Padian, Kevin Museum of Paleontology, University of California, Berkeley, California.
Barrett, Paul M. Department of Palaeontology, The Natural History Museum, London, United Kingdom.
Last reviewed:March 2020
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- Dinosauria, published June 2014:Download PDF Get Adobe Acrobat Reader
- Dinosaurs, published April 2014:Download PDF Get Adobe Acrobat Reader
- Discoveries and knowledge
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- Earliest dinosaurs
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The term (meaning terrible lizards) assigned to a group of certain large, ancient bipedal and quadrupedal reptiles that lived during the Mesozoic Era. The term Dinosauria [from the Greek deinos (fearful or terrible) and sauros (reptile or lizard)] was coined by the British comparative anatomist and paleontologist Sir Richard Owen in 1842 to represent three partly known, impressively large fossil reptiles from the English countryside: the great carnivore Megalosaurus, the plant-eating Iguanodon, and the armored Hylaeosaurus. Since that time, hundreds of other known fossil genera belonging to the Dinosauria group, commonly called the dinosaurs (Fig. 1), have been discovered. Paleontologists categorize the dinosaurs into two major lineages, based on their pelvic structure: the Saurischia ("lizard-hipped") and the Ornithischia ("bird-hipped"). These creatures roamed the Earth throughout the Mesozoic Era, initially appearing in the Triassic Period. The dinosaurs lasted for approximately 165 million years, before going extinct in the Cretaceous Period. It should be noted that modern birds are descendants of theropod dinosaurs; thus, in an evolutionary sense, not all dinosaurs are extinct and investigators often refer to the extinct dinosaurs as nonavian dinosaurs. See also: Aves; Fossil; Mesozoic; Ornithischia; Paleontology; Reptilia; Saurischia
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