Science, Now + Beyond

10 ridiculously cool dinosaurs that make us wish we lived in the Mesozoic Era

Although with a name like Torvosaurus gurneyi... it may just be that you don't remember them!

Some kids are major dinosaur kids and know a ton about them (remember the little boy in Jurassic Park?). The rest of us may have some knowledge of dinosaurs from when we were young, or from movies. But unless you’re a paleontologist or a parent of one of those Dino Kids, you’re probably unlikely to have a serious knowledge of anything other than Tyrannosaurus, Stegosaurus, or Triceratops.

So in honor of being able to impress the next Dino Kid who tries to one-up you, or maybe just being able to appreciate some pretty awesome names, here are 10 less-common, but awesome dinosaurs.

1. Troodon formosus

This small, carnivorous dinosaur is important because scientists theorize that it served as the link between reptiles and birds. Intact nests that have been preserved allow paleontologists to learn about the reproductive behavior of this species. These creatures also had a large brain size relative to their size, and may have been almost as intelligent as modern birds. This may be why they were one of the last dinosaurs to die out.

2. Pachycephalosaurus wyomningenesis

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This dinosaur was also one of the last to go extinct, but unlike the troodon, they were herbivores. The most notable feature of this reptile was the bony hump on top of its skull, which could be up to 9 inches thick! Scientists believe that these thick skulls were used in headbutting courtship challenges, much like goats or deer perform today.

3. Baryonyx walker

Natural History Museum

This dinosaur was a puzzle to scientists because of its teeth, which vary enough between individuals to make scientists consider classifying each individual as its own species. Plus its skull looked more like a crocodile than any other dinosaur scientists had encountered.  One thing that is more evident about this species is that it lived near a large lake in what is currently Europe, and used large claws to catch fish. Scientists are unusually sure of its diet because they have discovered fossilized fish remains in the stomachs of baryonyx fossils.

4. Massospondylus

One of the first dinosaurs to be classified, this dinosaur was originally thought to be several different species before being narrowed down to only two. Massospondylus puzzled scientists as to whether it was a herbivore or a carnivore, because it had teeth in the front that could have suited a carnivore, but the back teeth of an herbivore. Scientists eventually concluded from facial anatomy that it was more likely to be an herbivore. Other notable characteristics of Massospondylus include its tiny head and five clawed “hand” which could grasp things.

5. Torvosaurus gurneyi

This carnivorous species originally puzzled scientists when it was discovered in 2014 in Portugal because it resembled a similar North American species. However, the scientists were able to use mouth size and number of teeth to tell them apart. At 33 feet long, this hunter was one of largest carnivores of its time, though not the largest ever.

6. Yongjinglong datangi


Many of the newly discovered species are more likely to be unknown, just because they haven’t had time to enter the public’s awareness. In multiple cases, these species are differentiated from similar species. In this case, scientists found a few bones from a juvenile dinosaur in China and were able to tell it apart from similar species by the orientation of the shoulder bones. This species may be key in showing the differences between Chinese dinosaurs and those of other geographic regions.

7. Seats meekerorum


While the name of this dino may sound like “meek” it was anything but! This fierce predator belonged to the  carcharodontosaur family, a carnivorous family known for it’s large size. This species lived at the same time as the famous T. rex, and actually prevented the T. rex from becoming the top predator… until it died out. Its name also has a fascinating origin, as it is rooted in the name of a cannibalistic monster from the myths of a Native American tribe in Utah, where the remains of the first juvenile were found.

8. Kentrosaurus


This slow-moving herbivore may be unknown because it’s in the stegosaurus family and not distinguished. Like the popular species, this animal had a series of plates along its spine and spikes on its tail, but it also had long spikes on its side. Fun fact, paleontologists found more than 900 bones from this single species in a site in Tanzania.

9. Sauroniops pachytholus


Another cool name, this one derived from Tolkein’s fantasy villain, Sauron, because the skeleton originally appeared to have only one eye socket. These were another megapredator (big guy) from the family carcharodontosaur. They were found in 2007 in Morocco, along the banks of a river delta. This predator can be distinguished from others by the unique lump above their eyes, which may have also been used for headbutting.

10. Heterodontosaurus


If you know enough etymology you might be able to guess this species’ key characteristic from its name. The strangest thing that scientists have found about this small dinosaur was that it had three different types of teeth, one of which was a long tusk-like or fang-like tooth. These dinosaurs were one of the earliest precursors to birds (mostly because of their hips). Another interesting characteristic of this herbivore was its two opposable fingers!