European Dinosaurs: All You Need to Know About Them

Dinosaurs, the magnificent creatures that once ruled the Earth, have fascinated us for centuries. While many people associate dinosaurs with far-off lands like North America and Asia, Europe also has its fair share of dinosaur history. In this article, we will explore European dinosaurs and shed light on their diversity, habitats, and the remarkable discoveries made by paleontologists in this region.

The Mesozoic Era and European Dinosaurs:

The Mesozoic Era, often referred to as the “Age of Dinosaurs,” spanned from approximately 252 to 66 million years ago. During this time, Europe was a diverse landscape that was home to a wide array of dinosaurs. The continent had a range of environments, including lush forests, coastal regions, and vast plains, which provided suitable habitats for various dinosaur species.

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 Dinosaur Wiped Out Rapidly in Europe

Dinosaur Discoveries in Europe:

Europe boasts an impressive collection of dinosaur fossils, and paleontologists have made significant discoveries throughout the years. One of the most famous European dinosaur discoveries is that of the Iguanodon. In 1822, the first fossilized tooth of this herbivorous dinosaur was found in England, leading to the identification of a new species. The Iguanodon played a crucial role in shaping our understanding of dinosaurs.

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The Biggest Dinosaur Fossil Discovery in Europe is a Sauropod

European Dinosaur Diversity:

European dinosaurs exhibited a wide range of shapes, sizes, and ecological adaptations. Some notable European dinosaur species include:
a. Platosaurus: a large, herbivorous dinosaur that lived during the Late Triassic period. It walked on two legs and had a long neck and tail. Fossils of Plateosaurus have been found in Germany and Switzerland.

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b. Baryonyx: A carnivorous dinosaur known for its crocodile-like snout and enormous claws. It lived during the Early Cretaceous period and its fossils were discovered in England and Spain.

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c. Hypsilophodon: A small, bipedal dinosaur that lived during the Early Cretaceous period. It was a fast runner and primarily herbivorous. Fossils of Hypsilophodon have been found in England.

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d. Archaeopteryx: Some people who should know better still insist that Archaeopteryx was the first true bird, but in fact it was much closer to the dinosaur end of the evolutionary spectrum. However you choose to classify it, Archaeopteryx has weathered the past 150 million years exceptionally well; about a dozen near-complete skeletons have been excavated from Germany’s Solnhofen fossil beds, shedding much-needed light on the evolution of feathered dinosaurs

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e. Cetiosaurus: You can chalk up Cetiosaurus’ odd name–Greek for “whale lizard”–to the confusion of early British paleontologists, who had yet to appreciate the enormous sizes attained by sauropod dinosaurs and assumed they were dealing with fossilized whales or crocodiles. Cetiosaurus is important because it dates from the middle, rather than late, Jurassic period, and thus predated more famous sauropods (like Brachiosaurus and Diplodocus) by 10 or 20 million years.

All You Need to Know About European Dinosaurs

f. Compsognathus: Discovered in Germany in the mid-19th century, the chicken-sized Compsognathus was famous for decades as the “world’s smallest dinosaur,” comparable in size only to the distantly related Archaeopteryx (with which it shared the same fossil beds). Today, the place of Compsognathus in the dinosaur record books has been supplanted by earlier, and smaller, theropods from China and South America, most notably the two-pound Microraptor.

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g. Europasaurus: The average EU resident may or may not be proud to know that Europasaurus was one of the smallest sauropods ever to roam the earth, measuring only about 10 feet from head to tail and weighing no more than a singleton (compared to 50 or 100 tons for the largest members of the breed). The small size of Europasaurus can be chalked up to its small, resource-starved island habitat, an example of “insular dwarfism” comparable to Balaur.

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h. Iguanodon: No dinosaur in history has caused as much confusion as Iguanodon, the fossilized thumb of which was discovered in England way back in 1822 (by the early naturalist Gideon Mantell). Only the second dinosaur ever to receive a name, after Megalosaurus (see next slide), Iguanodon wasn’t fully understood by paleontologists for at least a century after its discovery, by which time many other, similar-looking ornithopods had been incorrectly assigned to its genus.

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Dinosaur Habitats in Europe:

Europe during the Mesozoic Era offered a variety of habitats for dinosaurs. In what is now the United Kingdom, fossilized footprints have been found along the coast, suggesting that some dinosaurs roamed near the shoreline. Forested regions, such as parts of Germany and France, were home to herbivorous dinosaurs like the Plateosaurus. The diverse landscapes of Europe provided ample opportunities for different dinosaur species to thrive.

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Contributions to Paleontological Knowledge:

European dinosaur discoveries have contributed significantly to our understanding of dinosaur biology and evolution. The well-preserved fossils found in Europe have allowed scientists to study dinosaur anatomy, behavior, and ecological interactions. These discoveries have shed light on topics such as dinosaur locomotion, feeding habits, and even the presence of feathers in certain species.

European dinosaurs have left an indelible mark on our understanding of the prehistoric world. From the towering herbivores like the Iguanodon to fearsome carnivores like the Baryonyx, Europe was once home to a diverse range of dinosaurs. The fossil record continues to provide invaluable insights into the lives of these ancient creatures and their role in shaping Earth’s history. As ongoing research and new discoveries unfold, European dinosaurs will undoubtedly continue to capture the imaginations of scientists and dinosaur enthusiasts alike.