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The Age of Reptiles peaked with the dinosaurs

Posted in Animals, Dinosaurs, Nature, Prehistory on Thursday, 7 June 2012

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This edited article about dinosaurs originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 721 published on 8 November 1975.

Dinosaurs, picture, image, illustration

Dinosaurs by David Nockels

The best known creatures from the Age of Reptiles are the dinosaurs (‘terrible lizards’). The word ‘dinosaur’ usually conjures up a picture of a huge, ponderous and rather stupid creature, like brontosaurus, or, a 20 foot (6m) tall, meat-eating tyrannosaurus with sharp claws and fearsome teeth for devouring its victims.

In fact dinosaurs came in all shapes and sizes. Although many were large and slow, others were no bigger than a chicken and could move very fast. And some of the most frightening-looking were in fact peaceful plant-eaters which had developed heavy armour plating to protect them from predators.

Dinosaurs belonged to one of the largest groups of reptiles, the archosaurs. The earliest archosaurs were the thecodonts’ (‘socket-toothed’) of the Triassic period, an order of carnivorous reptiles. Thecodonts were an extremely important group as they were the ancestors of the crocodiles, the flying reptiles (pterosaurs) and the first birds as well as the two distinct types of dinosaur – the saurischia (‘lizard-hipped’) and the ornithischia (‘bird-hipped’).

The carnivorous tyrannosaurus – the largest land-dwelling meat eater of all time – and the gentle plant eater, brontosaurus, both belonged to the lizard-hipped group of dinosaurs.

All the members of the ornithischia were plant eaters. This group includes the large, horned triceratops, the stegosaurus and the iguandon.

Both of the dinosuar groups were more or less equally divided into quadrupeds and bipeds.

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