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Zoom Dinosaurs
DINOSAUR QUESTIONS
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By Date By Type of Dinosaur General Dino. Qns. Qns. About Other Animals Geological Era Qns.

Frequently Asked Dinosaur Questions


Question #10: What does dinosaur mean and how are dinosaurs named?

Answer: Sir Richard Owen coined the word dinosaur, meaning "fearfully great lizard," in 1842. In Greek, deinos means "fearfully great" and sauros means "lizard."

Naming Dinosaurs: Newly discovered dinosaurs are named by the discoverer or by the paleontologist who determines that it represents a new genus (or species). There are many different ways to choose a dinosaur name. Sometimes the dinosaur is given a name that describes something unusual about it's body, head, or feet. Some are named after the location where they are found, their behavior, size, or in honor of a person. The name has to be approved by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature.

For a page of many Greek, Latin, and other roots used in dinosaur names, click here.

Some Dinosaurs Named for Unusual Head Features
Dinosaur Head Feature
Brachyceratops Short-horned faced
Corythosaurus Helmet lizard
Dilophosaurus Two-ridged lizard
Homalocephale Level (flat) head
Microceratops Small-horned faced
Ornatotholus Ornate dome
Pachyrhinosaurus Thick-nosed Lizard
Pentaceratops Five-horned head
Saurolophus Crested lizard
Triceratops Three-horned head

Some Dinosaurs Named for Unusual Body Features
Dinosaur Feature
Baryonyx Heavy claw
Brachiosaurus Arm Lizard (because its arms are longer than its legs)
Ceratosaurus Horned Lizard
Dacentrus Sharp-point tail
Deinocheirus Terrible hand
Elaphrosaurus Lightweight lizard
Panoplosaurus Fully-armed lizard
Spinosaurus Spiny lizard
Centrosaurus, Kentrosaurus, and Styracosaurus Spiked Lizard
Barosaurus, Epachthosaurus, and Lurdusaurus Heavy Lizard

Some Dinosaurs Named for Their Teeth
Dinosaur Feature
Astrodon Star tooth
Deinodon Terrible tooth
Heterodontosaurus Different-tooth lizard
Hypsilophodon High-ridged tooth
Iguanodon Iguana tooth
Microdontosaurus Tiny-tooth lizard
Troödon Wounding tooth

Some Dinosaurs Named for Their Feet
Dinosaur Feature
Brachypodosaurus Short-footed lizard
Deinonychus Terrible claw
Saltopus Leaping foot
Velocipes Swift foot

Some Dinosaurs Named in Honor of a Person

Dinosaur Paleontologist it was named after
Chassternbergia Charles Sternberg
Drinker Edward Drinker Cope
Lambeosaurus Lawrence Lambe
Marshosaurus and Othnielia Othniel C. Marsh

Some Dinosaurs Named After a Place
Dinosaur Place it was named for
Albertosaurus Alberta, Canada
Andesaurus The Andes mountains, South America
Coloradisaurus Colorado Formation in Argentina
Denversaurus Denver, Colorado, USA
Edmontosaurus and Edmontonia Edmonton Formation in Alberta, Canada
Indosaurus and Indosuchus India
Lesothosaurus Lesotho, South Africa
Utahraptor Utah, USA
Shunosaurus and Szechuanosaurus Szechuan, China

Some Dinosaurs Named for Their Guessed Behavior
Dinosaur Behavior it was named for
Maiasaura Good mother lizard
Oviraptor Egg thief (even though it wasn't)
Velociraptor Speedy robber

My favorite dinosaur name is Irritator, which was given its name because of annoyance! The people who found the fossil added plaster to it in order to make it look it more impressive. This nonsense didn't fool the paleontologists, but irritated them, hence the name.

Another wonderful dinosaur name is the Australian Kakuru which means "rainbow serpent " It was given this name because it is known from a single tibia (leg bone) that turned into an opal (a beautiful, colorful semi-precious stone) during the fossilization process. This tibia must be a beautiful sight!


Top Sixteen Dinosaur Questions





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