Portal:Cretaceous/Natural world articles

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Selected articles covering the Cretaceous and the natural world

Artist's reconstruction of Waptia fieldensis.
The evolutionary history of life on Earth traces the processes by which living and fossil organisms have evolved since life on the planet first originated until the present day. Earth formed about 4.5 Ga (billion years ago) and life appeared on its surface within one billion years. Microbial mats of coexisting bacteria and archaea were the dominant form of life in the early Archean. The evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis, around 3.5 Ga, eventually led to the oxygenation of the atmosphere, beginning around 2.4 Ga. The earliest evidence of eukaryotes (complex cells with organelles), dates from 1.85 Ga, and while they may have been present earlier, their diversification accelerated when they started using oxygen in their metabolism. Later, around 1.7 Ga, multicellular organisms began to appear, with differentiated cells performing specialised functions. The earliest land plants date back to around 450 Ma (million years ago), although evidence suggests that algal scum formed on the land as early as 1.2 Ga. Land plants were so successful that they are thought to have contributed to the late Devonian extinction event. Invertebrate animals appear during the Vendian period, while vertebrates originated about525 Ma during the Cambrian explosion. During the Permian period, synapsids, including the ancestors of mammals, dominated the land, but the Permian–Triassic extinction event251 Ma came close to wiping out all complex life. (see more...)

Modern Halobacteria sp.
The Archaea (Listeni/ɑːrˈkə/ or /ɑːrˈkə/; singular archaeon) constitute a domain or kingdom of single-celled microorganisms. These microbes are prokaryotes, meaning that they have no cell nucleus or any other membrane-bound organelles within their cells.

The Archaea show many differences in their biochemistry from other forms of life, and so they are now classified as a separate domain in the three-domain system. So far, the Archaea have been further divided into four recognized phyla. Classification is still difficult, because the vast majority have never been studied in the laboratory.

Archaea and bacteria are quite similar in size and shape, but despite this visual similarity to bacteria, archaea possess genes and several metabolic pathways that are more closely related to those of eukaryotes. Other aspects of archaean biochemistry are unique, such as their reliance on ether lipids in their cell membranes. Archaea use a much greater variety of sources of energy than eukaryotes: ranging from familiar organic compounds such as sugars, to ammonia, metal ions or even hydrogen gas. Salt-tolerant archaea use sunlight as an energy source, and other species of archaea fix carbon. Archaea reproduce asexually by binary fission, fragmentation, or budding.

Archaea are found in a broad range of habitats, includingsoils, oceans, marshlands and the human colon and navel. Archaea are now recognized as a major part of Earth's life and may play roles in both the carbon cycle and the nitrogen cycle. (see more...)

Scanning electron micrograph of modern Escherichia coli bacilli.
Bacteria (Listeni/bækˈtɪəriə/; singular: bacterium) constitute a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a number of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals. Bacteria were among the first life forms to appear on Earth, and are present in mosthabitats on the planet. Bacteria inhabit soil, water, acidic hot springs, radioactive waste, and the deep portions of Earth's crust. Bacteria also live in plants and animals and have flourished in manned space vehicles. There are approximately 5×1030 bacteria on Earth, forming a biomass that exceeds that of all plants and animals. Bacteria are vital in recycling nutrients, with many steps in nutrient cycles depending on these organisms, such as the fixation of nitrogen from the atmosphere and putrefaction. In the biological communities surrounding hydrothermal vents and cold seeps, bacteria provide the nutrients needed to sustain life by converting dissolved compounds such as hydrogen sulphide and methane to energy. Most bacteria have not been characterised, and only about half of the phyla of bacteria have species that can be grown in the laboratory. The study of bacteria is known as bacteriology, a branch of microbiology. Unlike cells of animals and other eukaryotes, bacterial cells do not contain a nucleus and rarely harbour membrane-bound organelles. (see more...)

The modern fungus Marasmius rotula had relatives that lived during the Cretaceous.
A fungus (/ˈfʌŋɡəs/; plural: fungi) is a member of a large group of eukaryotic organisms that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and molds, as well as the more familiar mushrooms. These organisms are classified as a kingdom, Fungi, which is separate from plants and animals. One major difference is that fungal cells have cell walls that contain chitin, unlike the cell walls of plants and some protists, which contain cellulose. These and other differences show that the fungi form a single group of related organisms, named the Eumycota. The discipline of biology devoted to the study of fungi is known as mycology. Genetic studies have shown that fungi are more closely related to animals than to plants. Abundant worldwide, most fungi are inconspicuous because of the small size of their structures, and their cryptic lifestyles in soil, on dead matter, and as symbionts of plants, animals, or other fungi. They may become noticeable when fruiting, either as mushrooms or molds. Fungi perform an essential role in the decomposition of organic matter and have fundamental roles in nutrient cycling and exchange. However, little is known of the true biodiversity of Kingdom Fungi, which has been estimated at 1.5 million to 5 million species. Phylogenetic studies published in the last decade have helped reshape the classification of Kingdom Fungi, which is divided into one subkingdom, seven phyla, and ten subphyla. A group of all the fungi present in a particular area or geographic region is known as mycobiota. (see more...)

A modern Rotavirus.
A virus is a small infectious agent that replicates only inside the living cells of other organisms. Viruses can infect members of every kingdom of life, but individual kinds of virus may specialize in certain types of host. About 5,000 viruses have been described in detail, although there are millions of different types. Viruses are found in almost every ecosystem on Earth and are the most abundant type of biological entity. The study of viruses is known as virology.

Virus particles (known as virions) consist of two or three parts: i) the genetic material made from either DNA or RNA, long molecules that carry genetic information; ii) a proteincoat that protects these genes; and in some cases iii) an envelope of lipids that surrounds the protein coat when they are outside a cell. The shapes of viruses range from simplehelical and icosahedral forms to more complex structures. The average virus is about one one-hundredth the size of the average bacterium.

The origins of viruses in the evolutionary history of life are unclear: some may have evolved from plasmids—pieces of DNA that can move between cells—while others may have evolved from bacteria. Viruses are considered by some to be a life form, because they carry genetic material, reproduce, and evolve through natural selection. However they lack key characteristics (such as cell structure) that are generally considered necessary to count as life, so whether or not viruses are truly alive is controversial. (see more...)

Inoceramus fossil.
Bivalvia is a class of marine and freshwater molluscs with laterally compressed bodies enclosed by a shell in two hinged parts. Bivalves include clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, and numerous other families of shells. The majority are filter feeders. Most bivalves bury themselves in sediment on the seabed, where they are safe from predation. Others lie on the sea floor or attach themselves to rocks or other hard surfaces. Some bivalves, such as the scallops, can swim.

The shell of a bivalve is composed of calcium carbonate, and consists of two, usually similar, parts called valves. These are joined together along one edge by a flexible ligament that, in conjunction with interlocking "teeth" on each of the valves, forms the hinge. The shell is typically bilaterally symmetrical, with the hinge lying in the sagittal plane. Adult shell sizes vary from fractions of a millimetre to over a metre in length, but the majority of species do not exceed 10 cm (4 in).

Bivalves appear in the fossil record first in the early Cambrian more than 500 million years ago. The total number of living species is approximately 9,200. These species are placed within 1,260 genera and 106 families. Marine bivalves (including brackish water and estuarine species) represent about 8,000 species, combined in four subclasses and 99 families with 1,100 genera. The largestrecent marine family is the Veneridae, with more than 680 species. (see more...)

Burgessochaeta setigera
The annelids are a large phylum of segmented worms, with over 2,000 modern species including ragworms, earthworms and leeches. They are found in marine environments from tidal zones to hydrothermal vents, in freshwater, and in moist terrestrial environments. The basic annelid form consists of multiple segments, each of which has the same sets of organs and, in most polychaetes, a pair of parapodia that many species use for locomotion. Septa separate the segments of many species, but are poorly defined or absent in some. Septa also enable annelids to change the shapes of individual segments, which facilitates movement by "ripples" that pass along the body or by undulations. Although many species can reproduce asexually and use similar mechanisms to regenerate after severe injuries, sexual reproduction is the normal method in species whose reproduction has been studied. Since annelids are soft-bodied, their fossils are rare – mostly jaws and the mineralized tubes that some of the species secreted. Although some late Ediacaran fossils may represent annelids, the oldest known fossil that is identified with confidence comes from about 518 million years ago in the early Cambrian period. Fossils of most modern mobile polychaete groups appeared by the end of the Carboniferous, about 299 million years ago. Scientists disagree about whether some body fossils from the mid Ordovician, about 472 to 461 million years ago, are the remains of oligochaetes, and the earliest certain fossils of the group appear in the Tertiary period, which began 65 million years ago. (see more...)

Cratostenophlebia schwickerti.
Arthropods are members of the phylum Arthropoda, and include the insects, arachnids, and crustaceans. They are characterized by their jointed limbs and cuticles. The rigid cuticle inhibits growth, so arthropods replace it periodically by moulting. The arthropod body plan consists of repeated segments, each with a pair of appendages. Their versatility has enabled them to become the most species-rich members of all ecological guilds in most environments. They have over a million described species, making up more than 80% of all described living animal species. They range in size from microscopic plankton up to forms a few meters long.

Like their exteriors, the internal organs of arthropods are generally built of repeated segments. Their vision relies on various combinations of compound eyes and pigment-pit ocelli. Arthropods also have a wide range of chemical and mechanical sensors, mostly based on modifications of the many setae (bristles) that project through their cuticles. Nearly all arthropods lay eggs. Arthropod hatchlings vary from miniature adults to grubs and caterpillars that lack jointed limbs and eventually undergo a total metamorphosis to produce the adult form.

The evolutionary ancestry of arthropods dates back to the Cambrian period. The group is generally regarded as monophyletic, and many analyses support the placement of arthropods with cycloneuralians (or their constituent clades) in a superphylum Ecdysozoa. Overall however, the basal relationships of Metazoa are not yet well resolved. Likewise, the relationships between various arthropod groups are still actively debated. (see more...)

Brachiopods are marine animals that have hard "valves" (shells) on the upper and lower surfaces, unlike the left and right arrangement in bivalvemolluscs. Brachiopod valves are hinged at the rear end, while the front can be opened for feeding or closed for protection. Two major groups are recognized, articulate and inarticulate. Articulate brachiopods have toothed hinges and simple opening and closing muscles, while inarticulate brachiopods have untoothed hinges and a more complex system of muscles used to keep the two halves aligned. In a typical brachiopod a stalk-like pedicle projects from an opening in one of the valves, known as the pedicle valve, attaching the animal to the seabed. Lineages of brachiopods that have both fossil and extant taxa appeared in the early Cambrian, Ordovician, and Carboniferous periods, respectively. Other lineages have arisen and then become extinct, sometimes during severe mass extinctions. At their peak in the Paleozoic era, the brachiopods were among the most abundant filter-feeders and reef-builders, and occupied other ecological niches, including swimming in the jet-propulsion style of scallops. However, after the Permian–Triassic extinction event, brachiopods recovered only a third of their former diversity. It was often thought that brachiopods were in decline after the Permian–Triassic extinction, and were out-competed by bivalves. However, a study in 1980 found both brachiopod and bivalve species increased from the Paleozoic to modern times, but bivalves increased faster; after the Permian–Triassic extinction, brachiopods for the first time became less diverse than bivalves. (see more...)

Cnidaria is a phylum of animals found exclusively in aquatic and mostly marine environments. Their distinguishing feature is cnidocytes, specialized cells that they use mainly for capturing prey. Their bodies consist of mesoglea, a non-living jelly-like substance, sandwiched between two layers of epithelium. They have two basic body forms: swimming medusae and sessile polyps, both of which are radially symmetrical with mouths surrounded by tentacles that bear cnidocytes. Many cnidarian species produce colonies that are single organisms composed of medusa-like or polyp-like zooids. Cnidarians' activities are coordinated by a decentralized nerve net. Many cnidarians have complex lifecycles with asexual polyp stages and sexual medusae, but some omit either the polyp or the medusa stage. Cnidarians are classified into four main groups: the almost wholly sessile Anthozoa (sea anemones, corals, sea pens); swimming Scyphozoa (jellyfish); Cubozoa (box jellies); and Hydrozoa, a diverse group that includes all the freshwater cnidarians as well as many marine forms. Fossil cnidarians have been found in rocks formed about 580 million years ago, and other fossils show that corals may have been present shortly before 490 million years ago and diversified a few million years later. Fossils of cnidarians that do not build mineralized structures are very rare. Scientists currently think that cnidarians, ctenophores and bilaterians are more closely related to calcareous sponges than these are to other sponges, and that anthozoans are the evolutionary "aunts" or "sisters" of other cnidarians, and the most closely related to bilaterians. (see more...)

Agatized coral fossil from Michigan.
Corals are marine invertebrates in class Anthozoa of phylum Cnidaria typically living in compact colonies of many identical individual "polyps". The group includes the important reef builders that inhabit tropical oceans and secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard skeleton. A coral "head" is a colony of myriad genetically identical polyps. Each polyp is a spineless animal typically only a few millimeters in diameter and a few centimeters in length. A set of tentacles surround a central mouth opening. An exoskeleton is excreted near the base. Over many generations, the colony thus creates a large skeleton that is characteristic of the species. Individual heads grow by asexual reproduction of polyps. Corals also breed sexually by spawning: polyps of the same species release gametes simultaneously over a period of one to several nights around a full moon. Although some corals can catch small fish and plankton, using stinging cells on their tentacles, like those in sea anemone and jellyfish, most corals obtain the majority of their energy and nutrients from photosynthetic unicellular algae that live within the coral's tissue called zooxanthella. Such corals require sunlight and grow in clear, shallow water. Corals can be major contributors to the physical structure of the coral reefs that develop in tropical and subtropical waters, such as the enormous Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Other corals do not have associated algae and can live in much deeper water. (see more...)

Illustration of Palaeobenthesicymus libanensis by Charlène Letenneur.
Crustaceans (Crustacea) form a very large group of arthropods, usually treated as a subphylum, which includes such familiar animals as crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, krill and barnacles. The 67,000 described species range in size from Stygotantulus stocki at 0.1 mm (0.004 in), to the Japanese spider crabwith a leg span of up to 3.8 m (12.5 ft) and a mass of 20 kg (44 lb). Like other arthropods, crustaceans have an exoskeleton, which they moult to grow. They are distinguished from other groups of arthropods, such as insects, myriapods and chelicerates, by the possession of biramous (two-parted) limbs, and by the nauplius form of the larvae. Most crustaceans are free-living aquatic animals, but some are terrestrial (e.g. woodlice), some are parasitic (e.g. Rhizocephala, fish lice, tongue worms) and some are sessile (e.g. barnacles). The group has an extensive fossil record, reaching back to the Cambrian, and includes living fossils such as Triops cancriformis, which has existed apparently unchanged since the Triassic period. More than 10 million tons of crustaceans are produced by fishery or farming for human consumption, the majority of it being shrimp and prawns. Krill and copepods are not as widely fished, but may be the animals with the greatest biomass on the planet, and form a vital part of the food chain. The scientific study of crustaceans is known as carcinology, and a scientist who works in carcinology is a carcinologist. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Ctenorhabdotus capulus.
Ctenophora is a phylum of marine animals characterized by "combs" consisting of cilia they use for swimming. Adults range from a few millimeters to 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in) in size. Their bodies consist of a mass of jelly, with one layer two cells thick on the outside and another lining the internal cavity. Almost all ctenophores consume tiny animal prey. The phylum has a wide range of body forms, including the egg-shaped cydippids with retractable tentacles that capture prey, the flat generally combless platyctenids, and the large-mouthed beroids, which prey on other ctenophores. Despite their soft, gelatinous bodies, fossils thought to represent ctenophores have been found in lagerstätten as far back as the early Cambrian, about 525 million years ago. The position of the ctenophores in the tree of life has long been debated, and the majority view at present, based on molecular phylogenetics, is that ctenophores are more primitive than the sponges, which are more primitive than the cnidarians and bilaterians. A recent molecular phylogenetics analysis concluded that the common ancestor of all modern ctenophores was cydippid-like, and that all the modern groups appeared relatively recently, probably after the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event 66 million years ago. Evidence accumulating since the 1980s indicates that the "cydippids" are not monophyletic, in other words do not include all and only the descendants of a single common ancestor, because all the other traditional ctenophore groups are descendants of various cydippids. (see more...)

Modern entoprocts.
Entoprocta is a phylum of mostly sessile marine animals, ranging from 0.1 to 7 millimetres (0.0039 to 0.2756 in) long. Mature individuals are goblet-shaped, on relatively long stalks. They have a "crown" of solid tentacles whose cilia generate water currents that draw food particles towards the mouth, and both the mouth and anus lie inside the "crown". Most families of entoprocts are colonial. Some species eject unfertilized ova into the water, while others keep their ova in brood chambers until they hatch, and some of these species use placenta-like organs to nourish the developing eggs. After hatching, the larvae swim for a short time and then settle on a surface. There they metamorphose, and the larval gut generally rotates by up to 180°, so that the mouth and anus face upwards. Both colonial and solitary species also reproduce by cloning – solitary species grow clones in the space between the tentacles and then release them when developed, while colonial ones produce new members from the stalks or from corridor-like stolons. Fossils of entoprocts are very rare, and the earliest specimens that have been identified with confidence date from the Late Jurassic. Most studies from 1996 onwards have regarded entoprocts as members of the Trochozoa, which also includes molluscs and annelids. However, a study in 2008 concluded that entoprocts are closely related to bryozoans. Recently, the Maotianshan Shales fossil,Cotyledion tylodes, has been reevaluated as being an ancient, sclerite-bearing entoproct. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Xiphactinus (largest) and other ichthyodectid fishes.
A fish is any member of a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic craniate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups. Most fish are ectothermic ("cold-blooded"), allowing their body temperatures to vary as ambient temperatures change. Fish are abundant in most bodies of water. They can be found in nearly all aquatic environments, from high mountain streams to even hadal depths of the deepest oceans. At 32,000 species, fish exhibit greater species diversity than any other group of vertebrates. Because the term "fish" is defined negatively, and excludes the tetrapods (i.e., the amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) which descend from within the same ancestry, it is paraphyletic, and is not considered a proper grouping in systematic biology. The earliest organisms that can be classified as fish were soft-bodied chordates that first appeared during the Cambrian period. Although they lacked a true spine, they possessednotochords which allowed them to be more agile than their invertebrate counterparts. Fish would continue to evolve through the Paleozoic era, diversifying into a wide variety of forms. Many fish of the Paleozoic developed external armor that protected them from predators. The first fish with jaws appeared in the Silurian period, after which many (such as sharks) became formidable marine predators rather than just the prey of arthropods. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Latouchella costata.
The molluscs or mollusks, compose the large phylum of invertebrate animals known as the phylum Mollusca. Around 85,000 extant species of molluscs are recognized. Molluscs are the largest marine phylum, comprising about 23% of all the named marine organisms. Numerous molluscs also live in freshwater and terrestrial habitats. They are highly diverse, not only in size and in anatomical structure, but also in behaviour and in habitat. The phylum is typically divided into 9 or 10 taxonomic classes, of which two are entirely extinct. Cephalopod molluscs, such as squid, cuttlefish and octopus, are among the most neurologically advanced of all invertebrates—and either the giant squid or the colossal squid is the largest known invertebrate species. The gastropods (snails and slugs) are by far the most numerous molluscs in terms of classified species. The scientific study of molluscs is called malacology. The three most universal features defining modern molluscs are a mantle with a significant cavity used for breathing and excretion, the presence of a radula, and the structure of the nervous system. Good evidence exists for the appearance of gastropods, cephalopods and bivalves in the Cambrian period 541 to 485.4 million years ago. However, the evolutionary history both of molluscs' emergence from the ancestral Lophotrochozoa and of their diversification into the well-known living and fossil forms are still subjects of vigorous debate among scientists. (see more...)

Vauxia fossils.
Sponges are animals of the phylum Porifera (/pɒˈrɪfərə/; meaning "pore bearer"). They are multicellular organisms that have bodies full of pores and channels allowing water to circulate through them, consisting of jelly-like mesohyl sandwiched between two thin layers of cells. Sponges have unspecialized cells that can transform into other types and that often migrate between the main cell layers and the mesohyl in the process. Sponges do not have nervous, digestive or circulatory systems. Instead, most rely on maintaining a constant water flow through their bodies to obtain food and oxygen and to remove wastes. (see more...)

Modern tunicates.
A tunicate is a marine invertebrate animal, a member of the subphylum Tunicata which is part of the Chordata, a phylum which includes all animals with dorsal nerve cords and notochords. Some tunicates live as solitary individuals but others replicate by budding and become colonies, each unit being known as a zooid. They are marine filter feeders with a water-filled, sac-like body structure and two tubular openings, known as siphons, through which they draw in and expel water. During their respiration and feeding they take in water through the incurrent (or inhalant) siphon and expel the filtered water through the excurrent (or exhalant) siphon. Most adult tunicates are sessile and are permanently attached to rocks or other hard surfaces on the ocean floor; others such as salps, doliolids and pyrosomes swim in the pelagic zone of the sea as adults. Various species are commonly known as sea squirts, sea pork, sea liver or sea tulips. The Tunicata first appear in the fossil record in the early Cambrian period. Despite their simple appearance and very different adult form, their close relationship to the vertebrates is shown by the fact that during their mobile larval stage, they possess a notochord or stiffening rod and resemble a tadpole. Their name derives from their unique outer covering or "tunic" which is formed from proteins and carbohydrates and acts as an exoskeleton. In some species it is thin, translucent and gelatinous while in others it is thick, tough and stiff. (see more...)

Geologic map of Scotland.
The geology of Scotland is unusually varied for a country of its size, with a large number of differing geological features. There are three main geographical sub-divisions: the Highlands and Islands is a diverse area which lies to the north and west of the Highland Boundary Fault; the Central Lowlands is a rift valley mainly comprising Paleozoic formations; and the Southern Uplands, which lie south of the Southern Uplands Fault, are largely composed of Silurian deposits.

The existing bedrock includes very ancient Archean gneiss, metamorphic beds interspersed with granite intrusions created during the Caledonian mountain building period (the Caledonian orogeny), commercially important coal, oil and iron bearing carboniferous deposits and the remains of substantial Paleogene volcanoes. During their formation, tectonic movements created climatic conditions ranging from polar to desert to tropical and a resultant diversity of fossil remains.

Scotland has also had a role to play in many significant discoveries such as plate tectonics and the development of theories about the formation of rocks and was the home of important figures in the development of the science including James Hutton, (the "father of modern geology") Hugh Miller and Archibald Geikie. Various locations such as 'Hutton's Unconformity' at Siccar Point in Berwickshire and the Moine Thrust in the north west were also important in the development of geological science. (see more...)

Fossil Macrocaster.
Starfish or sea stars are echinoderms belonging to the class Asteroidea. About 1,500 living species of starfish occur on the seabed in all the world's oceans, from the tropics to subzero polar waters. They are found from the intertidal zone down to abyssal depths, 6,000 m (20,000 ft) below the surface.

Starfishes typically have a central disc and five arms, though some species have more than this. The aboral or upper surface may be smooth, granular or spiny, and is covered with overlapping plates. Starfish have tube feet operated by a hydraulic system and a mouth at the centre of the oral or lower surface. They are opportunistic feeders and are mostly predators on benthicinvertebrates. Several species having specialized feeding behaviours including eversion of their stomachs and suspension feeding. They have complex life cycles and can reproduce both sexually and asexually. Most can regenerate damaged parts or lost arms and they can shed arms as a means of defence. The Asteroidea occupy several significant ecological roles.

The fossil record for starfish is ancient, dating back to the Ordovician around 450 million years ago, but it is rather poor, as starfish tend to disintegrate after death. Only the ossicles and spines of the animal are likely to be preserved, making remains hard to locate. (see more...)

Ordovician bryozoans.
The Bryozoa are a phylum of aquatic invertebrate animals. Typically about 0.5 millimetres (0.020 in) long, they are filter feeders that sieve food particles out of the water using a retractable lophophore, a "crown" of tentacles lined with cilia. Individuals in bryozoan colonies are called zooids, since they are not fully independent animals. All colonies contain autozooids, which are responsible for feeding and excretion. Colonies of some classes have various types of non-feeding specialist zooids. Zooids consist of a cystid that provides the body wall and produces the exoskeleton and a polypide that contains the internal organs and the lophophore or other specialist extensions. Colonies take a variety of forms, including fans, bushes and sheets. Mineralized skeletons of bryozoans first appear in rocks from Early Ordovician period, making it the last major phylum to appear in the fossil record. This has led researchers to suspect that bryozoans had arisen earlier but were initially unmineralized, and may have differed significantly from fossilized and modern forms. Early fossils are mainly of erect forms, but encrusting forms gradually became dominant. It is uncertain whether the phylum is monophyletic. Bryozoans' evolutionary relationships to other phyla are also unclear, partly because scientists' view of the family tree of animals is mainly influenced by better-known phyla. Both morphological and molecular phylogeny analyses disagree over bryozoans' relationships with entoprocts, about whether bryozoans should be grouped with brachiopods and phoronids in Lophophorata, and whether bryozoans should be considered protostomes or deuterostomes. (see more...)

A Barremian horseshoe crab fossil.
The subphylum (or phylum) Chelicerata constitutes one of the major subdivisions of the phylum (or superphylum) Arthropoda, and includes horseshoe crabs, scorpions, spiders, mites, harvestmen, ticks, and Solifugae. Like all arthropods, chelicerates have segmented bodies with jointed limbs, all covered in a cuticle made of chitin and proteins. The chelicerate bauplan consists of two tagmata, the cephalothorax and the abdomen. The group is named for their chelicerae, appendages near the mouth generally used to feed. The group has the open circulatory system typical of arthropods, in which a tube-like heart pumps blood through the hemocoel, which is the major body cavity.

Chelicerates were originally predators, but the group has diversified to use all the major feeding strategies. The guts of most modern chelicerates are too narrow for solid food, and they generally liquidize their food by grinding it with their chelicerae and pedipalps and flooding it with digestive enzymes. Most lay eggs that hatch as what look like miniature adults. In most chelicerate species the young have to fend for themselves, but in scorpions and some species of spider the females protect and feed their young.

The chelicerata originated as marine animals, possibly in the Cambrian period, but the first confirmed chelicerate fossils, eurypterids, date from 445 million years ago in the Late Ordovician period.

The surviving marine species include the four species of xiphosurans (horseshoe crabs), and possibly the 1,300 species of pycnogonids (sea spiders), if the latter are chelicerates. (see more...)

Modern marchantiophytes.
The Marchantiophyta are a division of non-vascular bryophyte land plants commonly referred to as hepatics or liverworts. Like other bryophytes, they have a gametophyte-dominant life cycle, in which cells of the plant carry only a single set of genetic information.

It is estimated that there are about 9000 species of liverworts. Some of the more familiar species grow as a flattened leafless thallus, but most species are leafy with a form very much like a flattenedmoss. Leafy species can be distinguished from the apparently similar mosses on the basis of a number of features, including their single-celled rhizoids. Leafy liverworts also differ from most (but not all) mosses in that their leaves never have a costa and may bear marginal cilia (very rare in mosses). Other differences are not universal for all mosses and liverworts, but the occurrence of leaves arranged in three ranks, the presence of deep lobes or segmented leaves, or a lack of clearly differentiated stem and leaves all point to the plant being a liverwort.

Liverworts are typically small, usually from 2–20 mm wide with individual plants less than 10 cm long, and are therefore often overlooked. However, certain species may cover large patches of ground, rocks, trees or any other reasonably firm substrate on which they occur. They are distributed globally in almost every available habitat, most often in humid locations although there are desert and arctic species as well. (see more...)

Modern phoronids.
Phoronids (sometimes called horseshoe worms) are a phylum of marine animals that filter-feed with a "crown" of tentacles, and build upright tubes of chitin to support and protect their soft bodies. Most adult phoronids are 2 cm long and about 1.5 mm wide, although the largest are 50 cm long. The bottom end of the body is an a flask-like swelling, which anchors the animal in the tube and enables it to retract its body very quickly when threatened. When the lophophore is extended at the top of the body, little hairs on the sides of the tentacles draw food particles to the mouth, which is inside and slightly to one side of the base of the lophophore. The food then moves down to the stomach, which is in the ampulla. Solid wastes are moved up the intestine and out through the anus, which is outside and slightly below the lophophore. As of 2010 there are no indisputable body fossils of phoronids. There is good evidence that phoronids created trace fossils found in the Silurian, Devonian, Permian, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, and possibly in the Ordovician and Triassic. Phoronids, brachiopods and bryozoans have collectively been called lophophorates, because all use lophophores to feed. Most researchers now regard phoronids as members of the protostome super-phylum Lophotrochozoa. The relationships between lophotrochozoans are still unclear. Some analyses regard phoronids and brachiopods as sister-groups, while others place phoronids as a sub-group within brachiopoda. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Cretoxyrhina.
Sharks are a group of fish characterized by a cartilaginous skeleton, five to seven gill slits on the sides of the head, and pectoral fins that are not fused to the head. Modern sharks are classified within the clade Selachimorpha (or Selachii) and are the sister group to the rays. However, the term "shark" has also been used for extinct members of the subclass Elasmobranchii outside the Selachimorpha, such as Cladoselache and Xenacanthus. Under this broader definition, the earliest known sharks date from more than 420 million years ago. Since then, sharks have diversified into over 470 species. They range in size from the small dwarf lanternshark (Etmopterus perryi), a deep sea species of only 17 centimetres (6.7 in) in length, to the whale shark (Rhincodon typus), the largest fish in the world, which reaches approximately 12 metres (39 ft). Sharks are found in all seas and are common to depths of 2,000 metres (6,600 ft). They generally do not live in freshwater although there are a few known exceptions, such as the bull shark and the river shark, which can survive in both seawater and freshwater. They breathe through five to seven gill slits. Sharks have a covering of dermal denticles that protects their skin from damage and parasites in addition to improving their fluid dynamics. They have several sets of replaceable teeth. (see more...)

Location of Somerset within England.
The geology of Somerset refers to the study of the structure, composition and history of the rocks in Somerset, a rural county in the southwest of England. Somerset covers4,171 square kilometres (1,610 sq mi). It is bounded on the north-west by the Bristol Channel, on the north by Bristol and Gloucestershire, on the north-east by Wiltshire, on the south-east by Dorset, and on the south west and west by Devon. It has broad central plains with several ranges of low hills. The landscape divides into four main geological sections from the Silurian through the Devonian and Carboniferous to the Permian which influence the landscape, together with water-related features. The low lying areas of the North Somerset Levels and Somerset Levels have been subject to thousands of years of flooding and man's attempts to control the flow of water. In the north of the county the Limestone of the Mendip Hills dominates the landscape, while in the south the Blackdown and Quantock Hills rise out of the levels. The highest areas are on Exmoor. The wide variety of landscapes has led to several areas being designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest for geological reasons, and support a range of flora and fauna as can be seen from the List of Sites of Special Scientific Interest in Somerset (see more...)

Life restoration of Albanerpeton.
Amphibians are ectothermic, tetrapod vertebrates of the class Amphibia (Greek ἀμφí, amphi, "both" + βíος, bios, "life"). They inhabit a wide variety of habitats with most species living within terrestrial, fossorial, arboreal or freshwater aquatic ecosystems. Amphibians typically start out as larvaliving in water, but some species have developed behavioural adaptations to bypass this. The young generally undergo metamorphosis from larva with gills to an adult air-breathing form with lungs. The earliest amphibians evolved in the Devonian Period from sarcopterygian fish with lungs and bony-limbed fins, features that were helpful in adapting to dry land. They diversified and became dominant during the Carboniferous and Permian periods, but were later displaced by reptiles and other vertebrates. Over time, amphibians shrank in size and decreased in diversity, leaving only the modern subclass Lissamphibia. The three modern orders of amphibians are Anura (the frogs and toads), Caudata/Urodela (the salamanders), and Gymnophiona/Apoda (the caecilians). The total number of known amphibian species is approximately 7,000, of which nearly 90% are frogs. The largest living amphibian is the 1.8 m (5 ft 11 in) Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus) but this is dwarfed by the extinct 9 m (30 ft) Prionosuchus from the middle Permian of Brazil. The study of amphibians is called batrachology, while the study of both reptiles and amphibians is called herpetology. (see more...)

Insects are a class of invertebrates within the arthropod phylum that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body (head, thorax and abdomen), three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes and one pair of antennae. They are among the most diverse groups of animals on the planet, including more than a million described species and representing more than half of all known living organisms. Insects may be found in nearly all environments, although only a small number of species reside in the oceans.

The life cycles of insects vary but most insects hatch from eggs. Insect growth is constrained by the inelastic exoskeleton and development involves a series of molts. The immature stages can differ from the adults in structure, habit and habitat. Insects that undergoincomplete metamorphosis lack a pupal stage and adults develop through a series of nymphal stages. Fossilized insects of enormous size have been found from the Paleozoic Era, including giant dragonflies with wingspans of 55 to 70 cm (22–28 in). The most diverse insect groups appear to have coevolved with flowering plants.

Adult insects typically move about by walking, flying, or sometimes swimming. Insects are the only invertebrates to have evolved flight. Many insects spend at least part of their lives under water, with larval adaptations that include gills, and some adult insects are aquatic and have adaptations for swimming. Insects are mostly solitary, but some, such as certain bees, ants and termites, are social and live in large, well-organized colonies. (see more...)

The Cretaceous temnospondyl Koolasuchus.
The Temnospondyli are a diverse order of small to giant tetrapods—often considered primitive amphibians—that flourished worldwide during the Carboniferous, Permian, and Triassic periods. A few species continued into the Cretaceous. Fossils have been found on every continent. During about 210 million years of evolutionary history, they adapted to a wide range of habitats, including fresh water, terrestrial, and even coastal marine environments. Their life history is well understood, with fossils known from the larval stage, metamorphosis, and maturity. Most temnospondyls were semiaquatic, although some were almost fully terrestrial, returning to the water only to breed. These temnospondyls were some of the first vertebrates fully adapted to life on land. Although temnospondyls are considered amphibians, many had characteristics, such as scales, claws, and armor-like bony plates, that distinguish them from modern amphibians. Authorities disagree over whether temnospondyls were ancestral to modern amphibians (frogs, salamanders, and caecilians), or whether the whole group died out without leaving any descendants. Different hypotheses have placed modern amphibians as the descendants of temnospondyls, another group of early tetrapods called lepospondyls, or even as descendants of both groups (with caecilians evolving from lepospondyls and frogs and salamanders evolving from temnospondyls). Recent studies place a family of temnosondyls called the amphibamids as the closest relatives of modern amphibians. Similarities in teeth, skulls, and hearing structures link the two groups. (see more...)

A modern mesothelan spider.
Spiders (order Araneae) are air-breathing arthropods that have eight legs and chelicerae with fangs that inject venom. They are the largest order of arachnids. Spiders are found nearly worldwide in nearly every habitat with the exception of air and sea. Anatomically, spiders differ from other arthropods in that the usual body segments are fused into two tagmata, the cephalothorax and abdomen, and joined by a small, cylindrical pedicel. Spiders generally have very centralized nervous systems for arthropods. Their abdomens bear appendages that have been modified into spinnerets that extrude silk from up to six types of silk glands within their abdomen. Spider webs vary widely in size, shape and the amount of sticky thread used. Spiders' guts are too narrow to take solids, and they liquidize their food by flooding it with digestive enzymes and grinding it with the bases of their pedipalps. Spider-like arachnids with silk-producing spigots appeared in the Devonian period about 386 million years ago, but these animals apparently lacked spinnerets. True spiders have been found in Carboniferous rocks from 318 to 299 million years ago, and are very similar to the most primitive surviving order, the Mesothelae. The main groups of modern spiders, Mygalomorphae and Araneomorphae, first appeared in the Triassic period, before 200 million years ago. (see more...)

Geology of the Capitol Reef area.
The exposed geology of the Capitol Reef area presents a record of mostly Mesozoic-aged sedimentation in an area of North America in and around Capitol Reef National Park. Nearly 10,000 feet (3,000 m) of sedimentary strata are found in the Capitol Reef area, representing nearly 200 million years of geologic history of the south-central part of the U.S. state of Utah. These rocks range in age from Permian (as old as 270 million years old) to Cretaceous (as young as 80 million years old.) Rock layers in the area reveal ancient climates as varied as rivers and swamps (Chinle Formation), Sahara-like deserts (Navajo Sandstone), and shallow ocean (Mancos Shale). The area's first known sediments were laid down as a shallow sea invaded the land in the Permian. At first sandstone was deposited but limestone followed as the sea deepened. After the sea retreated in the Triassic, streams deposited silt before the area was uplifted and underwent erosion. Conglomerate followed by logs, sand, mud and wind-transportedvolcanic ash were later added. Mid to Late Triassic time saw increasing aridity, during which vast amounts of sandstone were laid down along with some deposits from slow-moving streams. As another sea started to return it periodically flooded the area and left evaporite deposits. Barrier islands, sand bars and later, tidal flats, contributed sand for sandstone, followed by cobbles for conglomerate and mud for shale. The sea retreated, leaving streams, lakes and swampy plains. (see more...)

Kolob Canyons from the end of Kolob Canyons Road.

The geology of the Zion and Kolob canyons area includes nine known exposed formations, all visible in Zion National Park in the U.S. state of Utah. Together, these formations represent about 150 million years of local sedimentation from the Late Permian to Early Cretaceous. Part of a super-sequence of rock units called the Grand Staircase, the formations exposed in the Zion and Kolob area were deposited in several different environments that range from the warm shallow seas of the Kaibab and Moenkopi formations, streams and lakes of the Chinle, Moenave, and Kayenta formations to the large deserts of the Navajo and Temple Cap formations and dry near shore environments of the Carmel Formation.

Subsequent uplift of the Colorado Plateau slowly raised these formations much higher than where they were deposited. This steepened the stream gradient of the ancestral rivers and other streams on the plateau. The faster-moving streams took advantage of uplift-created joints in the rocks to remove all Cenozoic-aged formations and cut gorges into the plateaus. Zion Canyon was cut by the North Fork of the Virgin River in this way. Lava flows and cinder cones covered parts of the area during the later part of this process. (see more...)

Varied flatworm species fromKunstformen der Natur (1904), plate 75.
The flatworms, or Platyhelminthes are a phylum of relatively simple bilaterian, unsegmented, soft-bodied invertebrates. Unlike other bilaterians, they are acoelomates, (having no body cavity), and no specialized circulatory and respiratory organs, which restricts them to having flattened shapes that allow oxygen and nutrients to pass through their bodies by diffusion. The digestive cavity has only one opening for both the ingestion (intake of nutrients) and egestion (removal of undigested wastes); as a result, the food cannot be processed continuously. Over half of all known flatworm species are parasitic. Free-living flatworms are mostly predators, and live in water or in shaded, humid terrestrial environments such as leaf litter. Analyses since the mid-1980s have separated out one subgroup, the Acoelomorpha, as basal bilaterians (animals with bilateral symmetry and hence with distinct front and rear ends). The remaining Platyhelminthes form a monophyletic group - one that contains all and only descendants of a common ancestor that is itself a member of the group. The redefined Platyhelminthes is part of the Lophotrochozoa, one of the three main groups of more complex bilaterians. These analyses had concluded the redefined Platyhelminthes, excluding Acoelomorpha, consists of two monophyletic subgroups, Catenulida and Rhabditida, with Cestoda, Trematoda and Monogenea forming a monophyletic subgroup within one branch of the Rhabditophora. Hence, the traditional platyhelminth subgroup "Turbellaria" is now regarded as paraphyletic, since it excludes the wholly parasitic groups, although these are descended from one group of "turbellarians". (see more...)

Artist's impression of a pair of Acrocanthosaurus on the move
Acrocanthosaurus (/ˌækrˌkænθˈsɔːrəs/ ak-rə-KAN-thə-SOR-əs; meaning "high-spined lizard") is a genus of theropod dinosaur that existed in what is now North America during the Aptian and early Albian stages of the Early Cretaceous. Like most dinosaur genera, Acrocanthosaurus contains only a single species, A. atokensis. Its fossil remains are found mainly in the U.S. states of Oklahoma, Texas, and Wyoming, although teeth attributed to Acrocanthosaurus have been found as far east as Maryland.

Acrocanthosaurus was a bipedal predator. As the name suggests, it is best known for the high neural spines on many of its vertebrae, which most likely supported a ridge of muscle over the animal's neck, back and hips. Acrocanthosaurus was one of the largest theropods, approaching 12 meters (40 ft) in length, and weighing up to 6.2 tonnes (6.8 short tons). Large theropod footprints discovered in Texas may have been made by Acrocanthosaurus, although there is no direct association with skeletal remains.

Recent discoveries have elucidated many details of its anatomy, allowing for specialized studies focusing on its brain structure and forelimb function. Acrocanthosaurus was the largest theropod in its ecosystem and likely an apex predator which possibly preyed on large sauropods and ornithopods. (see more...)

Albertosaurus skull cast.
Albertosaurus (/ælˌbɜːrtˈsɔːrəs/; meaning "Alberta lizard") is a genus of tyrannosaurid theropod dinosaur that lived in western North America during the Late Cretaceous Period, about 70 million years ago. The type species, A. sarcophagus, was apparently restricted in range to the modern-day Canadian province of Alberta, after which the genus is named. Scientists disagree on the content of the genus, with some recognizing Gorgosaurus libratus as a second species.

As a tyrannosaurid, Albertosaurus was a bipedal predator with tiny, two-fingered hands and a massive head with dozens of large, sharp teeth. It may have been at the top of the food chain in its local ecosystem. Although relatively large for a theropod, Albertosaurus was much smaller than its more famous relative Tyrannosaurus, probably weighing less than 2 metric tons.

Since the first discovery in 1884, fossils of more than thirty individuals have been recovered, providing scientists with a more detailed knowledge of Albertosaurus anatomy than is available for most other tyrannosaurids. The discovery of 26 individuals at one site provides evidence of pack behaviour and allows studies of ontogeny and population biology which are impossible with lesser-known dinosaurs. (see more...)

Skull of Carnotaurus sastrei.
Carnotaurus is a genus of large theropod dinosaur that lived in South America during the Late Cretaceous period, between about 72 and 70 million years ago. The only species is Carnotaurus sastrei. Known from a single well-preserved skeleton, it is one of the best-understood theropods from the Southern Hemisphere. The skeleton, found in 1984, was uncovered in the Chubut Province of Argentina from rocks of the La Colonia Formation. Carnotaurus is a derived member of the Abelisauridae, a group of large theropods that occupied the large predatorial niche in the southern Landmasses of Gondwana during the late Cretaceous. Carnotaurus was a lightly built, bipedal predator, measuring 8 to 9 m (26 to 30 ft) in length and weighing at least 1 metric ton (0.98 long tons; 1.1 short tons). The skeleton is preserved with extensive skin impressions, showing a mosaic of small, non-overlapping scales. The mosaic was interrupted by large bumps that lined the sides of the animal, and there are no hints of feathers. The distinctive horns and the muscular neck may have been used in fighting conspecifics. The feeding habits of Carnotaurus remain unclear: some studies suggest the animal was able to hunt down very large prey such as sauropods, while other studies find it preyed mainly on relatively small animals. Carnotaurus was well adapted for running and was possibly one of the fastest large theropods. (see more...)

Map of the Chicxulub crater.
The Chicxulub crater (/ˈkʃəlb/; Mayan pronunciation: [tʃʼikʃuluɓ]) is a prehistoric impact crater buried underneath the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. Its center is located near the town of Chicxulub, after which the crater is named. The age of the Chicxulub asteroid impact and the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary (K–Pg boundary) coincide precisely. The crater is more than 180 kilometres (110 mi) in diameter and 20 km (12 mi) in depth, making the feature one of the largest confirmed impact structures on Earth; the impacting bolide that formed the crater was at least 10 km (6 mi) in diameter. Evidence for the impact origin of the crater includes shocked quartz, a gravity anomaly, and tektites in surrounding areas. The age of the rocks marked by the impact shows that this impact structure dates from roughly 66 million years ago, the end of the Cretaceous period, and the start of the Paleogene period. The impact associated with the crater is thus implicated in the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, including the worldwide extinction of non-avian dinosaurs. This conclusion has been the source of controversy. In March 2010, 41 experts from many countries reviewed the available evidence: 20 years worth of data spanning a variety of fields. They concluded that the impact at Chicxulub triggered the mass extinctions at the K–Pg boundary. (see more...)

Artist's rendering of a bolide impact.
The Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event was the mass extinction of three-quarters of Earth's plant and animal species during a geologically brief interval about 66 million years (Ma) ago. A wide range of species perished in the K–Pg extinction, most notably the non-avian dinosaurs. However, other groups that sustained losses or vanished include mammals, pterosaurs, birds, lizards, insects, and plants. In the oceans, the K–Pg extinction devastated the giant marine lizards, plesiosaurs, fishes, ammonites and plankton. It marked the end of the Cretaceous period and with it, the entire Mesozoic Era, opening the Cenozoic Era which continues today. In the geologic record, the K–Pg event is marked by a thin layer of sediment called the K–Pg boundary, which can be found throughout the world in marine and terrestrial rocks. The boundary clay shows high levels of the metal iridium, which is rare in the Earth's crust but abundant in asteroids. It is now generally believed that the K–Pg extinction was triggered by a massive comet/asteroid impact and its catastrophic effects on the global environment, including a lingering impact winter that halted photosynthesis in plants and plankton. However, some scientists maintain the extinction was caused or exacerbated by other factors, such as volcanic eruptions, climate change, and/or sea level change. Whatever the cause, many of the surviving animal groups diversified during the ensuing Paleogene period. Mammals in particular radiated into new forms such as horses, whales, bats, and primates. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Daspletosaurus.
Daspletosaurus (/dæsˌpltˈsɔːrəs/ das-PLEET-o-SAWR-əs; meaning "frightful lizard") is a genus of tyrannosaurid theropod dinosaur that lived in western North America between 77 and 74 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous Period. Fossils of the only named species (D. torosus) were found in Alberta, although other possible species from Alberta and Montana await description. Including these undescribed species makes Daspletosaurus the most species-rich genus of tyrannosaur.

Daspletosaurus is closely related to the much larger and more recent Tyrannosaurus. Like most known tyrannosaurids, it was a multi-tonne bipedal predator equipped with dozens of large, sharp teeth. Daspletosaurus had the small forelimbs typical of tyrannosaurids, although they were proportionately longer than in other genera.

As an apex predator, Daspletosaurus was at the top of the food chain, probably preying on large dinosaurs like the ceratopsid Centrosaurus and the hadrosaur Hypacrosaurus. In some areas, Daspletosaurus coexisted with another tyrannosaurid, Gorgosaurus, though there is some evidence of niche differentiation between the two. While Daspletosaurus fossils are rarer than other tyrannosaurids, the available specimens allow some analysis of the biology of these animals, including social behavior, diet, and life history. (see more...)

Skeletal mount of Deinonychus.
Deinonychus is a genus of carnivorous dromaeosaurid coelurosaurian dinosaurs. There is one described species, Deinonychus antirrhopus. This species, which could grow up to 3.4 metres (11 ft) long, lived during the early Cretaceous Period, about 115–108 million years ago (from the mid-Aptian to early Albian stages). Fossils have been recovered from the U.S. states of Montana, Wyoming, and Oklahoma, in rocks of the Cloverly Formation and Antlers Formation, though teeth that may belong to Deinonychus have been found much farther east in Maryland.

Paleontologist John Ostrom's study of Deinonychus in the late 1960s revolutionized the way scientists thought about dinosaurs, leading to the "dinosaur renaissance" and igniting the debate on whether dinosaurs were warm-blooded or cold blooded. Before this, the popular conception of dinosaurs had been one of plodding, reptilian giants. Ostrom noted the small body, sleek, horizontal posture, ratite-like spine, and especially the enlarged raptorial claws on the feet, which suggested an active, agile predator. The etymology "terrible claw" refers to the unusually large, sickle-shaped talon on the second toe of each hind foot. The fossil YPM 5205 preserves a large, strongly curved ungual. Ostrom looked at crocodile and bird claws and reconstructed the claw for YPM 5205 as over 150 millimetres (5.9 in) long.

In both the Cloverly and Antlers formations, Deinonychus remains have been found closely associated with those of the ornithopod Tenontosaurus. Teeth discovered associated with Tenontosaurus specimens imply they were hunted, or at least scavenged upon, by Deinonychus. (see more...)

Specifiers for Dinosauria.
Dinosaurs are a diverse group of animals that first appeared during the Triassic period, 231.4 million years ago, and were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates for 135 million years, from the beginning of the Jurassic until the end of the Cretaceous (66 million years ago), when the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event led to the extinction of most dinosaur groups. The fossil record indicates that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs and, consequently, they are considered a subgroup of dinosaurs by many paleontologists. Some birds survived the extinction event and their descendants continue the dinosaur lineage to the present day. Using fossil evidence, paleontologists have identified over 500 distinct genera of non-avian dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are represented on every continent. Some are herbivorous, others carnivorous. While dinosaurs were ancestrally bipedal, many extinct groups included quadrupedal species. Elaborate display structures such as horns or crests are common to all dinosaur groups, and some extinct groups developed skeletal modifications such as bony armor and spines. Evidence suggests that egg laying and nest building are additional traits shared by all dinosaurs. While modern birds are generally small due to the constraints of flight, many prehistoric dinosaurs were large-bodied—the largest sauropod dinosaurs may have achieved lengths of 58 meters (190 feet). Many dinosaurs were quite small: Xixianykus, for example, was only about 50 cm (20 in) long. (see more...)

The holotype tooth of Dromaeosauroides.
Dromaeosauroides is a genus of dromaeosaurid theropod dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous of what is now Denmark. It is known from two teeth, the first of which was found in 2000. Based on the first tooth, the genus and species Dromaeosauroides bornholmensis was named in 2003. The genus name means "Dromaeosaurus-like", due to the similarity to the teeth of that genus, and the species name means "from Bornholm". The holotype tooth is 21.7 millimetres (0.85 in) long, and the second tooth is 15 millimetres (0.59 in). They are curved and finely serrated. In life, Dromaeosauroides would have been 3 to 4 metres (10 to 10 ft) in length, and weighed about 40 kilograms (88 lb). As a dromaeosaur it would have been feathered, and had a large sickle claw on its feet like its relatives Dromaeosaurus and Deinonychus. Some teeth from Britain that have been referred to the genus Nuthetes may also belong to Dromaeosauroides. Coprolites containing fish remains found in the Jydegaard Formation may belong to this animal. Dromaeosauroides was discovered in the Jydegaard Formation in Robbedale, on the island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea. It is one of the oldest known dromaeosaurs in the world, and the first known uncontested dromaeosaur from the Early Cretaceous of Europe. It lived in a coastal lagoon environment with sauropods, as evidenced by a possible titanosaur tooth. Remains and tracks of other dinosaurs have been found in several formations on Bornholm. (see more...)

Skeletal mount of Edmontosaurus
Edmontosaurus is a genus of crestless duck-billed dinosaur. The fossils of this animal have been found in rocks of western North America that date from the late Campanian stage to the end of the Maastrichtian stage of the Cretaceous Period, between 73 and 65.5 million years ago. It was one of the last non-avian dinosaurs, and lived shortly before the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event. Edmontosaurus was one of the largest hadrosaurids, measuring up to 13 meters (43 ft) long and weighing around 4.0 metric tons (4.4 short tons). It is known from several well-preserved specimens that include not only bones, but in some cases extensive skin impressions and possible gut contents.

Edmontosaurus has a lengthy and complicated taxonomic history dating to the late 19th century. The type species, E. regalis, was named by Lawrence Lambe in 1917, although several other species that are now classified in Edmontosaurus were named earlier. The best known of these is E. annectens, originally named by Othniel Charles Marsh in 1892.

Edmontosaurus was widely distributed across western North America. The distribution of Edmontosaurus fossils suggests that it preferred coasts and coastal plains. It was an herbivore that could move on both two legs and four. Because it is known from several bone beds, Edmontosaurus is thought to have lived in groups, and may have been migratory as well.

(see more...)

Artist's restoration of Gorgosaurus libratus.
Gorgosaurus is a genus of tyrannosaurid theropod dinosaur that lived in western North America during the Late Cretaceous Period, between about 76.6 and 75.1 million years ago. Fossil remains have been found in the Canadian province of Alberta and possibly the U.S. state of Montana. Paleontologists recognize only the type species, G. libratus, although other species have been erroneously referred to the genus.

Like most known tyrannosaurids, Gorgosaurus was a bipedal predator weighing more than two metric tons as an adult; dozens of large, sharp teeth lined its jaws, while its two-fingered forelimbs were comparatively small. Gorgosaurus was most closely related to Albertosaurus, and more distantly related to the larger Tyrannosaurus. Some experts consider G. libratus to be a species of Albertosaurus; this would make Gorgosaurus a junior synonym of that genus.

Gorgosaurus lived in a lush floodplain environment along the edge of an inland sea. It was an apex predator (meaning that it was at the top of its food chain), preying upon abundant ceratopsids and hadrosaurs. In some areas, Gorgosaurus coexisted with another tyrannosaurid, Daspletosaurus. Although these animals were roughly the same size, there is some evidence of niche differentiation between the two. Gorgosaurus is the best-represented tyrannosaurid in the fossil record, known from dozens of specimens. These plentiful remains have allowed scientists to investigate its ontogeny, life history and other aspects of its biology. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Iguanodon.
Iguanodon is a genus of ornithopod dinosaur that existed roughly halfway between the first of the swift bipedal hypsilophodontids of the mid-Jurassic and the duck-billed dinosaurs of the late Cretaceous. The genus was named in 1825 by English geologist Gideon Mantell, based on fossil specimens that are now assigned to different genera and species. Iguanodon was the second type of dinosaur formally named based on fossil specimens, after Megalosaurus. Together with Megalosaurus and Hylaeosaurus, it was one of the three genera originally used to define Dinosauria. The genus Iguanodon belongs to the larger group Iguanodontia, along with the duck-billed hadrosaurs. The taxonomy of this genus continues to be a topic of study as new species are named or long-standing ones reassigned to other genera. Scientific understanding of Iguanodon has evolved over time as new information has been obtained from fossils. The numerous specimens of this genus, including nearly complete skeletons from two well-known bonebeds, have allowed researchers to make informed hypotheses regarding many aspects of the living animal, including feeding, movement, and social behaviour. As one of the first scientifically well-known dinosaurs, Iguanodon has occupied a small but notable place in the public's perception of dinosaurs, its artistic representation changing significantly in response to new interpretations of its remains. (see more...)

Life restoration of Lambeosaurus magnicristatus.
Lambeosaurus (/ˌlæmbi.ˈsɔːrəs/ LAM-bee-ə-SOR-əs; meaning "Lambe's lizard") is a genus of hadrosaurid dinosaur that lived about 76 to 75 million years ago, in the Late Cretaceous period (Campanian) of North America. This bipedal/quadrupedal, herbivorous dinosaur is known for its distinctive hollow cranial crest, which in the best-known species resembled a hatchet. Several possible species have been named, from Canada, the United States, and Mexico, but only the two Canadian species are currently recognized as valid. Lambeosaurus was belatedly described in 1923 by William Parks, over twenty years after the first material was studied by Lawrence Lambe. The genus has had a complicated taxonomic history, in part because small-bodied crested hadrosaurids now recognized as juveniles were once thought to belong to their own genera and species. Currently, the various skulls assigned to the type species L. lambei are interpreted as showing age differences and sexual dimorphism. Lambeosaurus was closely related to the better known Corythosaurus, which is found in slightly older rocks, as well as the less well-known genera Hypacrosaurus and Olorotitan. All had unusual crests, which are now generally assumed to have served social functions like noisemaking and recognition. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Majungasaurus.
Majungasaurus is a genus of abelisaurid theropod dinosaur that lived in Madagascar from 70 to 66 million years ago, at the end of the Cretaceous Period. Only one species (Majungasaurus crenatissimus) has been identified. This dinosaur was briefly called Majungatholus, a name which is now considered a junior synonym of Majungasaurus.

Like other abelisaurids, Majungasaurus was a bipedal predator with a short snout. Although the forelimbs are not completely known, they were very short, while the hindlimbs were longer and very stocky. It can be distinguished from other abelisaurids by its wider skull, the very rough texture and thickened bone on the top of its snout, and the single rounded horn on the roof of its skull, which was originally mistaken for the dome of a pachycephalosaur. It also had more teeth in both upper and lower jaws than most abelisaurids.

Known from several well-preserved skulls and abundant skeletal material, Majungasaurus has recently become one of the best-studied theropod dinosaurs from the Southern Hemisphere. It appears to be most closely related to abelisaurids from India rather than South America or continental Africa, a fact which has important biogeographical implications. Majungasaurus was the apex predator in its ecosystem, mainly preying on sauropods like Rapetosaurus, and is also one of the few dinosaurs for which there is direct evidence of cannibalism. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Nigersaurus taqueti.
Nigersaurus (meaning "Niger reptile") is a genus of rebbachisaurid sauropod dinosaur that lived during the middle Cretaceous period, about 115 to 105 million years ago. It was discovered in the Elrhaz Formation in an area called Gadoufaoua, in the Republic of Niger. Fossils of this dinosaur were first described in 1976, but it was only named in 1999 after further and more complete remains were found and described. The genus contains a single species, Nigersaurus taqueti.

Nigersaurus was 9 m (30 ft) long, which is small for a sauropod, and had a short neck. It weighed around four tonnes, comparable to a modern elephant. Its skeleton was filled with air spaces connected to air sacs, but the limbs were robustly built. Its skull was very specialised for feeding, with a wide muzzle filled with more than 500 teeth. The jaws may have borne a keratinous sheath. Unlike other tetrapods, the tooth-bearing bones of its jaws were rotated transversely relative to the rest of the skull, so that all of its teeth were located far to the front.

Nigersaurus was probably a browser, and fed with its head close to the ground. It lived in a riparian habitat, and its diet probably consisted of soft plants, such as ferns, horsetails, and angiosperms. It is one of the most common fossil vertebrates found in the area, and shared its habitat with other dinosaurian megaherbivores, as well as large theropods and crocodylomorphs. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Parasaurolophus walkeri.
Parasaurolophus (/ˌpærəsɔːˈrɒləfəs/ PARR-ə-saw-ROL-ə-fəs or /ˌpærəˌsɔːrəˈlfəs/ PARR-ə- SAWR-ə-LOH-fəs; meaning "near crested lizard" in reference to Saurolophus) is a genus of ornithopod dinosaur that lived in what is now North America during the Late Cretaceous Period, about 76.5–73 million years ago. It was a herbivore that walked both as a biped and a quadruped. Three species are recognized: P. walkeri (the type species), P. tubicen, and the short-crested P. cyrtocristatus. Remains are known from Alberta (Canada), and New Mexico and Utah (USA). The genus was first described in 1922 by William Parks from a skull and partial skeleton found in Alberta. Parasaurolophus was a hadrosaurid, part of a diverse family of Cretaceous dinosaurs known for their range of bizarre head adornments. This genus is known for its large, elaborate cranial crest, which at its largest forms a long curved tube projecting upwards and back from the skull. Charonosaurus from China, which may have been its closest relative, had a similar skull and potentially a similar crest. The crest has been much discussed by scientists; the consensus is that major functions included visual recognition of both species and sex, acoustic resonance, and thermoregulation. It is one of the rarer hadrosaurids, known from only a handful of good specimens. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Psittacosaurus mongoliensis .
Psittacosaurus (/ˌsɪtəkəˈsɔːrəs/ SIT-ə-kə-SOR-əs; from the Greek for "parrot lizard") is a genus of psittacosaurid ceratopsian dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous Period of what is now Asia, between 124.2 to 100 million years ago. It is notable for being the most species-rich dinosaur genus. Nine to eleven species are recognized from fossils found in different regions of modern-day China, Mongolia and Russia, with a possible additional species from Thailand.

All species of Psittacosaurus were gazelle-sized bipedal herbivores characterized by a high, powerful beak on the upper jaw. At least one species had long, quill-like structures on its tail and lower back, possibly serving a display function. Psittacosaurs were extremely early ceratopsians. Although they developed many novel adaptations, they shared many anatomical features with later ceratopsians such as Protoceratops and Triceratops.

Psittacosaurus is not as familiar to the general public as its distant relative Triceratops but it is one of the most completely known dinosaur genera. Fossils of over 400 individuals have been collected so far, including many complete skeletons. Most different age classes are represented, from hatchling through to adult, which has allowed several detailed studies of Psittacosaurus growth rates and reproductive biology. The abundance of this dinosaur in the fossil record has led to the creation of the Psittacosaurus biochron for Lower Cretaceous sediments of east Asia. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Styracosaurus albertensis.
Styracosaurus (/stˌrækəˈsɔːrəs/ stə-RAK-ə-SOR-əs; meaning "spiked lizard" from the Ancient Greek styrax/στύραξ "spike at the butt-end of a spear-shaft" and sauros/σαῦρος "lizard") was a genus of herbivorous ceratopsian dinosaur from the Cretaceous Period (Campanian stage), about 75.5 to 75 million years ago. It had four to six long horns extending from its neck frill, a smaller horn on each of its cheeks, and a single horn protruding from its nose, which may have been up to 60 centimetres (2 ft) long and 15 centimetres (6 in) wide. The function or functions of the horns and frills have been debated for many years.

Styracosaurus was a relatively large dinosaur, reaching lengths of 5.5 metres (18 ft) and weighing nearly 3 tons. It stood about 1.8 meters (6 ft) tall. Styracosaurus possessed four short legs and a bulky body. Its tail was rather short. The skull had a beak and shearing cheek teeth arranged in continuous dental batteries, suggesting that the animal sliced up plants. Like other ceratopsians, this dinosaur may have been a herd animal, traveling in large groups, as suggested by bonebeds.

Named by Lawrence Lambe in 1913, Styracosaurus is a member of the Centrosaurinae. One species, S. albertensis, is currently assigned to Styracosaurus. Other species assigned to the genus have since been reassigned elsewhere. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Tarbosaurus bataar.
Tarbosaurus is a genus of tyrannosaurid theropod dinosaur that flourished in Asia about 70 million years ago, at the end of the Late Cretaceous Period. Fossils have been recovered in Mongolia, with more fragmentary remains found further afield in parts of China.

Although many species have been named, modern paleontologists recognize only one, T. bataar, as valid. Some experts see this species as an Asian representative of the North American genus Tyrannosaurus; this would make the genus Tarbosaurus redundant. Tarbosaurus and Tyrannosaurus, if not synonymous, are considered to be at least closely related genera.

Like most known tyrannosaurids, Tarbosaurus was a large bipedal predator, weighing up to six tonnes and equipped with about sixty large teeth. It had a unique locking mechanism in its lower jaw and the smallest forelimbs relative to body size of all tyrannosaurids, renowned for their disproportionately tiny, two-fingered forelimbs.

Tarbosaurus lived in a humid floodplain criss-crossed by river channels. In this environment, it was an apex predator at the top of the food chain, probably preying on other large dinosaurs like the hadrosaur Saurolophus or the sauropod Nemegtosaurus. Tarbosaurus is very well represented in the fossil record, known from dozens of specimens, including several complete skulls and skeletons. These remains have allowed scientific studies focusing on its phylogeny, skull mechanics, and brain structure. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Thescelosaurus neglectus.
Thescelosaurus (/ˌθɛsləˈsɔːrəs/ THESS-il-ə-SOR-əs; ancient Greek θέσκελος-/theskelos- meaning "godlike", "marvelous", or "wondrous" and σαυρος/sauros "lizard") was a genus of small ornithopod dinosaur that appeared at the very end of the Late Cretaceous period in North America. It was a member of the last dinosaurian fauna before the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event around 66 million years ago. The preservation and completeness of many of its specimens indicate that it may have preferred to live near streams.

This bipedal ornithopod is known from several partial skeletons and skulls that indicate it grew to between 2.5 and 4.0 meters (8.2 to 13.1 ft) in length on average. It had sturdy hind limbs, small wide hands, and a head with an elongate pointed snout. The form of the teeth and jaws suggest a primarily herbivorous animal. This genus of dinosaur is regarded as a specialized basal ornithopod, traditionally described as a hypsilophodont, but more recently recognized as distinct from Hypsilophodon. Several species have been suggested for this genus. Three currently are recognized as valid: the type species T. neglectus, as well as T. garbanii and T. assiniboiensis.

The genus attracted media attention in 2000, when a specimen unearthed in 1993 in South Dakota, United States, was interpreted as including a fossilized heart. There was much discussion over whether the remains were of a heart. Many scientists now doubt the identification of the object and the implications of such an identification. (see more...)

Skeletal mount of Triceratops horridus.
Triceratops is a genus of herbivorous ceratopsid dinosaur that first appeared during the late Cretaceous period, about 68 million years ago in what is now North America. It is one of the last known non-avian dinosaur genera, and became extinct in the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event 66 million years ago. Its head bore a large bony frill and three horns while its body was massive and four-legged. It shared the landscape with and was probably preyed upon by the fearsome Tyrannosaurus.

The exact placement of the Triceratops genus within the ceratopsid group has been debated by paleontologists. Two species, T. horridus and T. prorsus, are considered valid. Research published in 2010 suggests that the contemporaneous Torosaurus, a ceratopsid long regarded as a separate genus, represents Triceratops in its mature form, a view not accepted by all researchers. Triceratops has been documented by numerous remains collected since the genus was first described in 1889, including at least one complete individual skeleton. Specimens representing life stages from hatchling to adult have been found.

The function of the frills and three distinctive facial horns has long inspired debate. Traditionally these have been viewed as defensive weapons against predators. More recent theories, noting the presence of blood vessels in the skull bones of ceratopsids, find it more probable that these features were primarily used in identification, courtship and dominance displays, much like the antlers and horns of modern reindeer, mountain goats, or rhinoceros beetles. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Tyrannosaurus rex.
Tyrannosaurus is a genus of coelurosaurian theropod dinosaur. The species Tyrannosaurus rex is commonly abbreviated to T. rex. It lived throughout what is now western North America. Fossils are found in a variety of rock formations dating to the Maastrichtian age of the upper Cretaceous Period, 67 to 66 million years ago. It was among the last non-avian dinosaurs to exist before the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event.

Like other tyrannosaurids, Tyrannosaurus was a bipedal carnivore with a massive skull balanced by a long, heavy tail. Relative to its large and powerful hindlimbs, Tyrannosaurus forelimbs were short and bore two clawed digits. Although other theropods rivaled or exceeded Tyrannosaurus rex in size it is one of the largest known land predators in history. The most complete specimen measures up to 12.3 m (40 ft) in length, up to 4 metres (13 ft) tall at the hips, and up to 6.8 metric tons (7.5 short tons) in weight. Tyrannosaurus rex would have been an apex predator, preying upon hadrosaurs, ceratopsians, and possibly sauropods.

More than 50 specimens of Tyrannosaurus rex have been identified, some of which are nearly complete skeletons. Soft tissue and proteins have been reported in at least one of these specimens. The abundance of fossil material has allowed significant research into many aspects of its biology. Its taxonomy is also controversial: some scientists consider Tarbosaurus bataar from Asia to be a second species of Tyrannosaurus and others maintaining Tarbosaurus as a separate genus. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Velociraptor mongoliensis.
Velociraptor is a genus of dromaeosaurid theropod dinosaur that lived approximately 75 to 71 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous Epoch. Two species are currently recognized, although others have been assigned in the past. The type species is V. mongoliensis; fossils of this species have been discovered in Mongolia. A second species, V. osmolskae, was named in 2008 for skull material from Inner Mongolia, China.

Like other dromaeosaurids like Deinonychus and Achillobator, Velociraptor was a bipedal, feathered carnivore with a long tail and an enlarged sickle-shaped claw on each hindfoot, which is thought to have been used to tackle prey. Velociraptor can be distinguished from other dromaeosaurids by its long and low skull, with an upturned snout.

Velociraptor (commonly shortened to "raptor") is one of the dinosaur genera most familiar to the general public due to its prominent role in the Jurassic Park motion picture series. In the films it was shown with anatomical inaccuracies, including being much larger than it was in reality and without feathers. Some of these inaccuracies, along with the head's larger dome in the movies may suggest that the dinosaurs in the movies were actually modeled on Deinonychus. Velociraptor is also well known to paleontologists, with over a dozen described fossil skeletons, the most of any dromaeosaurid. One particularly famous specimen preserves a Velociraptor locked in combat with a Protoceratops. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Rugops .
Abelisauridae (meaning "Abel's lizards") is a family (or clade) of ceratosaurian theropod dinosaurs. Abelisaurids thrived during the Cretaceous Period, on the ancient southern supercontinent of Gondwana, and today their fossil remains are found on the modern continents of Africa and South America, as well as on the Indian subcontinent and the island of Madagascar. Abelisaurids first appear in the fossil record of the early middle Jurassic period, and at least one species (Majungasaurus crenatissimus) survived until the end of the Mesozoic era 66 million years ago. Like most theropods, abelisaurids were carnivorous bipeds. They were characterized by stocky hindlimbs and extensive ornamentation of the skull bones, with grooves and pits. In many abelisaurids, like Carnotaurus, the forelimbs are vestigial, the skull is shorter and bony crests grows above the eyes. Most of the known abelisaurids would have been between 5 to 9 meters (17 to 30 ft) in length, from snout to tip of tail, with a new and as yet unnamed specimen from northwestern Turkana in Kenya, Africa reaching a possible length of 11–12 meters (36 to 39 feet). Before becoming well known, fragmentary abelisaurid remains were occasionally misidentified as possible South American tyrannosaurids. (see more...)

Artist's reconstruction of Alioramus.
Alioramus (/ˌæli.ˈrməs/; meaning 'different branch') is a genus of tyrannosaurid theropod dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous period of Asia. The type species, A. remotus, is known from a partial skull and three foot bones recovered from Mongolian sediments which were deposited in a humid floodplain about 70 million years ago. These remains were named and described by Soviet paleontologist Sergei Kurzanov in 1976. A second species, A. altai, known from a much more complete skeleton, was named and described by Stephen L. Brusatte and colleagues in 2009. Its relationships to other tyrannosaurid genera are unclear, with some evidence supporting a hypothesis that Alioramus is closely related to the contemporary species Tarbosaurus bataar. Alioramus were bipedal like all known theropods, and their sharp teeth indicate that they were carnivores. Known specimens were smaller than other tyrannosaurids like Tarbosaurus bataar and Tyrannosaurus rex, but their adult size is difficult to estimate since both species are known only from juvenile or sub-adult remains. The genus Alioramus is characterized by a row of five bony crests along the top of the snout, a greater number of teeth than any other genus of tyrannosaurid, and a lower skull than other tyrannosaurids. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Ampelosaurus.
Ampelosaurus is a titanosaurian sauropod dinosaur hailing from the Late Cretaceous Period of what is now Europe. Its type species is A. atacis, named by Le Loeuff in 1995. A possible unnamed species has given Ampelosaurus an age reaching to the latest Cretaceous, from about 70 to 66 million years ago.

Like most sauropods, it would have had a long neck and tail but it also carried armor in the form of osteoderms. The blade of the scapula, contrary to most titanosaurs, is triangular. The blade narrows at one end instead of showing an expansion like most other genera. Titanosaurians were a flourishing group of sauropod dinosaurs during Cretaceous times. The Spanish locality from the latest Cretaceous of “Lo Hueco” yielded a relatively well preserved, titanosaurian braincase, which shares a number of unique features with A. atacis from France. However, it appeared to differ from A. atacis in some traits also. The specimen has been provisionally identified as Ampelosaurus sp..

Ampelosaurus lived alongside many other animals. Over 8500 specimens have been found alongside it, including gastropods, bivalves, crocodiles, other sauropods, plants and invertebrates in the Villalba de la Sierra, Gres de Saint-Chinian, Marnes Rouges Inférieures and Gres de Labarre formations. Recent attention has made Ampelosaurus one of the most well-known dinosaurs known from France. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Ankylosaurus.
Ankylosaurus (/ˌæŋklˈsɔːrəs/ ANG-ki-lo-SAWR-əs or /æŋˌklˈsɔːrəs/ ang-KY-lo-SAWR-əs, and which means "fused lizard") is a genus of ankylosaurid dinosaur, containing one species, A. magniventris. Fossils of Ankylosaurus are found in geologic formations dating to the very end of the Cretaceous Period (between about 66.5–66 Ma ago) in western North America. Although a complete skeleton has not been discovered and several other dinosaurs are represented by more extensive fossil material, Ankylosaurus is often considered the archetypal armored dinosaur. Other ankylosaurids shared its well-known features—the heavily armored body and massive bony tail club—but Ankylosaurus was the largest known member of the family. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Balaur bondoc.
Balaur bondoc is a species of theropod dinosaurs which lived in what is now Romania during the late Cretaceous period. It is the type species of the monotypic genus Balaur which was described by scientists in August 2010, and was named after the balaur (Romanian pronunciation: [baˈla.ur]), a dragon of Romanian folklore. The specific name bondoc means "stocky", so Balaur bondoc means "Stocky dragon" in Romanian. This name refers to the greater musculature that Balaur had compared to its relatives. The genus is known from two partial skeletons including the type specimen. Seventy million years ago, world sea levels were higher, and the location where its fossils are found was a part of the European Archipelago called Hațeg Island which is also referred to as the "Island of the Dwarf Dinosaurs". Unlike other early members of the group Paraves, which includes Velociraptor, Troodon, and Archaeopteryx, this theropod had not just one but two large, retractable, sickle-shaped claws on each foot, and its limbs were proportionally shorter and heavier than those of its relatives. As with other dinosaurs from Hațeg, such as Magyarosaurus, a dwarf sauropod, its strange features have been argued to show the effects of its island habitat on its evolution. (see more...)

Artist's restration of Zuniceratops.
Ceratopsia or Ceratopia (/ˌsɛrəˈtɒpsiə/ or /ˌsɛrəˈtpiə/; Greek: "horned faces") is a group of herbivorous, beaked dinosaurs that thrived in what are now North America, Europe, and Asia, during the Cretaceous Period, although ancestral forms lived earlier, in the Jurassic. The earliest known ceratopsian, Yinlong downsi, lived between 161.2 and 155.7 million years ago. The last ceratopsian species became extinct in the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, 66 million years ago.

Early members of the ceratopsian group, such as Psittacosaurus, were small bipedal animals. Later members, including ceratopsids like Centrosaurus and Triceratops, became very large quadrupeds and developed elaborate facial horns and frills extending over the neck. While these frills might have served to protect the vulnerable neck from predators, they may also have been used for display, thermoregulation, the attachment of large neck and chewing muscles or some combination of the above. Ceratopsians ranged in size from 1 meter (3 ft) and 23 kilograms (50 lb) to over 9 meters (30 ft) and 5,400 kg (12,000 lb).

Triceratops are by far the best-known ceratopsians to the general public. It is traditional for ceratopsian genus names to end in "-ceratops", although this is not always the case. One of the first named genera was Ceratops itself, which lent its name to the group, although it is considered a nomen dubium today as its fossil remains have no distinguishing characteristics that are not also found in other ceratopsians. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Yurgovuchia.
Dromaeosauridae is a family of bird-like theropod dinosaurs. They were small- to medium-sized feathered carnivores that flourished in the Cretaceous Period. The name Dromaeosauridae means 'running lizards', from Greek dromeus (δρομευς) meaning 'runner' and sauros (σαυρος) meaning 'lizard'. In informal usage they are often called raptors (after Velociraptor), a term popularized by the film Jurassic Park; a few types include the term "raptor" directly in their name and have come to emphasize their supposed bird-like habits. Dromaeosaurid fossils have been found in North America, Europe, Africa, Japan, China, Mongolia, Madagascar, Argentina, and Antarctica. They first appeared in the mid-Jurassic Period (late Bathonian stage, about 164 million years ago) and survived until the end of the Cretaceous (Maastrichtian stage, 66 ma), existing for over 100 million years, up until the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event. The presence of dromaeosaurs as early as the Middle Jurassic has been confirmed by the discovery of isolated fossil teeth, though no dromaeosaurid body fossils have been found from this period. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Gryposaurus.
Gryposaurus (meaning "hooked-nosed (Greek grypos) lizard"; sometimes incorrectly translated as "griffin (Latin gryphus) lizard") was a genus of duckbilled dinosaur that lived about 83 to 75.5 million years ago, in the Late Cretaceous (late Santonian to late Campanian stages) of North America. Named species of Gryposaurus are known from the Dinosaur Park Formation in Alberta, Canada and the Lower Two Medicine Formation in Montana and the Kaiparowits Formation of Utah in the United States. Gryposaurus is similar to Kritosaurus, and for many years was regarded as the same genus. It is known from numerous skulls, some skeletons, and even some skin impressions that show it to have had pyramidal scales pointing out along the midline of the back. It is most easily distinguished from other duckbills by its narrow arching nasal hump, sometimes described as similar to a "Roman nose," and which may have been used for species or sexual identification, and/or combat with individuals of the same species. A large bipedal/quadrupedal herbivore around 9 meters long (30 ft), it may have preferred river settings. (see more...)

Artist's reconstruction of Heterodontosaurus.
Heterodontosauridae ("different-toothed lizards") is a family of early ornithischian dinosaurs that were likely among the most basal (primitive) members of the group. Although their fossils are rare, they lived around the globe beginning in the late Triassic Period, and a few late-surviving species persisted into the Early Cretaceous. Heterodontosaurids were fox-sized dinosaurs less than 2 meters (6.6 ft) in length, including a long tail. They are known mainly for their characteristic teeth, including enlarged canine-like tusks and cheek teeth adapted for chewing, analogous to those of Cretaceous hadrosaurids. Their diet was herbivorous or possibly omnivorous. (see more...)

Artist's reconstruction of Waptia fieldensis.
Hypacrosaurus (meaning "near the highest lizard" [Greek υπο-, hypo- = less + ακρος, akros, high], because it was almost but not quite as large as Tyrannosaurus) was a genus of duckbill dinosaur similar in appearance to Corythosaurus. Like Corythosaurus, it had a tall, hollow rounded crest, although not as large and straight. It is known from the remains of two species that spanned 75 to 67 million years ago, in the Late Cretaceous of Alberta, Canada, and Montana, USA, and is the latest hollow-crested duckbill known from good remains in North America. It was an obscure genus until the description of nests, eggs, and hatchlings belonging to H. stebingeri in the 1990s. (see more...)

Hypsibema missouriensis (pronounced /ˌhɪpsˈbmə mˌzʊəriˈɛnsɪs/; originally Neosaurus missouriensis, first renamed to Parrosaurus missouriensis, also spelled Hypsibema missouriense) is a species of plant-eating dinosaur in the genus Hypsibema, and the state dinosaur of the U.S. state Missouri. One of the few official state dinosaurs, bones of the species were discovered in 1942, at what later became known as the Chronister Dinosaur Site near Glen Allen, Missouri. The remains of Hypsibema missouriensis at the site, which marked the first known discovery of dinosaur remains in Missouri, are the only ones to have ever been found. Although first thought to be a sauropod, later study determined that it was a hadrosaur, or "duck-billed" dinosaur, whose snouts bear likeness to ducks' bills. Some of the species' bones found at the Chronister Dinosaur Site are housed in Washington, D.C.'s Smithsonian Institution. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Kritosaurus.
Kritosaurus is an incompletely known but historically important genus of hadrosaurid (duck-billed) dinosaur. It lived about 74-70 million years ago, in the Late Cretaceous of North America. The name means "separated lizard" (referring to the arrangement of the cheek bones in an incomplete type skull), but is often mistranslated as "noble lizard" in reference to the presumed "Roman nose" (in the original specimen, the nasal region was fragmented and disarticulated, and was originally restored flat). Despite the dearth of material, this herbivore appeared frequently in dinosaur books until the 1990s, although what was usually represented was the much more completely known Gryposaurus, then thought to be a synonym. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Pachycephalosaurus.
Pachycephalosaurus (/ˌpækˌsɛfələˈsɔːrəs/; meaning "thick headed lizard," from Greek pachys-/παχυς- "thick", kephale/κεφαλη "head" and sauros/σαυρος "lizard") is a genus of pachycephalosaurid dinosaurs. The type species, P. wyomingensis, is the only known species. It lived during the Late Cretaceous Period (Maastrichtian stage) of what is now North America. Remains have been excavated in Montana, South Dakota, and Wyoming. It was an herbivorous or omnivorous creature which is primarily known from a single skull and a few extremely thick skull roofs, though a more complete fossils havebeen found in recent years. Pachycephalosaurus was one of the last non-avian dinosaurs before the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event. Another dinosaur, Tylosteus of western North America, has been synonymized with Pachycephalosaurus.

Like other pachycephalosaurids, Pachycephalosaurus was a bipedal omnivore with an extremely thick skull roof. It possessed long hindlimbs and small forelimbs. Pachycephalosaurus is the largest known pachycephalosaur.

The thick skull domes of Pachycephalosaurus and related genera gave rise to the hypothesis that pachycephalosaurs used their skulls in intraspecific combat. This hypothesis has been disputed in recent years. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Prosaurolophus.
Prosaurolophus (/ˌprsɔːˈrɒləfəs/; meaning "before Saurolophus", in comparison to the later dinosaur with a similar head crest) is a genus of hadrosaurid (or duck-billed) dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous of North America. It is known from the remains of at least 25 individuals belonging to two species, including skulls and skeletons, but it remains obscure. Around 9 meters long (29.5 ft), its fossils have been found in the late Campanian-age Upper Cretaceous Dinosaur Park Formation in Alberta, and the roughly contemporaneous Two Medicine Formation in Montana, dating to around 76-75 million years ago. Its most recognizable feature is a small solid crest formed by the nasal bones, sticking up in front of the eyes. The type species is P. maximus, described by American paleontologist Barnum Brown of the American Museum of Natural History in 1916. A second species, P. blackfeetensis, was described by Jack Horner of the Museum of the Rockies in 1992. The two species are differentiated mainly by crest size and skull proportions. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Rajasaurus.
Rajasaurus (meaning "king" or "king of lizards") is a genus of carnivorous abelisaurian theropod dinosaur with an unusual head crest. Between 1982 and 1984, its fossilized bones were discovered by Suresh Srivastava of the Geological Survey of India (GSI). Excavated from the Narmada River valley in Rahioli in the Kheda district of Gujarat, India, the find was announced as a new genus of dinosaur by American and Indian scientists on August 13, 2003.

Paleontologists Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago, Jeff Wilson of the University of Michigan, and Srivastava worked together as an Indo–American group to study the Narmada River fossils. The fossils represented the partial skeleton of the new species Rajasaurus narmadensis, which means "princely lizard from the Narmada Valley."

The fossilized bones of Rajasaurus have also been found in the upriver region of the Narmada, at Jabalpur, in the state of Madhya Pradesh.(see more...)

Artist's restoration of Saurolophus.
Saurolophus (/sɔːˈrɒləfəs/; meaning "lizard crest") is a genus of large hadrosaurine duckbill that lived about 69.5–68.5 million years ago, in the Late Cretaceous of North America and Asia; it is one of the few genera of dinosaurs known from multiple continents. It is distinguished by a spike-like crest which projects up and back from the skull. Saurolophus was an herbivorous dinosaur which could move about either bipedally or quadrupedally. The type species, S. osborni, was described by Barnum Brown in 1912 from Canadian fossils. A second valid species, S. angustirostris, is represented by numerous specimens from Mongolia, and was described by Anatoly Konstantinovich Rozhdestvensky. A third species, S. morrisi from California, was described in 2013, and a fourth species, S. kryschtofovici from China, is considered dubious. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Sauropelta .
Sauropelta (/ˌsɔːrˈpɛltə/ SAWR-o-PEL-tə; meaning 'lizard shield') is a genus of nodosaurid dinosaur that existed in the Early Cretaceous Period of North America. One species (S. edwardsorum) has been named although others may have existed. Anatomically, Sauropelta is one of the most well-understood nodosaurids, with fossilized remains recovered in the U.S. states of Wyoming, Montana, and possibly Utah. It is also the earliest known genus of nodosaurid; most of its remains are found in the Cloverly Formation, which dates to about 108.05±0.2 Ma (million years ago). It was a medium-sized nodosaurid, measuring about 5 meters (16.5 ft) long. Sauropelta had a distinctively long tail which made up about half of its body length. Although its body was smaller than a modern black rhinoceros, Sauropelta was about the same mass, weighing in at about 1,500 kilograms (3,300 lb). The extra weight was largely due to its extensive bony body armor, including the characteristically large spines projecting from its neck. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Sinoceratops zhuchengensis.
Sinoceratops /ˌsnˈsɛrətɒps/ is a extinct genus of ceratopsian dinosaur that lived approximately 72 to 66 million years ago during the latter part of the Cretaceous Period in what is now Shandong province in China. It was named in 2010 by Xu Xing et al. for three skulls from Zhucheng, China. Its name means "Chinese horned face from Zhucheng", after the location of its discovery.

Sinoceratops was a medium sized, averagely-built, ground-dwelling, quadrupedal herbivore. It could grow up to an estimated 6 m (19.7 ft) long and 2 metres (6.6 ft) high, and weigh up to 2 tonnes (2.0 long tons; 2.2 short tons). It was the first ceratopsid dinosaur discovered in China, and the only ceratopsid known from Asia. All other centrosaurines, and all chasmosaurines, are known from fossils discovered in North America, except for possibly Turanoceratops. Sinoceratops is also significant because it is one of the largest known centrosaurines, and is much larger than any other known basal members of this group.

Sinoceratops existed in the Xingezhuang Formation during the late Cretaceous. It lived alongside leptoceratopsids, saurolophines, and tyrannosaurines. The most common creature in the formation was Shantungosaurus, to whom most of the material has been assigned to. The animals living alongside Sinoceratops and Shantungosaurus were Zhuchengceratops, Huaxiaosaurus, and Zhuchengtyrannus. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Sinosauropteryx.
Sinosauropteryx is a compsognathid dinosaur. Described in 1996, it was the first dinosaur taxon outside of Avialae (birds and their immediate relatives) to be found with evidence of feathers. It was covered with a coat of very simple filament-like feathers. Structures that indicate colouration have also been preserved for some of the feathers, which makes Sinosauropteryx the first non-avialian dinosaurs where colouration has been determined. Colouration includes a reddish and light banded tail.

Sinosauropteryx was a small theropod with an unusually long tail and short arms. The longest known specimen reaches up to 1.07 m (3.5 ft) in length, with an estimated weight of 0.55 kg (1.2 lb). It was a close relative of the similar but older genus Compsognathus, both genera belonging to the family Compsognathidae. Only one species of Sinosauropteryx has been named: S. prima, meaning "first" in reference to its status as the first feathered non-avialian dinosaur species discovered.

Sinosauropteryx lived in what is now northeastern China during the early Cretaceous period. It was among the first dinosaurs discovered from the Yixian Formation in Liaoning Province, and was a member of Jehol Biota. Well-preserved fossils of this species illustrate many aspects of their biology, such as their diet and reproduction. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Spinosaurus.
Spinosaurus is a genus of theropod dinosaur which lived in what is now North Africa, from the lower Albian to lower Cenomanian stages of the Cretaceous period, about 112 to 97 million years ago. This genus was first known from Egyptian remains discovered in 1912 and described by German paleontologist Ernst Stromer in 1915. The best known species is S. aegyptiacus from Egypt, although a potential second species S. maroccanus has been recovered from Morocco. Spinosaurus may be the largest of all known carnivorous dinosaurs. Estimates published in 2005 and 2007 suggest that it was 12.6 to 18 metres (41 to 59 ft) in length and 7 to 20.9 tonnes (7.7 to 23.0 short tons) in weight. The skull of Spinosaurus was long and narrow like that of a modern crocodilian. Spinosaurus is known to have eaten fish; evidence suggests that it lived both on land and in water like a modern crocodilian. The distinctive spines of Spinosaurus, which were long extensions of the vertebrae, grew to at least 1.65 meters (5.4 ft) long and were likely to have had skin connecting them, forming a sail-like structure. Multiple functions have been put forward for this structure, including thermoregulation and display. (see more...)

Artist's skeletal reconstruction of Europelta.
Struthiosaurinae is a subfamily of ankylosaurian dinosaurs from the Cretaceous of Europe. It is defined as "the most inclusive clade containing Europelta but not Cedarpelta, Peloroplites, Sauropelta or Edmontonia" while being reinstated for a newly recognized clade of basal nodosaurids.

It was originally mentioned by Franz Nopcsa in 1923 as a subfamily of Acanthopholidae, along with the previously defined Acanthopholinae. The family has gone through many taxonomic revisions since it was defined by Nopcsa in 1902. It is now recognized as a junior synonym of the family Nodosauridae. The subfamily now includes the genera Anoplosaurus, Europelta, Hungarosaurus, and Struthiosaurus, designated as the type genus. Because of the instability of Acanthopholis, the generic namesake of Acanthopholinae, and its current identification as a nomen dubium, Struthiosaurinae, the next named group, was decidedly used over the older one.

Struthiosaurinae appeared at about exactly the same time as the North American subfamily Nodosaurinae. Struthiosaurines range all across the cretaceous, the oldest genus being Europelta at an age of 112 Ma and the youngest being Struthiosaurus at about 85–66 Ma. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Nanuqsaurus.
Tyrannosauridae (or tyrannosaurids, meaning "tyrant lizards") is a family of coelurosaurian theropod dinosaurs which comprises two subfamilies containing up to eleven genera, including the eponymous Tyrannosaurus. The exact number of genera is controversial, with some experts recognizing as few as three. All of these animals lived near the end of the Cretaceous Period and their fossils have been found only in North America and Asia.

Although descended from smaller ancestors, tyrannosaurids were almost always the largest predators in their respective ecosystems, putting them at the apex of the food chain. The largest species was Tyrannosaurus rex, one of the largest known land predators, which measured up to 12.3 metres (40 ft) in length and up to 6,500 kilograms (7.2 short tons) in weight. Tyrannosaurids were bipedal carnivores with massive skulls filled with large teeth. Despite their large size, their legs were long and proportioned for fast movement. In contrast, their arms were very small, bearing only two functional digits.

Unlike most other groups of dinosaurs, very complete remains have been discovered for most known tyrannosaurids. This has allowed a variety of research into their biology. Scientific studies have focused on their ontogeny, biomechanics and ecology, among other subjects. Soft tissue, both fossilized and intact, has been reported from one specimen of Tyrannosaurus rex. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Appalachiosaurus.
Tyrannosauroidea (meaning 'tyrant lizard forms') is a superfamily (or clade) of coelurosaurian theropod dinosaurs that includes the family Tyrannosauridae as well as more basal relatives. Tyrannosauroids lived on the Laurasian supercontinent beginning in the Jurassic Period. By the end of the Cretaceous Period, tyrannosauroids were the dominant large predators in the Northern Hemisphere, culminating in the gigantic Tyrannosaurus itself. Fossils of tyrannosauroids have been recovered on what are now the continents of North America, Europe, Asia, possibly South America and Australia. Tyrannosauroids were bipedal carnivores, as were most theropods, and were characterized by numerous skeletal features, especially of the skull and pelvis. Early in their existence, tyrannosauroids were small predators with long, three-fingered forelimbs. Late Cretaceous genera became much larger, including some of the largest land-based predators ever to exist, but most of these later genera had proportionately small forelimbs with only two digits. Primitive feathers have been identified in fossils of two species, and may have been present in other tyrannosauroids as well. Prominent bony crests in a variety of shapes and sizes on the skulls of many tyrannosauroids may have served display functions. (see more...)

Ferugliotheriidae is one of two known families in the order Gondwanatheria, an enigmatic group of extinct mammals. Gondwanatheres have been classified as a group of uncertain affinities or as members of Multituberculata, a major extinct mammalian order. The best-known representative of Ferugliotheriidae is the genus Ferugliotherium from the Late Cretaceous epoch in Argentina. A second genus, Trapalcotherium, is known from a single tooth, a first lower molariform (molar-like tooth), from a different Late Cretaceous Argentinean locality. Another genus known from a single tooth (in this case, a fourth lower premolar), Argentodites, was first described as an unrelated multituberculate, but later identified as possibly related to Ferugliotherium. Finally, a single tooth from the Paleogene of Peru, LACM 149371, perhaps a last upper molariform, may represent a related animal. Ferugliotheriids are known from isolated, low-crowned (brachydont) teeth and possibly a fragment of a lower jaw. Ferugliotherium is estimated to have weighed 70 g (2.5 oz). Most ferugliotheriids come from the Late Cretaceous epoch (CampanianMaastrichtian ages, 84–66 million years ago, or mya) of Argentina, where they may have lived in a marshy or seashore environment. They coexisted with mammals such as dryolestoids and a variety of other animals, including dinosaurs. Ferugliotheriids may have been herbivores or omnivores. (see more...)

Lavanify is a mammalian genus from the late Cretaceous (probably Maastrichtian, about 71 to 66 million years ago) of Madagascar. The only species, L. miolaka, is known from two isolated teeth, one of which is damaged. The teeth were collected in 1995–1996 and described in 1997. The animal is classified as a member of Gondwanatheria, an enigmatic extinct group with unclear phylogenetic relationships, and within Gondwanatheria as a member of the family Sudamericidae. Lavanify is most closely related to the Indian Bharattherium; the South American Sudamerica and Gondwanatherium are more distantly related. Gondwanatheres probably ate hard plant material. Lavanify had high-crowned, curved teeth. One of the two teeth is 11.2 mm high and shows a deep furrow and, in the middle of the crown, a V-shaped area that consists of dentine. The other, damaged, tooth is 9.8 mm high and has at least one deep cavity (infundibulum). Characters shared by the teeth of Lavanify and Bharattherium include the presence of an infundibulum and a furrow; they both also have large, continuous bands of matrix (unbundled hydroxyapatite crystals) between the prisms (bundles of hydroxyapatite crystals) of the enamel, and perikymata—wave-like ridges and grooves in the enamel surface. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Archaeamphora longicervia.
Archaeamphora longicervia is an extinct species of flowering plant and the only member of the genus Archaeamphora. Fossil material assigned to this taxon originates from the Yixian Formation of northeastern China, dated to the Early Cretaceous (around 145 to 101 million years ago).

The species was originally described as a pitcher plant with close affinities to extant members of the family Sarraceniaceae. This would make it the earliest known carnivorous plant and the only known fossil record of pitcher plants (with the possible exception of some palynomorphs of uncertain nepenthacean affinity).Archaeamphora is also one of the three oldest known genera of angiosperms (flowering plants). Li (2005) wrote that "the existence of a so highly derived Angiosperm in the Early Cretaceous suggests that Angiosperms should have originated much earlier, maybe back to 280 mya as the molecular clock studies suggested".

Subsequent authors have questioned the identification of Archaeamphora as a pitcher plant. (see more...)

Photograph of Marasmius rotula, a modern species that resemble Archaeomarasmius.
Archaeomarasmius is an extinct genus of gilled fungus in the Agaricales family Tricholomataceae, containing the single species Archaeomarasmius leggetti. It is known from two fruit bodies recovered from amber, one consisting of a complete cap with a broken stem, the other consisting of a fragment of a cap. The cap has a diameter ranging from 3.2 to 6 mm (0.13 to 0.24 in), while the stem is 0.5 mm (0.02 in) thick. Spores were also recovered from the amber, and are broadly ellipsoid to egg-shaped, measuring roughly 7.3 by 4.7 μm. The species, which resembles the extant genera Marasmius and Marasmiellus, is inferred to have been saprobic on plant litter or other forest debris. The genus is solely known from the New Jersey amber deposits along the Atlantic coastal plain in New Jersey, United States, which date from the Turonian stage (about 90–94 Mya) of the Upper Cretaceous. Archaeomarasmius is one of only five known agaric fungus species known in the fossil record, and the only one to be described from New Jersey amber. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Pteranodon.
Pteranodon (/tˈrænədɒn/; from Greek πτερόν ("wing") and ἀνόδων ("toothless")) is a genus of pterosaurs which included some of the largest known flying reptiles, with wingspans over 6 metres (20 ft). It existed during the late Cretaceous geological period of North America in present day Kansas, Alabama, Nebraska, Wyoming, and South Dakota. More fossil specimens of Pteranodon have been found than any other pterosaur, with about 1,200 specimens known to science, many of them well preserved with nearly complete skulls and articulated skeletons. It was an important part of the animal community in the Western Interior Seaway. Pteranodon was not a dinosaur. By definition, all dinosaurs belong to the groups Saurischia and Ornithischia, which exclude pterosaurs. Nevertheless, Pteranodon is frequently featured in dinosaur books and is strongly associated with dinosaurs by the general public. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Pterodactylus.
Pterosaurs were flying reptiles of the clade or order Pterosauria. They existed from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous Period (228 to 66 million years ago). Pterosaurs are the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved powered flight. Their wings were formed by a membrane of skin, muscle, and other tissues stretching from the ankles to a dramatically lengthened fourth finger. Early species had long, fully toothed jaws and long tails, while later forms had a highly reduced tail, and some lacked teeth. Many sported furry coats made up of hair-like filaments known as pycnofibres, which covered their bodies and parts of their wings. Pterosaurs spanned a wide range of adult sizes, from the very small Nemicolopterus to the largest known flying creatures of all time, including Quetzalcoatlus and Hatzegopteryx. Pterosaurs are often referred to in the popular media and by the general public as flying dinosaurs, but this is incorrect. However, like the dinosaurs, pterosaurs are more closely related to birds than to any living reptile. Pterosaurs are also incorrectly referred to as pterodactyls, particularly by journalists. "Pterodactyl" refers specifically to members of the genus Pterodactylus, and more broadly to members of the suborder Pterodactyloidea of the pterosaurs. (see more...)

UA 8699 (University of Antananarivo specimen 8699) is a fossil mammalian tooth from the Cretaceous of Madagascar. A broken lower molar about 3.5 mm (0.14 in) long, it is from the Maastrichtian of the Maevarano Formation in northwestern Madagascar. Details of its crown morphology indicate that it is a boreosphenidan, a member of the group that includes living marsupials and placentals. Krause, who first described the tooth in 2001, interpreted it as a marsupial on the basis of five shared characters, but in 2003 Averianov and others noted that all those are shared by zhelestid placentals and favored a close relationship between UA 8699 and the Spanish zhelestid Lainodon. Krause used the tooth as evidence that marsupials were present on the southern continents (Gondwana) as early as the late Cretaceous and Averianov and colleagues proposed that the tooth represented another example of faunal exchange between Africa and Europe at the time. (see more...)

Photograph of hoodoos in the Bryce Canyon area.
The exposed geology of the Bryce Canyon area in Utah shows a record of deposition that covers the last part of the Cretaceous Period and the first half of the Cenozoic era in that part of North America. The ancient depositional environment of the region around what is now Bryce Canyon National Park varied from the warm shallow sea (called the Cretaceous Seaway) in which the Dakota Sandstone and the Tropic Shale were deposited to the cool streams and lakes that contributed sediment to the colorful Claron Formation that dominates the park's amphitheaters.

Other formations were also formed but were mostly eroded following uplift from the Laramide orogeny which started around 70 million years ago (mya). This event created the Rocky Mountains far to the east and helped to close the sea that covered the area. A large part of western North America started to stretch itself into the nearby Basin and Range topography around 15 mya. While not part of this region, the greater Bryce area was stretched into the High Plateaus by the same forces.

The formations exposed in the area of the park are part of the Grand Staircase. The oldest members of this supersequence of rock units are exposed in the Grand Canyon, the intermediate ones in Zion National Park, and its youngest parts are laid bare in Bryce Canyon area. A small amount of overlap occurs in and around each park. (see more...)

Jaw fragment of Ambondro mahabo.
Several mammals are known from the Mesozoic of Madagascar. The Bathonian (middle Jurassic) Ambondro, known from a piece of jaw with three teeth, is the earliest known mammal with molars showing the modern, tribosphenic pattern that is characteristic of marsupial and placental mammals. Interpretations of its affinities have differed; one proposal places it in a group known as Australosphenida with other Mesozoic tribosphenic mammals from the southern continents (Gondwana) as well as the monotremes, while others favor closer affinities with northern (Laurasian) tribosphenic mammals or specifically with placentals. At least five species are known from the Maastrichtian (late Cretaceous), including a yet undescribed species known from a nearly complete skeleton that may represent a completely new group of mammals. The gondwanathere Lavanify, known from two teeth, is most closely related to other gondwanatheres found in India and Argentina. Two other teeth may represent another gondwanathere or a different kind of mammal. One molar fragment is one of the few known remains of a multituberculate mammal from Gondwana and another (UA 8699) has been interpreted as either a marsupial or a placental. (see more...)

Uplift of the Colorado Plateau during the Cretaceous had a profound impact on the geology of the Grand Canyon area.
The geology of the Grand Canyon area includes one of the most complete and studied sequences of rock on Earth. The nearly 40 major sedimentary rock layers exposed in the Grand Canyon and in the Grand Canyon National Park area range in age from about 200 million to nearly 2 billion years old. Uplift of the region started about 75 million years ago during the Laramide orogeny; a mountain-building event that is largely responsible for creating the Rocky Mountains to the east. The adjacent Basin and Range province to the west started to form about 18 million years ago as the result of crustal stretching. A drainage system that flowed through what is today the eastern Grand Canyon emptied into the now lower Basin and Range province. Opening of the Gulf of California around 6 million years ago enabled a large river to cut its way northeast from the gulf. The new river captured the older drainage to form the ancestral Colorado River, which in turn started to form the Grand Canyon. Wetter climates brought upon by ice ages starting 2 million years ago greatly increased excavation of the Grand Canyon, which was nearly as deep as it is now by 1.2 million years ago. Volcanic activity deposited lava over the area 1.8 million to 500,000 years ago. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Deinosuchus
Deinosuchus is an extinct genus related to the alligator that lived 80 to 73 million years ago (Ma), during the late Cretaceous period. The name translates as "terrible crocodile" and is derived from the Greek. Although Deinosuchus was far larger than any modern crocodile or alligator, with the largest adults measuring 10.6 m (35 ft) in total length, its overall appearance was fairly similar to its smaller relatives. It had large, robust teeth built for crushing, and its back was covered with thick hemispherical osteoderms. One study indicated Deinosuchus may have lived for up to 50 years, growing at a rate similar to that of modern crocodilians, but maintaining this growth over a much longer time. Deinosuchus fossils have been found in 10 US states, including Texas, Montana, and many along the East Coast. Fossils have also been found in northern Mexico. It lived on both sides of the Western Interior Seaway, and was an opportunistic apex predator in the coastal regions of eastern North America. Deinosuchus reached its largest size in its western habitat, but the eastern populations were far more abundant. Deinosuchus was probably capable of killing and eating large dinosaurs. It may have also fed upon sea turtles, fish, and other aquatic and terrestrial prey. (see more...)

Uplift of the Colorado Plateau during the Cretaceous had a profound impact on the geology of the Grand Canyon area.
Deinocheirus is a genus of large ornithomimosaur (ostrich dinosaur) that lived during the Late Cretaceous around 70 million years ago. In 1965, a pair of large arms, shoulder girdles, and a few other bones of a new dinosaur were first discovered in the Nemegt Formation of Mongolia. In 1970, this specimen became the holotype of the only species within the genus, Deinocheirus mirificus. No further remains were discovered for almost fifty years, and its nature remained a mystery. Two more complete specimens were described in 2014, which shed light on many aspects of the animal. Deinocheirus was largest ornithomimosaur at 11 m (36 ft) long, and weighing 6.36 t (14,000 lb). The arms were among the largest of any bipedal dinosaurs at 2.4 m (7.9 ft) long, with large, blunt claws on its three-fingered hands. The legs were relatively short, and bore blunt claws. Its vertebrae had tall neural spines that formed a "sail" along its back. The tail ended in pygostyle-like vertebrae, which indicate the presence of a fan of feathers. The skull was 1.024 m (3.36 ft) long, with a wide bill and a deep lower jaw, similar to those of hadrosaurs. Members of this group were not adapted for speed, unlike other ornithomimosaurs. Deinocheirus is thought to have been omnivorous; its skull shape indicate a diet of plants, whereas fish scales were found in association with a specimen. (see more...)

A modern male bluetail damselfly.
Damselflies (suborder Zygoptera) are insects in the order Odonata. They are similar to dragonflies, but are smaller, have slimmer bodies, and most species fold the wings along the body when at rest. Damselflies are an ancient group, having existed since at least the Lower Permian. Today they are found on every continent except Antarctica.

All damselflies are predatory; both nymphs and adults eat other insects. The nymphs are aquatic, with different species living in a variety of freshwater habitats including acid bogs, ponds, lakes and rivers. The nymphs moult repeatedly, at the last moult climbing out of the water to undergo metamorphosis. The skin splits down the back, they emerge and inflate their wings and abdomen to gain their adult form.

Some species of damselfly have elaborate courtship behaviours. Many species are sexually dimorphic, the males often being more brightly coloured than the females. Like dragonflies, they reproduce using indirect insemination and delayed fertilisation. A mating pair form a shape known as a "heart" or "wheel", the male clasping the female at the back of the head, the female curling her abdomen down to pick up sperm from secondary genitalia at the base of the male's abdomen. The pair often remain together with the male still clasping the female while laying eggs within the tissue of plants in or near water using a robust ovipositor. (see more...)

Pentaceratops sternbergii or Titanoceratops ouranos skeletal restoration.
The Kirtlandian is a North American land-vertebrate faunal age of the Cretaceous period, following the Judithian and succeeded by the Edmontonian. It lasted about 2 million years, ca 74.8 to 72.8 Mya and is characterized by the ceratopsian Pentaceratops sternbergii, which lived throughout the Kirtlandian. It was first named by R.M. Sullivan and S.G. Lucas in 2003 as a faunal age for the Kirtland and Fruitland formations. Previously, only five land-vertebrate ages were identified from the Late Cretaceous. as identified by Loris S. Russell in 1975, they include the Paluxian, Aquilan, Judithian, Edmontonian, and the Lancian. Before the naming of the Kirtlandian, three gaps, between the Paluxian and Aquilan, the Aquilan and the Judithian, and the Judithian and Edmontonian, were identified but not named. The Fruitland Formation measures 97 to 107 metres (318 to 351 ft) thick, and with the 594 metres (1,949 ft) of the Kirtland Formation, the Kirtlandian consists of 701 metres (2,300 ft) of sediments. The rock types within the formations are primarily coal beds, but also include sandstone, siltstone, mudstone, and shale. Within the sediments with a Kirtlandian age, two local faunas, the Hunter Wash local fauna, and the Willow Wash local fauna, have been identified. The currently accepted date of the Kirtlandian is 74.8 to 72.8 million years ago. (see more...)

Baryonyx skull and forelimb
Baryonyx (/ˌbæriˈɒnks/) is a genus of theropod dinosaur which lived in the Barremian stage of the early Cretaceous Period, about 130–125 million years ago. The holotype specimen was discovered in 1983 in Surrey, England, and the animal was named Baryonyx walkeri in 1986. Fragmentary specimens were later discovered in other parts of the United Kingdom and Iberia. Baryonyx was about 7.5 m (25 ft) long and weighed 1.2 t (1.3 short tons). It had a long, low snout and narrow jaws, which have been compared to those of a gharial. Baryonyx had many finely serrated teeth. It had robust forelimbs, with the eponymous first-finger claw measuring about 31 cm (12 in) long. Now recognised as a member of the family Spinosauridae, Baryonyx's affinities were obscure when it was discovered. Apart from the type species (B. walkeri), some researchers have suggested that Suchomimus tenerensis belongs in the same genus and that Suchosaurus cultridens is a senior synonym; however, subsequent authors have kept them separate. Baryonyx was the first theropod dinosaur demonstrated to have been piscivorous (fish-eating), as evidenced by fish scales in the stomach region of the holotype specimen. It may also have been an active predator of larger prey and a scavenger, since it also contained bones of a juvenile Iguanodon. The creature would have caught and processed its prey primarily with its forelimbs and large claws. Baryonyx lived near bodies of water. (see more...)

Skeletal mount of Amargasaurus
Amargasaurus is a genus of sauropod dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous epoch (129.4–122.46 mya) of what is now Argentina. The only known skeleton was discovered in 1984 and described in 1991, forming the holotype specimen of the single species Amargasaurus cazaui. The skeleton is nearly complete, including a fragmentary skull, making Amargasaurus one of the best-known sauropods from the Early Cretaceous. Amargasaurus was small for a sauropod, reaching 9 to 10 meters (30 to 33 feet) in length. It sported two parallel rows of tall spines down its neck and back, taller than in any other known sauropod. It is unclear how these spines appeared in life—they could have supported skin sails or stuck out of the body as solitary structures supporting a keratinous sheath. They might have been used for display, combat, or defense. Amargasaurus was discovered in sedimentary rocks of the La Amarga Formation, which dates back to the Barremian and late Aptian of the Early Cretaceous epoch. Amargasaurus probably fed at mid-height, as shown by the orientation of its inner ear and the articulation of its neck vertebrae, which suggest a habitual position of the snout some 80 centimeters (31 inches) above the ground and a maximum height of 2.7 meters (8.9 feet). Within the Sauropoda, Amargasaurus was a member of the family Dicraeosauridae. (see more...)

Artist's restoration of Opisthocoelicaudia
Opisthocoelicaudia /ɒˈpɪsθsɪlˈkɔːdiə/ was a genus of sauropod dinosaur of the Late Cretaceous Period discovered in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. The only species is Opisthocoelicaudia skarzynskii. A well-preserved skeleton lacking only the head and neck was unearthed in 1965 by Polish and Mongolian scientists, making Opisthocoelicaudia one of the best known sauropods from the Late Cretaceous. Tooth marks on this skeleton indicate that large carnivorous dinosaurs had fed on the carcass and possibly had carried away the now-missing parts. A relatively small sauropod, Opisthocoelicaudia measured approximately 11 metres (36 ft) in length. The name Opisthocoelicaudia means "posterior cavity tail", alluding to the unusual, opisthocoel condition of the anterior tail vertebrae that were concave on their posterior sides. This and other skeletal features lead researchers to propose that Opisthocoelicaudia was able to rear on its hindlegs. Named and described by Polish paleontologist Maria Magdalena Borsuk-Białynicka in 1977, Opisthocoelicaudia was first thought to be a new member of the Camarasauridae, but is currently considered a derived member of the Titanosauria. Its exact relationships within Titanosauria are contentious, but it may have been close to the North American Alamosaurus. All Opisthocoelicaudia fossils stem from the Nemegt Formation. (see more...)

Bharattherium is a mammal that lived in India during the Maastrichtian (latest Cretaceous). The genus has a single species, Bharattherium bonapartei. It is part of the gondwanathere family Sudamericidae, which is also found in Madagascar and South America during the latest Cretaceous. The first fossil of Bharattherium was discovered in 1989 and published in 1997, but the animal was not named until 2007, when two teams independently named the animal Bharattherium bonapartei and Dakshina jederi. The latter name is now a synonym. Bharattherium is known from a total of eight isolated fossil teeth, including one incisor and seven molariforms (molar-like teeth, either premolars or true molars). Bharattherium molariforms are high, curved teeth, with a height of 6 to 8.5 millimetres (0.24 to 0.33 in). In a number of teeth tentatively identified as fourth lower molariforms (mf4), there is a large furrow on one side and a deep cavity (infundibulum) in the middle of the tooth. Another tooth, perhaps a third lower molariform, has two furrows on one side and three infundibula on the other. The tooth enamel has traits that have been interpreted as protecting against cracks in the teeth. The hypsodont (high-crowned) teeth of sudamericids like Bharattherium are reminiscent of later grazing mammals, and the discovery of grass in Indian fossil sites contemporaneous with those yielding Bharattherium suggest that sudamericids were indeed grazers. (see more...)

The dentary TNM 02067
TNM 02067 (Tanzanian National Museums specimen 02067) is a fragmentary fossil dentary (lower jaw) from the Cretaceous (between 146 and 66 million years ago) of Tanzania. The short, deep bone is about 19.5 mm (0.77 in) long, but the back part is broken off. It contains a large, forward-inclined incisor with a root that extends deep into the jaw, separated by a diastema (gap) from five cheekteeth. Very little remains of the teeth, but enough to determine that they are hypsodont (high-crowned). The third cheektooth is the largest and the roots of the teeth are curved. First described in 2003, TNM 02067 has been tentatively identified as a sudamericid—an extinct family of high-crowned gondwanathere mammals otherwise known from South America, Madagascar, India, and Antarctica. If truly a gondwanathere, it would be the only African member of the group and may be the oldest. The describers could not exclude other possibilities, such as that the jaw represents some mammalian group known only from younger, Cenozoic times (less than 66 million years ago). (see more...)

Argentodites is a possible multituberculate mammal from the Cretaceous of Argentina. The single species, Argentodites coloniensis, is known from a single blade-like fourth lower premolar (p4) from the La Colonia Formation, which is mostly or entirely Maastrichtian (latest Cretaceous) in age. The p4 is 4.15 mm long and bears eight cusps on its upper margin and long associated ridges on both sides. The enamel consists of prisms that are completely or partly surrounded by a sheath and that are on average 6.57 μm apart. Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska, who described and named the fossil in 2007, regarded it as a multituberculate, perhaps a cimolodontan—and thus, a member of a mostly Laurasian (northern) group and an immigrant to Argentina from North America—on the basis of the shape of the tooth and features of its enamel. In 2009, however, two teams argued that Argentodites may in fact be close to or identical with Ferugliotherium, a member of the small Gondwanan (southern) group Gondwanatheria; although their relationships are disputed, gondwanatheres may themselves be multituberculates. (see more...)