Top Ten Predatory Dinosaurs

       A look at ten of some of the most famous,‭ ‬largest and specialised predatory dinosaurs that are known to science. If you would‭ ‬like‭ ‬to know much more detailed information about these dinosaurs,‭ ‬just click on their names to go to their main pages.

10‭ ‬-‭ ‬Herrerasaurus

       The oldest dinosaur on this list,‭ ‬Herrerasaurus dates all the way back to the Triassic when dinosaurs were living in a world dominated by large rauisuchians.‭ ‬But‭ ‬Herrerasaurus was no slouch,‭ ‬and was perfectly capable of hunting other primitive dinosaurs that were mostly much smaller than Herrerasaurus.‭ ‬However despite the fact that Herrerasaurus superficially looks like the later theropods in form,‭ ‬it displays a number of features that are individually common across different dinosaur groups.‭ ‬For this reason Herrerasaurus is considered by some to represent one of the oldest dinosaur forms that predates the split into the two main saurischian‭ (‬lizard hipped‭) ‬and ornithischian‭ (‬bird hipped‭) ‬groups.‭ ‬Herrerasaurus also has a sliding jaw joint,‭ ‬very unusual for a dinosaur,‭ ‬but something that may have helped it to grip prey with its mouth.

9‭ ‬-‭ ‬Yutyrannus

       When named in‭ ‬2012‭ ‬Yutyrannus made people sit up and take notice.‭ ‬Not only was this a nine meter long tyrannosaur,‭ ‬it had a body that was covered in hair-like feathers.‭ ‬This made Yutyannus the largest confirmed feathered dinosaur,‭ ‬easily beating‭ ‬the‭ ‬then previous record holder,‭ ‬the therizinosaur Beipiaosaurus.‭ ‬Yutyrannus re-ignited the debate over‭ ‬whether all dinosaurs were feathered,‭ ‬though the actuality of the situation is probably that some were and some were not.‭ ‬Study of the fossil site of the Yutyrannus holotype indicates that it would have been at a high elevation back in the early Cretaceous with a cool average air temperature.‭ ‬Skin impressions of other tyrannosaurs speculated to live in warmer climates however have been preserved without feather impressions,‭ ‬showing that the question over if dinosaurs had feathers should be dealt with on a case by case basis rather than just assumed to apply to the whole.

8‭ ‬-‭ ‬Giganotosaurus

       This is the dinosaur that in‭ ‬1995‭ ‬made headlines around the world for being bigger than Tyrannosaurus.‭ ‬Unfortunately this estimate is based upon an estimated range of twelve to thirteen meters long,‭ ‬and if the lower end of the estimate proves more correct then it is actually not bigger at all,‭ ‬just similar in size.‭ ‬Also at the higher end it would be only around twenty centimetres longer that the longest recorded Tyrannosaurus specimen.‭ ‬Despite this however,‭ ‬partial remains of a second individual,‭ ‬bigger in scale to the type specimen suggest that Giganotosaurus may have actually still grown quite larger than Tyrannosaurus,‭ ‬although by how much still remains uncertain in the absence of more fossils.
       Arguments about which dinosaur was bigger often carry away from the actual facts of Giganotosaurus which was a member of the carcharodontosaurid group of theropod dinosaurs.‭ Others of this group such as Carcharodontosaurus also reached large sizes that were comparable to Tyrannosaurus,‭ ‬but these dinosaurs actually had very different teeth that worked to slice flesh rather than crush bones and armour.‭ ‬This means that Giganotosaurus may have had to deliver a series of bites to the body of its prey so that it succombed to blood loss and collapsed.‭ ‬It‭’‬s possible that Giganotosaurus may have also left most of the bones untouched and just ate the soft parts to avoid unnessecary damage to its teeth.

7‭ ‬-‭ ‬Acrocanthosaurus

       This theropod lived during the early/mid Cretaceous,‭ ‬yet it grew to a size that was comparable to the later Tyrannosaurus.‭ ‬This large size suggests that Acrocanthosaurus was the‭ ‬apex predator of North America,‭ ‬after Allosaurus and before the tyrannosaurs,‭ ‬and with most of the other predatory dinosaurs‭ ‬such as Deinonychus being much smaller,‭ ‬Acrocanthosaurus would have dominated the landscape.
       Large size is not the only claim to fame for Acrocanthosaurus as it also featured vertebrae that had elongated neural spines.‭ ‬These projected upwards to support a hump that ran down the back‭ (‬it has also been suggested that they supported a skin sail as well as supporting a row of spines,‭ ‬but these theories are not as widely accepted as they used to be‭)‬.‭ ‬This hump probably served as fat storage for lean times,‭ ‬but it may have also been a display feature that showed others of its kind how successful a predator an individual was,‭ ‬to a sign of maturity to even just making Acrocanthosaurus look like it was even bigger.

6‭ ‬-‭ ‬Spinosaurus

       Aside from possibly being the largest theropod on the list,‭ ‬Spinosaurus is easily the most specialised.‭ ‬One specialisation,‭ ‬the reason for the name and the feature that most people are familiar with,‭ ‬is the enlarged neural spines of the dorsal vertebrae that supported either a skin sail or a hump on back.‭ ‬The purpose for this growth has been explained for everything from thermoregulation,‭ ‬display,‭ ‬to fat storage but it still remains a mystery to be certain.‭ ‬The features that reveal more about the actual hunting behaviour of Spinosaurus are the long crocodile-like jaws that were filled with narrow conical teeth.‭ ‬These jaws and teeth are seen in other piscivorous‭ (‬fish eating‭) ‬animals such as crocodiles and even pterosaurs.‭ ‬Additionally the snout of Spinosaurus is covered in pores that seem to have been the housing for pressure sensors that allowed Spinosaurus to detect passing fish in the water.‭ ‬These features combined now give what is considered a much more accurate depiction of Spinosaurus as a large fish hunter rather than a generalist predator of other dinosaurs.

5‭ ‬-‭ ‬Carnotaurus

       Dinosaurs that look different are on the road to overnight fame,‭ ‬and Carnotaurus achieved this by having two stubby horns growing from the skull above its eyes.‭ ‬Carnotaurus was a large abelisaur theropod,‭ ‬a group noted for having short but tall skulls,‭ ‬and arms that are even more vestigial than those of the tyrannosaurs.‭ ‬One popular idea about predators like Carnotaurus is that they used their narrow skulls like hatchets,‭ ‬relying upon the momentum of their head movements to drive their teeth through their prey rather than the bite muscles.‭ ‬The skulls of abelisaurs were also well suited to the job of holding onto prey,‭ ‬and if Carnotaurus managed to clamp its jaws around the neck of a prey animal,‭ ‬it may have been able to choke it with its jaws.
       The abelisaurs were one of the last two great groups of large theropod dinosaurs,‭ ‬and while the tyrannosaurs dominated in the northern continents,‭ ‬the abelisaurs held domain over the south,‭ ‬with earlier theropod groups only existing in small fragmented populations.‭ ‬During the late Cretaceous of South America,‭ ‬Carnotaurus‭ ‬was one of the greatest of the abelisaurs.

4‭ ‬-‭ ‬Deinonychus

       When people think‭ ‘‬raptor‭’ ‬they usually think about how Velociraptor was depicted in the‭ ‘‬Jurassic Park‭’ ‬movies,‭ ‬but what many people still do not realise is that these‭ ‘‬raptors‭’ ‬were actually based upon Deinonychus.‭ ‬This dinosaur would have been the terror of North America towards the end of the early Cretaceous,‭ ‬not just because of the long sickle shaped claws on its feet,‭ ‬but because Deinonychus is one of the main inspirations about dinosaurs hunting in packs.‭ ‬Although not all palaeontologists are convinced about this the idea has remained and continues to be studied,‭ ‬with more evidence about the possibility of pack hunting pointing towards Deinonychus than most other dinosaurs.

3‭ ‬-‭ ‬Allosaurus

       Not only is Allosaurus the best represented large theropod dinosaur in the fossil record,‭ ‬it seems to have been‭ ‘‬the‭’ ‬predator design of the late Jurassic.‭ ‬Aside from being numerous,‭ ‬many of the other large Jurassic theropods are so much like Allosaurus that palaeontologists still today question if they really represent new dinosaur genera or are merely different species of Allosaurus.
       The large number of remains of Allosaurus have allowed for a lot of study of this particular dinosaur.‭ ‬Injuries to the arms where tendons have been ripped from the bones suggest that Allosaurus was very physical in its attacks upon other dinosaurs and it would have done so without much thought or fear of injury to itself.‭ ‬This is further evidenced by fossils that prove Allosaurus got into fights with armoured dinosaurs like Stegosaurus.

2‭ ‬-‭ ‬Troodon

       Troodon was a relatively small dinosaur without an especially powerful bite when compared to the other dinosaurs on this list‭; ‬however it did have several things going for it that the others here did not.‭ ‬Studies and re-constructions‭ ‬of the brain have revealed that it was beginning to show the signs of folding,‭ ‬where more neural cells are packed into the same area that allows for more efficient brain functions.‭ ‬Second is the large size of the brain in relation to this dinosaur‭’‬s size,‭ ‬a controversial subject,‭ ‬but one that is not entirely without its merits.‭ ‬Third are the large forward facing eyes that would have allowed for exceptional stereoscopic vision even in low light conditions.‭ ‬Fourth and final is that one of the fingers was semi opposable to the others which on paper suggests that Troodon was better able to‭ ‬manipulate‭ ‬small objects,‭ ‬and interact with its environment.‭ ‬Had the mass extinction of dinosaurs not taken place at the end of the Cretaceous,‭ ‬dinosaurs like Troodon may have evolved to become the most intelligent life forms on the planet.

1‭ ‬-‭ ‬Tyrannosaurus

       This dinosaur hardly needs any introduction as it is more famous than any other prehistoric animal.‭ ‬Tyrannosaurus was the pinnacle of large theropod dinosaur evolution that was cut short by the mass extinction of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous.‭ ‬Although no longer considered to be the largest‭ (‬Spinosaurus and Giganotosaurus are usually credited as being bigger‭) ‬Tyrannosaurus was possibly the stronger with an incredible bite force and teeth designed for punching through and crushing the bones of any other dinosaur.‭ ‬Whereas other dinosaurs may have had to close their mouths around prey several times to deliver a series of weakening bites,‭ ‬Tyrannosaurus only had to‭ ‬bite once.
       In the past Tyrannosaurus has been accused by some of being just a scavenger for a number of reasons that mostly connect to its differences to other meat eating dinosaurs.‭ ‬Today however the idea that Tyrannosaurus was only a scavenger is politely put considered extremely unlikely,‭ ‬and it is seen as a meat eater that primarily hunted for its own food,‭ ‬but would also steal kills from other predators and scavenge just like almost every other predator that ever lived.‭ ‬More details about the arguments for and against the scavenging theory are on the main Tyrannosaurus page.


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