The New International Encyclopædia/Dinosauria

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NIE 1905 Dinosauria - tooth of Diplodocus.jpg


Section of maxillary bone of Diplodocus longus, showing functional tooth (fourth) in position and five successional teeth (2, 3, 4, 5, 6) in dental cavity; a, outer wall; b, inner wall; c, c, cavity; f, foramen.

DINOSAU′RIA (Neo-Lat., from Gk. δεινός, deinos, terrible + σαῦρος, sauros, lizard). An order of fossil reptiles found only in rocks of Mesozoic age, and containing some of the most wonderful and bizarre land animals that have ever lived. In general, the dinosaurs present the same reptilian characters as do the crocodilians and pterosaurians, which have been derived from the same original stock, and within the order the form is so variable that it is difficult to find reliable distinctive characters. The more primitive genera can scarcely be distinguished from the generalized crocodiles, others resemble the rhynchocephalians, others the pterosaurians, and still others are far removed by specialization along particular lines and afford most remarkable and extravagant forms. The closest living allies of the dinosaurs are the crocodiles and the ratite birds (ostrich, etc.), which, with the more primitive dinosaurs, were probably descended from a common ancestral stock in early Triassic times.

NIE 1905 Dinosauria - skull of Claosaurus annectens.jpg


The skeleton of dinosaurs presents some variations from that of other reptiles. The cranium has two temporal vacuities, the vertebræ are usually double concave, though several anterior vertebræ in the more primitive genera may be concave on the posterior surface only; the sacrum is usually of three or five fused vertebræ, but the normal reptilian number, two, is found in the primitive forms. The pelvis is of bird-like structure, often with anterior and posterior elongation of the elements. The limbs are fitted for locomotion on land; the forward pair is often reduced in size so that locomotion is bipedal. Reduction of the number of toes on the hind feet to three is common. In some gigantic genera the tail was unusually strong and with the hind limbs formed a tripod support for the animal, which was thus enabled to raise its head to a height sometimes of thirty feet above the ground, and to overlook the vegetation of the marshes in which it wallowed. The dentition of dinosaurs is fitted for both carnivorous and herbivorous food. Beak-like structure of the jaws is common. The teeth are often implanted in sockets and in some genera they appear in successional series. The head of dinosaurs is usually disproportionately small, and the brain is always of very small size and low degree of convolution, indicating an inferior grade of intelligence in these animals. In some forms with small head, long neck, heavy body and hind quarters, and long heavy tail, where the hinder part of the body overbalances by far the forward portion, as in Brontosaurus, Diplodocus, Scelidosaurus, and Stegosaurus, the neural ganglion in the sacrum is many times larger than the cephalic ganglion or brain, a condition necessitated by the great mass of the body that must be innervated from the sacral ganglion in these animals.

NIE 1905 Dinosauria - Skull of Ceratosaurus nesicornis.jpg

Skull of Ceratosaurus nesicornis: a, nasal opening; b, horn core; c, anteorbital opening (filled with matrix stone); d, orbit (ditto); e, lower temporal fossa (ditto); t, transverse bone.

NIE 1905 Dinosauria - Spinal cord segments for Stegosaurus ungulatus.jpg

Drawings of casts showing the expansions of the spinal cord of Stegosaurus ungulatus. (1) Cast of neural cavity of sacrum: a, anterior end; p, posterior end at exit of neural canal in last sacral vertebra; f, f′, f″, foramina between the sacral vertebræ. (2) Cast of brain-cavity of same animal: c, cerebral hemispheres; cb, cerebellum; m, medulla; ol, olfactory lobes; on, optic nerve; op, optic lobes.

In habits the dinosaurs were terrestrial, and often amphibious, and the structure of the tail in some genera indicates its use as a swimming organ. Some were of graceful, bird-like action, walking, running, or leaping on their three-toed hind limbs. Others were heavy, clumsy beasts, walking or crawling on their solidly built four legs. Dinosaurs vary greatly in size. The smallest are of the size of a chicken. The largest are the greatest land animals ever known to have existed, with lengths of 60 to 70 feet, heights of 10 to 20 feet, and weights estimated to have varied from 20 to 25 tons. Dinosaurs appeared in the early Triassic time, and during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods they ruled the land, but toward the end of the Cretaceous they began to decline, and they finally gave way to the early mammals. The remains of the latest members of the order are found in the uppermost formations of the Cretaceous, namely the Laramie group of western America. Their remains have been found in the Mesozoic rocks of Europe, southern Asia, South Africa, North Australia, North and South America, and the most noted localities whence they have been obtained are those of Bernissart in Belgium, and the Rocky Mountain region of North America. The order Dinosauria is divided into three suborders, some of the peculiarities of which are here given. They are the Sauropoda, Theropoda, and Predentata.

Sauropoda. This is the most primitive group of dinosaurs, resembling the crocodiles and rhynchocephalians in the structure of its skeleton and the proportions of its parts. It includes the gigantic herbivorous genera: Atlantosaurus, Cetiosaurus, Brontosaurus (q.v.), and Diplodocus (q.v.), with very small head, long neck, heavy trunk supported on strong plantigrade live-toed fore and hind limbs of equal size, and with a heavy long tail. The teeth are long, spatulate, and spreading. The bones are solid and heavy, and the pubis is simple. This group is mostly of Triassic and Jurassic age.

Theropoda. Carnivorous dinosaurs with cutting teeth in sockets. Their skeletons are of rather delicate construction and their vertebræ and limb-bones are hollow. Their five-toed fore limbs are of small size and apparently of little use as locomotory organs, but their three-toed hind limbs are strong and the toes are furnished with prehensile claws. These dinosaurs were digitigrade and they walked as do birds or leaped as do the kangaroos. The pelvic bones are elongated. Examples of this suborder are Anchisaurus and Ceratosaurus (qq.v.). Hallopus, a leaping dinosaur from the Jurassic of Colorado, and the bird-like Compsognathus, one of the smallest dinosaurs, from the Jurassic lithographic limestones of Solenhofen, Bavaria, also belong in this division.

Predentata. Here are included the most specialized and hence the most extravagantly formed of dinosaurs. They were all herbivorous animals that walked on either four or two feet. Some of them undoubtedly ran with great rapidity on their hind legs, using the tail as a balance after the manner of certain modern lizards. In all of them the pelvis is provided with a postpubis, a character found in no other reptiles, but constant in the birds; and the ilium and ischium are elongated and variously modified. Another distinctive character is the presence of a predentary bone on the anterior end of the mandible which has a beak-like tip. Accordingly, the teeth are absent from the front of the jaws and are restricted to the posterior portions. The teeth are compressed, have crenulated edges, and they are frequently replaced by successional teeth. The Predentata comprise three divergent lines of descent—Stegosauria, Ceratopsia, Ornithopoda.

Stegosauria. In form these dinosaurs resemble most closely the Sauropoda. Their vertebræ are all biconcave, their heads are very small, and the hinder parts of their bodies are enormously developed. Many of them were armored. Omosaurus, from the Upper Jurassic of England, has strong dorsal spines; Polacanthus, of the English Wealdon, has the lumbar-sacral region inclosed in solid armor-plate; Scelidosaurus, of the English Lower Lias, has a row of small vertical plates along the dorsal line. The extreme of ornamental armor is seen in Stegosaurus (q.v.) from the Upper Jurassic of Colorado and Wyoming, which has a row of heavy large triangular bony plates extending from the back of the head along the back to the tip of the tail.

Ceratopsia. This group includes the horned dinosaurs, land reptiles of gigantic size and formidable appearance, which were evolved in late Mesozoic time after the dinosaur race had begun to decline. They are probably highly specialized descendants from the Stegosaurian race. Their remains have been found in the Upper Cretaceous rocks of Europe, but the best material has come from the Laramie group of Wyoming and Colorado. The prominent feature of these animals is the large size of the head. In Triceratops (q.v.), which attained a length of 25 feet, the head has a length of 6 feet, and it is provided with three formidable horns, and with a broad posterior expansion or crest, formed from the parietal bones, that projects some distance over the neck. The jaws have strong beaks in front and two-rooted teeth in their posterior portions. The skeletons of these dinosaurs are heavily built, the bones are solid, the five-toed fore limbs and the three or four-toed hind limbs are about equal in size, the feet were digitigrade, and the toes were hoofed like those of a rhinoceros. The body was protected by a thick hide, sometimes armored with bony plates, and the tail was smaller than in any other dinosaurs. The best-known genera are Agathanmus, Triceratops (q.v.), and Sterrholophus.

Ornithopoda. These are the most bird-like of the dinosaurs, with small five-toed fore limbs, and well-developed three-toed hind limbs. All the limb-bones are hollow. They were unarmored, herbivorous animals with bipedal walking, running, or leaping motion. Iguanodon (q.v.), of the Belgian Jurassic, with a length of 20 feet, is perhaps the best-known genus. Claosaurus or Thespesius (q.v.), from the North American Cretaceous rocks, attained a length of 35 feet. Hadrosaurus (q.v.), from the Laramie group, had a spoon-bill beak, like that of Ornithorhynchus. Here, also, belongs Nanosaurus, the smallest known dinosaur, which was scarcely as large as a domestic fowl, found in the Upper Jurassic rocks of Colorado.

Fossil remains of dinnsaurs are to be seen only in the larger museums of the country. The American Museum of Natural History in Central Park, New York City, has the finest series of skeletons, many of which are accompanied by water-color restorations of these animals. Other museums where dinosaurs may be seen are the United States National Museum at Washington, Peabody Museum of Yale University, Carnegie Museum at Pittsburg, where a complete skeleton of Diplodocus is mounted, the Field Columbian Museum at Chicago, and the museum of the University of Wyoming at Laramie.

Bibliography. Marsh, “The Dinosaurs of North America,” Annual Report of the United States Geological Survey, vol. xvi., part i. (Washington, 1806); Lucas, Animals of the Past (New York, 1901); Woodward, Outlines of Vertebrate Palæontology for Students of Zoölogy (Cambridge, 1898); Hatcher, “Diplodocus, Marsh, Its Osteology, etc.” Memoirs of the Carnegie Museum, vol. i. No. 1 (Pittsburg, 1901); Beecher, “The Reconstruction of a Cretaceous Dinosaur, Claosaurus annectens, Marsh,” Transactions of the Connecticut Academy of Sciences, vol. xi. (New Haven, 1902). See, also, Anchisaurus; Brontosaurus; Ceratosaurus; Diplodocus; Hadrosaurus; Megalosaurus; Stegosaurus; Thespesius; Triceratops.


NIE 1905 Dinosauria - Dinosaurs.jpg
1. SKELETON OF DIPLODOCUS (Order Sauropoda).  3. STEGOSAURUS (Order Orthopoda).
(2-5, Restorations, after Osborn and Knight) 4. HADROSAURUS (Suborder Ornithopoda).
2. CERATOSAURUS (Order Theropoda). 5. TRICERATOPS (Order Ceratopsia).