Dinosaurs Glossary

Amniote -‭ ‬A tetrapod vertebrate that has eggs that can be laid on land removing the need to return to the water for spawning.‭ ‬Also the young hatch out formed like if not the same as the parents,‭ ‬bypassing the larval stage commonly seen in amphibians.

Amphibian -‭ ‬A creature that can exist in both land and water and will often share its time between the two.

Amphibious – Displaying the ability to live both in water and on the land,‭ ‬although this term is not exclusive to amphibians.

Ankylosaur -‭ ‬Any of the members of ankylosauria,‭ ‬the armoured group of ornithiscian dinosaurs that appeared from the Jurassic to the Cretaceous.

Apex Predator – An apex predator is one that appears at the top of the food chain.‭ ‬Usually they have no predators except possibly other and larger members of their own species.

Bipedal -‭ ‬A creature that primarily walks on two legs.

Cannibalism – The act of one creature eating another of its own species.

Carnivore -‭ ‬A creature that feeds on other animals.

Ceratopsian -‭ ‬A group of dinosaurs that are characterised by having frills around their necks.‭ ‬They include dinosaurs such as Einiosaurus,‭ ‬Protoceratops and Zuniceratops.

Cetacean – A group of mammals that include dolphins, porpoises and whales.

Chordata -‭ ‬The phylum that all vertebrates belong too.‭ ‬A small number of invertebrates also belong to this group.

Coprolite -‭ ‬Coprolites are fossilised dung.‭ ‬They offer valuable insights into the diets of ancient animals,‭ ‬and can even come up with the fossilised remains of animals that had been eaten by predators.

Crocodilian -‭ ‬A term used to describe features that are similar to crocodiles,‭ ‬such as skin or jaws.

Diapsid -‭ ‬Reptiles that have two holes that form the temporal fenestra in their skulls.‭ ‬Diapsid means‭ ‘‬two arches‭’‬.‭ ‬They first appeared‭ ‬300‭ ‬million years ago and today they include the birds,‭ ‬crocodiles,‭ ‬lizards,‭ ‬snakes and tuatara.‭ ‬

Digitigrade – This is where the metatarsals (foot bones) are arranged in a way to extend the length of the lower leg, providing more spring and a faster running gait. This is the opposite of plantigrade.

Dinosaur -‭ ‬Any of the animals that belong to the Dinosauria group.

Dorsal -‭ ‬A descriptive word used when in reference to the back of an animal.‭ ‬For example,‭ ‬Dimetrodon had dorsal spines that formed a sail on its back.

et al -‭ ‬An abbreviation used to mean‭ ‘‬and others‭’‬.‭ ‬This is commonly used when someone names a creature also had assistance from others too numerous to name in frequent usage.

Femur -‭ ‬The thighbone in animals.

Fenestrae -‭ ‬The openings inside of a skull that generally allow for the placement of soft tissues and organs such as eyes.‭ ‬There can be great variety in size and proportion from one species to another depending upon evolutional adaptations.‬

Gastrolith -‭ ‬Gastroliths are stones swallowed by animals to aid with the digestive process.‭ ‬They work by grinding plant matter inside of the stomach and are often found in animals that lack the ability to chew their food in their mouths.

Genus -‭ ‬A word used to describe an animal species,‭ ‬but can be further broken down to sub-species.‭ ‬Example‭; ‬A Stegosaurus Stenops and a Stegosaurus ungulatus are slightly different to one another,‭ ‬but are both classed as Stegosaurus,‭ ‬and as such fall under the same genus.‭ ‬A Kentrosaurus on the other hand is a stegosaur,‭ ‬but different from Stegosaurus itself and as such is given its own genus that is different from Stegosaurus.

Gigantothermy -‭ ‬Gigantothermy is a term which is used to describe animals that are for lack of a better term cold blooded,‭ ‬but are more easily able to maintain a high body temperature due to the fact that they have a smaller body surface area to volume ratio.‭ ‬This is often seen in larger cold blooded animals today,‭ ‬and is thought by many to be applicable to extinct animals such as the larger dinosaurs,‭ ‬giving them a metabolism approaching that of a warm blooded creature.‭ ‬Gigantothermy is also referred to as ectothermic homeothermy.

Gondwana -‭ ‬A supercontinent that was formed from the southern half of the Pangaea supercontinent.‭ ‬It was composed of modern day,‭ ‬South America,‭ ‬Africa,‭ ‬Arabian Peninsula,‭ ‬Indian sub-continent,‭ ‬Australia,‭ ‬and Antarctica.‭ ‬

Herbivore -‭ ‬A creature that feeds upon plants.

Holotype – A specimen of an organism that was used in the identification and naming of a species. Further recovered examples of a species are examined against the description of the holotype to see if they represent the same creature.

ICZN – International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. The ICZN governs the naming of animals, making sure that no two animals may have the same name.

Insectivore -‭ ‬A carnivore that specialises in eating insects.

Juvenile -‭ ‬A juvenile is a younger sexually immature specimen of an organism.‭ ‬An organism ceases to be juvenile when it grows to full size and sexual maturity.

Keystone species -‭ ‬This is term used to refer to animals that have a big impact upon their environment,‭ ‬and if said species disappears the environment will change.‭ ‬For example,‭ ‬it can be used to refer to a predator that keeps the number of environment damaging herbivores down.‭ ‬Another example would be a low browsing herbivore that prevents trees from growing tall,‭ ‬maintaining grassy plains.‭ ‬

Labyrinthodont -‭ ‬A member of Labyrinthodontia‭ (‬maze toothed‭) ‬group of amphibians.‭ ‬Terrestrial vertebrates today are considered to be descended from them.

Laurasia -‭ ‬A supercontinent that was formed from the northern half of the Pangaea supercontinent.‭ ‬It was composed of modern day North America and Eurasia.

Locomotion – The process of how an organism moves itself from one location to another.

Marine -‭ ‬Term used to describe organisms that are aquatic.

Mesozoic -‭ ‬The geological era that is composed of the Triassic,‭ ‬Jurassic and Cretaceous periods,‭ ‬notable for the evolution and extinction of the dinosaurs.

Nomen dubium -‭ ‬Latin for doubtful name.‭ ‬This term is sometimes used for animals that cannot be definitively proven to belong to a certain group.

Omnivore -‭ ‬A creature that can eat both animals and plants.

Organism -‭ ‬A living thing such as an animal,‭ ‬plant,‭ ‬fungus or micro-organism.

Ornithischian -‭ ‬Used to reference a dinosaur that is a member of the ornithischia,‭ ‬or‭ ‘‬bird hipped‭’ ‬group of dinosaurs.

Osteoderm -‭ ‬A bony growth found in the skin of some animals and sometimes referred to as a‭ ‘‬scute‭’‬.‭ ‬They can form anything from specialised scales to defensive armour.

Oviparous – A creature that lays eggs which then hatch outside the body. The opposite to viviparous.

Palaeobotany – The study of ancient plants.

Palaeontology – The study of ancient organisms.

Palaeopathology – The study of how a fossilised animal died, but also encompassing the study of injuries, if they healed, and what impact they had on the creature.

Palaeozoic -‭ ‬The Palaeozoic is a geological era that predated the Mesozoic.‭ ‬It is comprised of the Permian,‭ ‬Carboniferous,‭ ‬Devonian,‭ ‬Silurian,‭ ‬Ordovician and Cambrian stages.‭ ‬The Palaeozoic marked a great diversification in life forms,‭ ‬including the first terrestrial life.

Pangaea -‭ ‬The supercontinent that existed when all of the world’s landmasses were joined together to form a single land mass.‭ ‬Eventually Pangaea broke up with tectonic plate movement that would go onto form the world as we know it today.

Pelagic – Term used to reference organisms that typically live in areas of open water as opposed to coastal locations.

Petrification -‭ ‬This is a fossilisations process where silica impregnates organic material,‭ ‬converting it to stone.‭ ‬All organisms can be petrified,‭ ‬but wood is especially susceptible to this process.

Piscivore – ‭‬A carnivore that specialises in the eating of fish.

Plantigrade – This is a foot arrangement where the metatarsals (foot bones) are in contact with the ground. This is the opposite of digitigrade.

Proto feathers -‭ ‬These are filament hair structures that are generally considered to have evolved for the purpose of insulation.‭ ‬Because proto feathers would be more downy than developed with a rigid rachis,‭ ‬they were not capable of producing lift to allow a creature to fly.‭ ‬They would however allow for the eventual evolution of flight capable feathers that we see in most modern birds today.

Pterosaur -‭ ‬Any of the flying reptiles of the Mesozoic Era.

Pycnofibres -‭ ‬Hair like filaments that are found on the bodies of some pterosaurs.‭ ‬Although pycnofibres are not like the hair seen in mammals,‭ ‬they still served as insulation.‭ ‬

Recurved teeth – Teeth that curve backwards towards the throat. These teeth help prevent food from moving forwards and out of the mouth, and can be commonly found in predatory animals.

Saurischian -‭ ‬Used to reference a dinosaur that is a member of the saurischia,‭ ‬or‭ ‘‬lizard hipped‭’ ‬group of dinosaurs.‭ ‬It is actually from this group that birds are thought to have evolved from as opposed to the ornithiscia.

Sauropoda – A group of dinosaurs known for having extremely long necks and a quadrupedal stance.

Scleral rings -‭ ‬These are growths of cartilage or bone that form rings inside of the eyes,‭ ‬helping to keep its shape.‭ ‬They are commonly found in fish,‭ ‬reptiles and birds,‭ ‬and fossilised scleral rings can help accurately determine the size of the eyes in extinct animals that had them.

Scute -‭ ‬See‭ ‘‬Osteoderm‭’‬.

Subadult -‭ ‬A subadult is a juvenile that is becoming sexually mature,‭ ‬but may not yet be fully grown.

Synonym -‭ ‬A synonym is another name for an existing creature that has already been named.‭ ‬Example‭; ‬Apatosaurus‭ (‬1877‭) ‬and Brontosaurus‭ (‬1879‭) ‬were once considered two separate species.‭ ‬When further study showed them to be the same creature,‭ ‬the older name of Apatosaurus replaced Brontosaurus as the species name.‭ ‬Apatosaurus is now used as the name for this creature,‭ ‬but Brontosaurus is retained as a synonym,‭ ‬so that older texts referencing this animal are not misunderstood as talking about a separate species.‭ ‬This also prevents Brontosaurus from being reused and creating even more confusion.

Terrestrial -‭ ‬Term used to refer to organisms that live on the land.

Tetrapod -‭ ‬Four limbed vertebrates.‭ ‬On this site the term is usually applied to the early terrestrial amphibians.

Theropod -‭ ‬A group of bipedal dinosaurs that belong to the saurischia group.

Type species – The type creature for defining a genus. Multiple species may be assigned to a genus, but the type species is used as the defining guide as to whether a new discovery is assigned to an existing genus, or assigned to a new genus of its own.

Quadrupedal -‭ ‬Animals that primarily walk upon all four legs.

Vomeronasal organ‭ (‬Jacobsan organ‭)‬ -‭ ‬Is an auxiliary olfactory‭ (‬smell‭) ‬organ.

Viviparous -‭ ‬A term used to describe animals that give birth to live young as opposed to laying eggs. The opposite to oviparous.

Wastebasket Genus -‭ ‬A term used for when animals are not known to fit in exactly to an existing group so they are‭ ‘‬dumped‭’ ‬into a more generic group where they remain until further study can determine where they belong.‭ ‬Many early fossils of dinosaurs especially suffered from this.

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