain was considerably larger than any other big meat eater, and more recent studies have shown that Tyrannosaurus may actually have been more intelligent than a Chimpanzee.

Tyrannosaurus’ advanced intelligence enabled it to have far more refined senses too. Its eye sight was far superior to modern day birds of prey such as Eagles. Its sense of smell according to Bob Bakker would have been comparable to 100 blood hounds.

Finally Tyrannosaurus could also run faster than most of its intended prey species such as Triceratops. Its top speed was at roughly 25 miles per hour. Though slower than other large carnivores such as Giganotosaurus and Allosaurus, it was faster than other large animals, including modern day elephants.

Tyrannosaurus Rex was the last and largest in a long line of meat eating Dinosaurs called the Tyrannosaurs. The Tyrannosaurs initially began as small meat eating Dinosaurs in the Jurassic, but gradually over the course of several million years they evolved into giant killers, and out competed other groups of large meat eating Dinosaurs in any area they appeared in. By the end of the Cretaceous period the Tyrannosaurs were unquestionably the dominant large meat eaters, but sadly they would be driven to extinction along with all of the other non avian Dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous period 65 million years ago.

Still its somewhat fitting that at the very end of their reign over the earth, the Dinosaurs evolved the most sophisticated and dangerous predator ever to walk the earth.

Whilst it may no longer be considered the largest land based predator of all time,  Tyrannosaurus Rex is still utterly unsurpassed among the giant killers in terms of intelligence and sheer power.

In Popular Culture

Where to begin! Tyrannosaurus Rex is the most famous Dinosaur of them all. It has appeared in The Lost World (1925), King Kong, Dinosaurus, The Valley of the Gwangi, all versions of The Land of the Lost, Jurassic Park, The Lost World Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, Walking with Dinosaurs, and Primeval.

It would take too long to run through all of the big guys appearances on the small and big screen, so I’ll just show you some of his greatest hits here.

Thanks for reading.

My Favourite Dinosaur Novels

“Implacable November weather.  As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the Earth, and would it not be wonderful to meet Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill.”

From Charles Dickens classic novel Bleak House. This was the first ever mention of a Dinosaur in any work of fiction. The name Dinosaur itself had only been coined ten years earlier by Richard Owen. Despite this the beasts were fast catching the public’s imagination and this reference, like much in Dickens novels reflected what was going on at the time.

The very earliest Dinosaur novels that followed after such as like The Lost World, Journey to the Centre of the Earth and The Land That Time Forgot would lay down the foundations for nearly every Dinosaur story that came after across all mediums. From King Kong, to the Land of the Lost, to Turok Dinosaur Hunter.

Since the heyday of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Rice Burroughs there have been many more exciting and ground breaking Dinosaur novels, such as Jurassic Park which helped to bring new and exciting theories about Dinosaurs to the public’s attention and changed how we viewed them.

I think that many of the greatest Dinosaur novels can help to show that Dinosaur fiction isn’t just something for children. So many people tend to view having an interest in Dinosaurs as being childish, like in the American sitcom Friends for instance where the character of Ross Geller is ridiculed by both the writers and the other characters for his love of Dinosaurs.

 

However stories like Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Jurassic Park and The Lost World were written by the likes of Jules Verne, Michael Crichton and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, among the most accomplished writers of all time. Clearly these great literary minds didn’t just see the subject of Dinosaurs and prehistoric life as a childish.

They were successful in creating exciting, original, and imaginative stories about prehistoric beasts that tackled subjects such as exploring the unknown, man’s destructive effect on the environment and tampering with nature

Their stories about Dinosaurs have also evidently stood the test of time as I will hopefully show you in this article as I run through my favourite Dinosaur novels.

These will not be presented in any order of preference, as ultimately I found that I couldn’t rank them so instead we will just be looking at my favourites overall.

Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1864)

The first novel to focus on prehistoric creatures. I wasn’t sure about whether or not to include this as technically there are no true Dinosaurs in it. The marine reptiles who attack our heroes are not actually Dinosaurs remember. Still I feel I have to include it in this list for a number of reasons.

To start with whilst creatures like Plesiosaurs may not technically be Dinosaurs they are still often viewed as such in popular culture. Furthermore this was the first book to actually feature prehistoric creatures at all. Particularly those who lived at the same time as the Dinosaurs.

Also most importantly Journey to the Centre of the Earth is essentially the template for close to every single Dinosaur story for the next 150 years.

It is the first story to revolve around a remote area on earth where prehistoric reptiles still roam. Whilst there are a few pieces of Dinosaur fiction that don’t follow this formula. Primeval, Jurassic Park, One Million Years BC etc. The majority do follow the basic premise of there being some little remote area on earth, a valley, a plateau, an island, an underground cave, where Dinosaurs, prehistoric mammals, Pterosaurs, Plesiosaurs, maybe even a tribe of proto humans and ape men or giant apes, still exist into modern day.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World and Edgar Rice Burroughs The Land That Time Forgot both follow this idea; except they moved the land of Dinosaurs to above the ground. Later films such as Gwangi and King Kong also stick to Verne’s formula beat for beat too.

Even Godzilla the original film starts with this same premise as Godzilla is shown to have come from a remote island where Dinosaurs still roam before he was mutated by an atomic blast.

There are even many other stories that revolve around the idea of Dinosaurs living in a land that exists within the Earth’s core such as Edgar Rice Burroughs Pellucidar series which began with At the Earth’s Core as well as the Russian novel Plutonia.

Most Dinosaur stories are really just variations of Verne’s idea, though that’s not to do down these other works, as the variations ultimately allow them to stand out as classics in their own right.

It should be acknowledged at the same time that Journey to the Centre of the Earth was not the first Hollow Earth story either. Nothing is completely original as just about every story has been done, so all you can really do most of the time is just add a new variation to an old idea.

Still ultimately at the end of the day this is the forebear of most Dinosaur fiction so in spite of the fact that there are no true Dinosaurs in it. (Only marine Reptiles and prehistoric mammals.) I still have to include it here.

The novel itself aside from its literary significance still holds up as a great adventure. Some critics have responded negatively to the fact that compared to Verne’s other novels, the science in it is rather dated. It has also been criticised for its very slow pace. .

Still personally I found it an enjoyable read right the way through. The scientific goofs don’t bother me as at the end of the day it is science fiction. Plus whilst I know a bit about Dinosaurs, the same as any nerdy guy, I’m a complete scientific illiterate anyway.

Also I found the build up to their adventure at the centre of the earth interesting as the three main characters, Otto Lidenbrock, his nephew Axel and their guide Hans are all very engaging.

Lidenbrock is a total hot head and the classic insufferable genius type of character like Sherlock Holmes (who he predates by about 20 years) taken to the utmost extreme. He actually locks his own nephew and maid in the house and starves them until he can find a way to crack an ancient code! Despite this he is given a few moments that show deep down he does care for his nephew in spite of his borderline psychotic behaviour towards him.

Axel meanwhile is a complete coward and utterly useless. In fact his bumbling almost kills them and briefly strands them in the valley at one point.

Hans meanwhile functions more as the straight man of the group and helps to balance out the two more extreme personalities of his companions.

The lost world of the story is intriguing as we don’t really know much about it. In later lost world stories we often get a complete image of the valley/island/plateau the main characters travel too. In King Kong and The Lost World we see the natives customs and even little bits of their history too. Peter Jackson did a whole fictional documentary about the history of Skull Island.

Here however it feels like we are only given little glimpses. On the one hand unlike Burroughs later Pellucidar series, Verne isn’t given a chance to really create his own unique little world in quite the same way, but on the other it does allow Verne to build up a more effective atmosphere.

When the main characters discover the remains of a large ape man they decided to avoid encountering one at all costs, which actually helps to make the creature more sinister.

For all we know it may have been a peaceful, gentle even somewhat advanced creature that felt a kinship with the human explorers. Or it may have been a savage monster that would have ripped them limb from limb. We don’t know and this is actually more frightening, as the reader is allowed to build up an image of what the true beast could be like and it becomes much more tense the knowledge that this large, mysterious creature could be lurking around any corner. For all we know it could be stalking them. Maybe its intelligent enough?

Sadly Journey to the Centre of the Earth is not quite as remembered as some of Verne’s other works, but its impact of the genre is immeasurable and it has spawned a few adaptations over the years including 2 live action films, one in 1959 starring James Mason and another in 2008 starring Brendan Fraser.

Neither are particularly faithful to the novel, though both are still good movies nonetheless. The 2008 film does actually have genuine Dinosaurs in it too.

Overall a classic of the genre and the template for most Dinosaur stories.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (1912)

From the creator of Sherlock Holmes, this was the first true Dinosaur novel.

This novel see’s Professor George Challenger lead a team consisting of himself, Lord Summerlee, Lord John Roxton and Edward Malone to a plateau high above the Amazon rainforest where a variety of prehistoric creatures as well as a tribe of human beings and vicious Ape men who are at war with each other roam. Challenger and his team help the natives wipe out the Ape men and later escape the Plateau with a Pterodactly egg which later hatches in London, giving Challenger the proof he needs of his exploits.

Whilst Journey to the Centre of the Earth may have created the Lost World trope, this adventure perfected it. Far more aspects of this story pop up in future Dinosaur stories than from Verne’s novel. The tribe of humans, the giant two legged meat eating Dinosaur that stalks our heroes throughout the novel, and a creature from the lost world of Dinosaurs being brought back to a big modern city like London or New York. All of these are staples that we see recur throughout Dinosaur stories like King Kong, Gwangi and the Jurassic Park films.

Doyle’s Lost World is much more fleshed out than Verne’s. There are advantages and disadvantages to this. On the one hand there is less of an atmosphere and mystery about Doyle’s plateau, but on the other hand we do get more exciting Dinosaur sequences as a result such as the Allosaurus’s attack on the natives village. The fact that we see the plateau in great detail also allows Doyle to explore interesting ideas like how human beings would live alongside prehistoric beasts and how they would manage to tame them in some cases, yet be completely humbled even with all of their ingenuity by the large meat eaters.

The natives are given a very sympathetic and 3 dimensional portrayal unlike in some later adaptations of the novel such as the Irwin Allen version in 1960 or other films with a similar premise such as King Kong. Whilst much of Conan Doyle’s work was of its time it is true that he was a very progressive writer in a number of ways too.

He created one of the most memorable female characters in all of fiction in the shape of Irene Adler who manages to be the only person to beat Sherlock Holmes whilst another short Sherlock Holmes story by him “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton” features another female character who wins Holmes respect and actually kills the main villain of the story instead of Holmes.

Thus the Lost World similarly can be seen to perhaps be ahead of its time in that the main characters are shown to have the utmost respect for the natives and their customs and the natives are also depicted as highly civilized and advanced.

A problem with the Lost World is that there perhaps are too few Dinosaur species in it. Allosaurus is the only meat eating Dinosaur to appear in the novel

In all fairness to Doyle however there weren’t that many Dinosaur species known when he wrote this book. Even Tyrannosaurus Rex though it had been discovered by this point, it’s fossils were not that well known.

I suppose in this respect Doyle did not bad in using his single meat eater, in a variety of different ways. First the Allosaurus creeps about in the darkness after murdering the Iguanodons before it attacks the camp. Here we just get a fleeting glimpse of how immense and dangerous it is as the explorers are tormented by the sounds of the Iguanodons screaming in the dark before it pounces on them.

Then later Doyle manages to make the beast seem even more frightening when Malone having gone exploring on his own, is suddenly cornered by the beast. Its one of the most harrowing scenes from the novel as Malone, unarmed and in the dark is being pursued by the giant monster that single handedly slaughtered an entire Iguanodon herd.

Finally when the two Allosaurus’s attack the natives village we see how it truly is the king of the Lost World with even the natives who keep Iguanodon’s as pets, hunt Icthyosaurs, wiped out the Ape men, are powerless against just two of them. This was always my favourite sequence from the novel, and surprisingly its left out of almost all adaptations (except for the 2001 telemovie version, made by Impossible Pictures, the team behind Primeval and Walking with Dinosaurs.)

Another problem with The Lost World is that Edward Malone, the main protagonist is a bit bland. Lord John Roxton meanwhile is also at times a bit annoying the way he is shown to be perfect at everything.

Challenger and Summerlee make an interesting team however. They are almost like two squabbling brothers trying to constantly get one over on the other. Its also nice seeing them eventually grow to respect each other and even develop something of a friendship over the course of their time on the Plateau. Though they never become close, they best they become is vitriolic friends.

Professor Challenger was actually Conan Doyle’s favourite character that he created even more so than the great detective himself.

Challenger is a brilliant creation. He is cut from the same cloth as Sherlock Holmes in the sense that he too is a maverick genius who plays by his own rules, yet he is almost the complete opposite in every other respect. He is loud, short tempered, violent, boisterous, even physically he is an absolute tank of a man with a massive beard. There is one funny sequence where the leader of the ape men feels a certain kinship with Challenger as he resembles him so much.

Whilst Challenger may not have as complex a personality as Holmes he still has a huge presence which does somewhat make up for Malone’s blandness.

The Lost World has been adapted more than any other Dinosaur novel across both film and television. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself even appeared in the first ever adaptation in 1925.

None of them stay completely faithful to Doyle’s novel. A female explorer is always added for a bit of variety and also often to supply Malone with a love interest. This began with the very first adaptation in 1925. Roxton also tends to vary between being a hero, an anti hero and even in some cases an outright villain. Tyrannosaurus Rex also often takes Allosaurus’s place as the king of the Lost World too, whilst the natives are often presented in a much more unsympathetic light, though many versions have added a sympathetic native girl at least who helps to save the explorers and may even become a love interest of Malone or Roxton. The friendly female native first appeared in the 1960 Irwin Allen version and has been a staple ever since.

To be fair this character does have something of a small precedent in the book itself. Just before they leave the Plateau all 4 of the explorers are offered up wives by the natives, but they politely turn them down. Their proposed wives play no real role in the story however, but the idea of the explorers finding romance as it were on the Plateau is not entirely a deviation from Doyle’s story.

The most faithful adaptation of Doyle’s novel is arguably the 2001 tv miniseries produced by Tim Haines the man behind Walking with Dinosaurs. This version stays close for the most part to the original novel and even has Allosaurus as the main Dinosaur and refreshingly portrays the natives as a civilised and advanced society rather than a group of vicious savages.

However once again there is a female explorer and whilst the natives are portrayed sympathetically, they do still turn on the explorers after Challengers actions accidentally cause the two Allosaurus to attack the village. The natives however seem to forgive Roxton who in a further deviation is left behind and marries the friendly native girl of this version.

The Lost World is to Dinosaur fiction what Dracula is to Vampire fiction. Its the quintessential Dinosaur adventure and one of the most influential pieces of prose ever written.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would be surprised to see the two women as well as the T-Rex’s on his plateau. 

The Land That Time Forgot (1924)

Edgar Rice Burroughs classic boy’s own adventure is yet another variation on the Lost World theme, but its actually a somewhat darker, grittier adventure than either The Lost World or Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

In both of those stories none of the main characters actually died. They also had happy endings with the main characters being proved right about their scientific theories and even getting married. In this story however the two main protagonists are left stranded on the lost island with seemingly no hope of rescue.

Added to that whilst there is some conflict between some of the main characters like Challenger and Summerlee. Ultimately all of the main characters in both Journey to the Centre of the Earth and The Lost World do still care about each other, where as in this story we have soldiers who are trying to kill each other from the first world war being forced to survive together in perilous conditions, and not surprisingly some of them betray each other.

This can be seen to reflect the time this story was written when compared to the earlier classics. This adventure was written not long after the first world war and not long before the great depression and thus its no surprise that it maybe reflects a more unsure, darker time as opposed to The Lost World.

In terms of the Dinosaurs there is a much larger bestiary of creatures, with Tyrannosaurus and Allosaurus making an appearance. Edgar Rice Burroughs was fascinated by Dinosaurs. Arthur Conan Doyle and Jules Verne had an interest in them, but Burroughs loved them so much he would write many books about the beasts and so I think he really relishes in the Dinosaur sequences more.

Also Burroughs goes into much greater detail about his Lost World than even Conan Doyle did and he provides a full and proper explanation as to why it exists with evolution being determined by the location of the island and individual mutation. Its a complicated process which Burroughs describes as such.

“All came up from the beginning. The egg from which they first developed into tadpole form was deposited, with millions of others, in one of the warm pools…. Down the warm stream from the pool floated the countless billions of eggs and tadpoles, developing as they drifted slowly toward the sea. Some became tadpoles in the pool, some in the sluggish stream and some not until they reached the great inland sea. In the next stage they became fishes or reptiles, An-Tak was not positive which, and in this form, always developing, they swam far to the south, where, amid the rank and teeming jungles, some of them evolved into amphibians. Always there were those whose development stopped at the first stage, others whose development ceased when they became reptiles.    Few indeed were those that eventually developed into baboons and then apes, which was considered by Caspakians the real beginning of evolution.   From the ape the individual, if it survived, slowly developed into the lowest order of man — the Alu — and then by degrees to Bo-lu, Sto-lu, Band-lu, Kro-lu and finally Galu. And in each stage countless millions of other eggs were deposited in the warm pools of the various races and floated down to the great sea to go through a similar process of evolution outside the womb as develops our own young within;

He also gives it a name Caspak though it is known as Caprona by the explorers with Caspak being the name its natives give to it.

Burroughs would write two sequels to the novel, The People Time Forgot and Out of Time’s Abyss. All 3 films were adapted in the 1970’s by Amicus productions though People That Time Forgot and Out of Time’s Abyss were adapted into one film. These movies actually stayed fairly close to the novels though there were still some changes particularly in the later two books film versions.

Pellucidar novel series (1914-1944)

Now I realise that this is a series and not one novel, but ultimately I feel that the Pellucidar novels work better as a series. That’s not to say that the individual stories aren’t great in their own right, but still I find that when you read one it isn’t enough. You have to read another and another, so I am listing all the books together in this list.

Burrough’s has always been one of my favourite authors because I think he really had a talent for creating whole worlds that would spread out across many books like no other.

Most writers would usually only create one big fictional universe like J R R Tolkien and Middle Earth, but Burrough’s has many with Tarzan, John Carter, Pellucidar, Caspak and the Amtor (Venus) series. Though the Tarzan and Pellucidar series were actually linked via a crossover story Tarzan at the Earth’s Core.

The Pellucidar series revolves around yet another land at the centre of the earth where Dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures still roam to this day, but it combines magical, fantastical elements with science fiction concepts.

Its much wilder than previous Lost World stories and features ideas like sentient Pterosaurs called Mahars that are able to take control of people via mind control and kill their victims by forcing them to drown themselves, and best of all a flying Stegosaurus that is able to glide through the air using the plates on its back in Tarzan at the Earth’s core.

Pellucidar takes the Lost World formula to a whole new level by filling it full of many fictional species of creatures. The closest we saw to this was the ape men in The Lost World, but even then they still had their roots in science and weren’t anywhere near as over the top as the Mahars who have telepathic powers.

From this point on most Lost World stories will often invent their own monsters as well as having regular Dinosaurs such as Skull Island with King Kong, the Savage Land in Marvel Comics with its various Dinosaur and ape men and even later versions of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World, such as the version in the 1990’s tv series that has everything from Dinosaur men to Aliens from outer space to Vampires alongside its T-Rex’s and Raptors.

The Pellucidar series had a massive influence on many subsequent works of fiction including H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountain of Madness. I’d  also argue that it had an influence on subsequent adaptations of other Lost World stories too. The friendly native girl that often pops up in the later versions of The Lost World really has more in common with Dian the Beautiful from this series.

You definitely need to check all the entries in the series. They are all good adventure stories. Burroughs is one of these writers who is a real page turner. You always want to know what happens next which is why I think its hard to own just one of the Pellucidar books.

The full series consists of

At the Earth’s Core (1914)

Pellucidar (1915)

Tanar of Pellucidar (1929)

Tarzan at the Earth’s Core (1929)

Back to the Stone Age (1937)

Land of Terror (1944)

Savage Pellucidar (1963)

Surprisingly there have only been two adaptations of stories from the series. One film version of At the Earth’s Core in the mid 70’s starring Peter Cushing and Caroline Munro and another television adaptation of Tarzan at the Earth’s Core which served as the pilot for a Tarzan tv series.

Raptor Red (1995)

This novel was written by paleontologist Bob Bakker. It tells the story of a Utahraptor named Red and her attempts to survive after her pack’s death.

Its obviously written from a third person perspective. Really think of it as being like Walking with Dinosaurs though it actually came a few years earlier.

The story despite being written by one of the worlds leading experts on Dinosaurs does take a few creative liberties with what the Dinosaurs could actually do.

Utahraptor for instance whilst being a formidable predator most likely would not have been able to kill a sauropod like it does in this novel.

Its quite an interesting change to focus on a predatory Dinosaur. Normally stories that feature only Dinosaur characters tend to focus on the herbivores like say The Land Before Time. The novel does quite a good job of getting us to sympathise with and root for what was one of the most dangerous predators ever to live on the planet!

I don’t know if I’d rate it quite as a classic but it is an enjoyable read nonetheless. Its fun reading about Dinosaurs frolicking in their natural habitat and running around without any damn humans getting in the way.

Jurassic Park (1990)

There are many reasons Jurassic Park stands out as the most acclaimed Dinosaur novel after The Lost World itself.

Obviously it has benefited in terms of fame from the fantastic film adaptation directed by Steven Spielberg in 1993, but still I think the novel can hold its own even without the film.

Its not just another variation of the Lost World theme. That’s the problem with Dinosaurs is that as interesting as they are, there are only a few ways you can bring them back into the modern world.

Jules Verne and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle basically established the method to bring them back by having them survive in a little remote area and after that you can tell it was hard for writers to think up new ways that weren’t just variations of that. Even Godzilla though a very different type of Dinosaur story still used that method to bring the titular Dinosaur into modern day.

Thus Jurassic Park which had the Dinosaurs brought back by cloning broke the mould and in doing so was able to explore a new theme. The classic Lost World story provided it isn’t just a fun boys own adventure often explores the idea of exploring the unknown.

Jurassic Park however is able explore the idea of man tampering with nature. The Dinosaurs are almost like a prehistoric Frankenstein Monster turning on the people who created them. Whilst the ideas in the novel of Dinosaurs being brought back through cloning might seem far fetched it might not be complete science fiction.

Jack Horner a leading Paleontologist (who worked on the Jurassic Park films) has in fact embarked on a project to clone a Dinosaur from a Chicken!

See here Paleontologist Jack Horner is hard at work trying to turn a Chicken into a Dinosaur.

Thus Crichton’s novels may still turn out to be somewhat prophetic!

Of course it should be said that Jurassic Park was not actually the first novel to explore the idea of Dinosaurs being brought back by cloning.

Carnosaur by Australian author John Bronson revolves around Dinosaurs being created in the modern day through cloning and it predated Jurassic Park by about 6 years. Now I have not had a chance to read Carnosaur yet so I am afraid I could not include it on this list, though it sounds brilliant.

Having looked at its synopsis it appears to be more of a comic book type of story about a mad professor who plans to have his Dinosaurs repopulate the earth. Not that I am holding that against it, but still I think this is where Jurassic Park establishes its own identity in that it sees people try and capitalise on the new scientific discovery instead.

Still its interesting seeing how nothing is original. Even something as ground breaking as Jurassic Park has a precedent.

It would be funny to think that at some point in 1990 this might have happened to Michael Crichton after he sold his novel to his publisher and was talking about this great new idea he had of Dinosaurs being brought back by cloning to his friend at the local store and the person behind the counter who was a fan of Carnosaur gave him a dressing down like this. It could also have happened to Edgar Rice Burroughs when he talked about his new idea about Dinosaurs living at the centre of the earth called At the Earth’s Core and a fan of Journey to the Centre of the Earth told him off.

Maybe Skinner shouldn’t have given up on Billy and the Cloneasaurus after all?

Another great thing about the way this novel portrays its Dinosaurs is that it actually tries to make them seem like real animals and also brings what at that time were many ideas and theories about Dinosaurs that weren’t widely known to the public’s attention such as the idea that some Dinosaurs may have been warm blooded and that birds evolved from small meat eating Dinosaurs.

The Dinosaurs in this novel are fast, quick and as realistic as they can possibly be.  There are still a few gaffes however. Most famous of all is that Velociraptor is depicted as a 6 foot tall killer capable of disembowling a human being with its sickle like claw. In reality Velociraptor was the size of a turkey. The reason for this was because at that time Velociraptor was considered a member of the Deinonychus family a much larger group of meat eating Dinosaurs, but this has since been disproven.

Still the book did more than simply use Dinosaurs for thrills and escapism. It tried to teach its reader about them and make people see them in a different light.

Finally the Velociraptors also helped to make a break from the usual Tyrannosaurus/Allosaurus giant meat eater. The T-Rex obviously still got a look in, but the Raptors gave us Dinosaur enemies who could fight you indoors, sneak up on you, even in some circumstances outwit you. The way they killed you was also more gruesome too. With a T-Rex and an Allosaurus its just one quick bite and that’s that. With the Raptors its a horrific, painful, drawn out affair as they slice your guts open and eat you alive!

The novel does have some key differences with the film though I won’t reveal what they are so as not to spoil it for people who might only be familiar with the film. Its a classic piece of entertainment in its own right every bit as much as the film and I can’t recommend it enough.

The Lost World (1995)

The only sequel that Crichton ever wrote to one of his books. This is not as strong as the original. Really I’d say that there is as big a gulf in terms of quality between the first and second books as there is between the first and second films.

However don’t think that means I dislike the book. I happen to still love the second film too by the way. The Lost World doesn’t really add to the point of the first film. Its plot is really just a collection of Dinosaur attacks.

That’s not to say it isn’t still a page turner of course. The Dinosaur attacks are very exciting and creative such as the Carnotaurs that have camouflage abilities or the Tyrannosaurus Rex’s smashing the trailer over the edge of a cliff ( a scene that was later used in the film), but again whilst its a good read it doesn’t really feel like it has much else to say from the first book.

It bares very little similarity to the film. In fact the only scene from the book that is in the film is the T-Rex vs trailer scene. It could be argued that Spielberg’s film borrows as much from Conan Doyle’s Lost World as it features the idea of a Dinosaur being brought back to civilisation which is from Doyle’s novel. Really Spielberg’s film is like a hybrid of the two Lost Worlds.

Thus when you read the book it is a completely new story which is quite nice. I’d say that the book is at places more of a character piece focusing on how Ian and Sarah survive on the island. Definitely worth a look, but not quite the classic the first Jurassic Park is.

Thanks for reading.