Dinosaurs That Lived in the Jurassic Period

Allosaurus and Stegosaurus skeletons, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Let’s explore the dinosaurs of the Jurassic Period and learn about their characteristics. The Jurassic Period is the second of three eras in the Mesozoic Era. At the conclusion of the preceding period, the Triassic, there was a mass extinction event where numerous species perished. The likely cause of this extinction was widespread volcanic activity. During this challenging period, approximately 50% of all species went extinct, including the crocodile-like pseudosuchians, which were among the main competitors of dinosaurs. Consequently, dinosaurs swiftly emerged as the dominant land animals of their time.

Allosaurus

Allosaurus (Big Al II) This dinosaur lived during the Jurassic period approximately 150 million years ago.
Allosaurus (Big Al II) This dinosaur lived during the Jurassic period approximately 150 million years ago. Image: andytang20.
  • Dinosaur species: Theropod
  • Period in which he lived Late Jurassic Period, 155-150 million years ago
  • Where found North America
  • Estimated length: 5 – 12 m

Allosaurus, a notable dinosaur from the Jurassic period, was among the numerous dinosaur species uncovered in the Morrison Formation, a Jurassic rock layer located in the western part of the United States. This dinosaur was named by the renowned fossil collector Othniel Charles Marsh. While the majority of Allosaurus specimens have been found in the USA, there have also been discoveries of Allosaurus fossils in Portugal.

Allosaurus was a sizeable theropod dinosaur that walked on two legs (bipedal). As an apex predator of the Jurassic era, it hunted and preyed upon sauropods like Stegosaurus and Stegosauria, demonstrating its position at the top of the food chain.

Apatosaurus

Apatosaurus louisae, Carnegie Museum.
Apatosaurus louisae, Carnegie Museum. Image: tadekk
  • Dinosaur species: Sauropod
  • Period in which he lived Late Jurassic Period, 152-151 million years ago
  • Where it was found Morrison Formation, western United States
  • Estimated length: 25 m

Apatosaurus, a notable sauropod dinosaur, resided in North America during the Late Jurassic Period. This dinosaur, similar to Allosaurus, was discovered by Othniel Charles Marsh within the Morrison Formation.

During his explorations, Marsh encountered a dinosaur that he initially named Brontosaurus, which appeared to be similar to Apatosaurus. However, in the early 20th century, it was determined that both dinosaurs were actually the same species. Since Apatosaurus was the first to be discovered and named, all specimens previously identified as Brontosaurus were subsequently renamed as Apatosaurus.

However, recent research conducted in the 21st century has shed new light on the matter, indicating that these dinosaurs were indeed distinct from one another. As a result, Brontosaurus has once again been recognized as a separate species of Jurassic dinosaur.

Archaeopteryx

Archaeopteryx
Archaeopteryx.
  • Dinosaur species: Theropod
  • Period in which he lived Late Jurassic, 150.8-148.5 million years ago
  • Where found Bavaria, Southern Germany
  • Estimated length: 5 m

The nearly perfect skeleton of Archaeopteryx, discovered in Germany in 1861, stands as one of the most renowned dinosaur finds in history. Its existence significantly contributed to the evolutionary theories put forth by scientists like Charles Darwin and Thomas Henry Huxley, providing evidence for the idea that birds evolved from dinosaurs.

Archaeopteryx possesses a unique combination of dinosaur-like and bird-like features. It exhibits characteristics such as a tail, clawed wings, and teeth that resemble those of dinosaurs. Conversely, it also possesses bird-like features like a wishbone and flight feathers. Although scientists are uncertain about whether Archaeopteryx was capable of true flight by flapping its wings, some believe it may have glided like a modern-day glider.

Brachiosaurus

Brachiosaurus
Brachiosaurus. Image: Linda Buckin.
  • Dinosaur species: Sauropod
  • Period in which he lived Late Jurassic Period, 154-153 million years ago
  • Where found Colorado, USA
  • Estimated length: 18-21 m ((59-69 ft.)

Brachiosaurus, a classic sauropod, is known for its colossal size, characterized by a long neck, tail, and four legs, each comparable to three tree trunks in size. The initial specimen of Brachiosaurus was unearthed by American paleontologist Elmer S. Riggs in Colorado, USA, in 1900.

At the time of its discovery, Brachiosaurus was considered one of the largest dinosaurs ever to have roamed the Earth. While subsequent discoveries have revealed even larger dinosaurs, Brachiosaurus remains a true Jurassic giant, estimated to have reached a height of 21 meters (69 ft.).

Brontosaurus

  • Dinosaur species: Sauropod
  • Period in which it lived Late Jurassic, 156.3-146.8 million years ago
  • Where it was found Morrison Formation, North America
  • Estimated length: 22 m (72 ft.)

The name Brontosaurus translates to ‘thunder lizard’ and was bestowed upon this giant sauropod by the American paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh. Brontosaurus inhabited North America during the Late Jurassic Period.

Scientists hypothesize that Brontosaurus, along with other sauropods, possessed the ability to forcefully swing its large tail, resembling a whip. This behavior may have served as a deterrent to potential predators.

Camarasaurus

Camarasaurus
Life reconstruction of Camarasaurus supremus.
  • Dinosaur species: Sauropod
  • Period in which he lived Late Jurassic Period, 155-145 million years ago
  • Where found North America
  • Estimated length: 18 m (59 ft.)

Camarasaurus, a sauropod, was the predominant species discovered in North America during the Late Jurassic Period. Its name, ‘chambered lizard,’ alludes to the hollow bones it possessed, a characteristic shared by other sauropods. These hollow bones served to lighten the skeleton and housed air sacs that facilitated the breathing of these colossal dinosaurs.

Camptosaurus

Camptosaurus
Camptosaurus, (Restoration).
  • Dinosaur species: Ornithopod
  • Age in which he lived Late Jurassic
  • Where found North America
  • Estimated length: 5-7 m  (11.5-23 ft.)

Camptosaurus, an ornithopod, inhabited North America during the Late Jurassic Period. Numerous Camptosaurus specimens have been discovered within the Morrison Formation in the western United States. It is probable that Camptosaurus thrived in this region during the Late Jurassic.

Ornithopods, a group of ornithischian dinosaurs, possessed advanced chewing mechanisms that facilitated their herbivorous diet. These adaptations made it easier for them to consume plant matter.

Ceratosaurus

Ceratosaurus in its environment.
Ceratosaurus nasicornis walking through the Morrison Formation landscape. Image: Oleg Kuznetsov – 3depix
  • Dinosaur species: Theropod
  • Period in which he lived Late Jurassic Period, 153-148 million years ago
  • Where found North America
  • Estimated length: 6 m (20 ft.)

Ceratosaurus is among the diverse array of dinosaurs discovered within the Morrison Formation, located in the western United States. This Jurassic predator boasted a distinctive horn on its snout and prominent ridges above its eyes.

Clusters of fossilized Ceratosaurus footprints provide evidence that these dinosaurs were capable of hunting in groups. They may have targeted prey such as Stegosaurus, as well as young sauropods like Apatosaurus and Brachiosaurus.

Compsognathus

Compsognathus
Reconstruction of a skeleton of C. longipes at the Museum of Ancient Life.
  • Dinosaur species: Theropod
  • Age in which he lived Late Jurassic-Early Cretaceous, 150.8-140 million years ago
  • Where found Germany and France
  • Estimated length: 6 m (2 ft.)

Compsognathus, a carnivorous dinosaur of the Jurassic period, was remarkably small in size, comparable to that of a turkey. Fossil evidence revealed that this swift predator had lizards within its body. Compsognathus held the distinction of being the smallest known dinosaur for a considerable period, although subsequent discoveries such as Microraptor have revealed even smaller dinosaur species.

Dilophosaurus

Dilophosaurus
Skeleton of Dilophosaurus from the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology of Drumheller, Alberta, Canada.
  • Dinosaur species: Theropod
  • Period in which he lived Early Jurassic Period, 193 million years ago
  • Where found Arizona, USA
  • Estimated length: 6 m  (19.5 ft.)

Dilophosaurus, an early Jurassic theropod, possessed a unique characteristic in the form of a pair of thin, bony crests on its head. In fact, the scientific name of this dinosaur, ‘Dilophosaurus,’ translates to ‘two-crested lizard.’ These crests, tapering into sharp points towards the rear, are believed to have served as a feature used by males to attract females.

Diplodocus

Diplodocus
Diplodocus skeletal mount at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh. Image: Wikimedia / ScottRobertAnselmo.
  • Dinosaur species: Sauropoda
  • Period in which he lived Late Jurassic Period, 154-152 million years ago
  • Where found —
  • Estimated length: 27 m (89 ft.)

Diplodocus, a dinosaur frequently discovered within the Morrison Formation in the western United States, was among the more prevalent large dinosaurs of its time. Notably, Diplodocus exhibited hind legs that were longer than its front legs, resulting in a sloping downward body structure from the hips to the shoulders.

It is believed that Diplodocus possessed the ability to walk on its hind legs, utilizing its enormous tail as support. This adaptation may have enabled the Jurassic dinosaur to access foliage that would typically have been out of reach.”

Drinker nisti

Nanosaurus Drinker
  • Dinosaur species Neornithischia
  • Age in which he lived Late Jurassic
  • Where found Wyoming, USA
  • Estimated length: 2 m (6 ft.)

Drinker, also known as Drinker nisti, is an ornithopod dinosaur discovered in Wyoming within the Morrison Formation during the Late Jurassic to Early Cretaceous period. It was described based on a partial skeleton found in the Big Nose locality of the Breakfast Bench Fossil Bed. It is classified as an ornithopod, a group that includes duck-billed dinosaurs, and is considered a plant-eating dinosaur. The specific information regarding its physical characteristics and habitat is limited. However, given that Drinker is an ornithopod, it likely had adaptations for herbivory, such as specialized chewing mechanisms, to consume plant material. Further research and study may provide more insights into the specific features and lifestyle of this dinosaur [4].

The taxon has a complicated taxonomic history, largely the work of Marsh and Peter M. Galton, involving the genera Laosaurus, Hallopus, Drinker, Othnielia, and Othnielosaurus, the latter three now being considered to be synonyms of Nanosaurus.

Wikipedia.

Huayangosaurus

Huayangosaurus reconstruction displayed in Hong Kong
Huayangosaurus reconstruction displayed in Hong Kong.
  • Dinosaur species: Stegosauria
  • Period in which he lived Middle Jurassic Period, 165 million years ago
  • Where found: Dashanpu Quarries, China
  • Estimated length: 4 m (13 ft.)

Huayangosaurus, a stegosaurian dinosaur, inhabited the region that is now known as China during the Middle Jurassic Period. It is among the earliest-known members of the stegosaurian group. As an ornithischian dinosaur, it had a bird-hipped pelvis and was a plant-eating creature that walked on all fours.

Remarkably, Huayangosaurus is recognized as the smallest known stegosaurian dinosaur. It displayed two rows of pointed plates running along its back, as well as a spiked tail. These distinctive features, including the plates and spiked tail, likely served various purposes such as display, defense, and thermoregulation.

Lesothosaurus

Lesothosaurus
Restoration of the ornithischian dinosaur Lesothosaurus. Image: Wikimedia.
  • Dinosaur species Ornithischia (bird-hipped dinosaurs)
  • Period in which he lived Early Jurassic Period, 199-189 million years ago
  • Where found: Lesotho, South Africa
  • Estimated length: 1 m (3.3 ft.)

Lesothosaurus, a small and slender dinosaur, possessed a lightweight body structure and elongated legs, suggesting its adaptation for swift locomotion. As one of the earliest ornithischians, Lesothosaurus had a feeding behavior that involved chopping plants rather than chewing them. Unlike later ornithischians, which developed cheeks and a chewing motion, Lesothosaurus relied on its sharp teeth and jaw motion to break down plant material. This distinct feeding strategy likely influenced the evolutionary development of the ornithischian lineage, leading to the emergence of more advanced herbivorous adaptations in later species.

Megalosaurus

Megalosaurus
Megalosaurus
  • Dinosaur species: Theropod
  • Period in which he lived Middle Jurassic Period, 166 million years ago
  • Where found England, possibly France
  • Estimated length: 9 m (30 ft.)

Megalosaurus holds the distinction of being the first dinosaur to be officially named. English paleontologist Richard Owen used Megalosaurus, along with two other species, to introduce the concept of dinosaurs to the scientific community and the world.

Megalosaurus was a bipedal dinosaur that walked primarily on its hind legs. Its tail played a crucial role as a counterbalance, aiding in stability during locomotion. As a predator, Megalosaurus likely hunted various prey, including sauropods (long-necked dinosaurs) and stegosaurians (dinosaurs with distinctive plates and spikes). The specifics of its diet and hunting behaviors may vary, but it was well-suited for predation in the Jurassic period.

Eoraptor

Eoraptor
Eoraptor.
  • Dinosaur species: Theropod
  • Period in which it lived Middle Jurassic Period, 170 million years ago
  • Where found Argentina
  • Estimated length: (up to) 3 m

I apologize for any confusion, but there seems to be a factual error in your statement. Eoraptor is not an Australian dinosaur. It is an early dinosaur that lived during the Late Triassic Period, around 230 million years ago, in what is now Argentina. Eoraptor is considered one of the oldest known dinosaurs and holds significance in understanding the early evolution of dinosaurs. It is true that our knowledge of Eoraptor primarily comes from a single fossil find, specifically a partial leg bone discovered in 1991, rather than in 1966 as mentioned in your statement. Initially, the fossil was mistaken for a prehistoric turtle, but subsequent study and analysis led to its identification as a dinosaur.

Sarcosaurus

Sarcosaurus
Sarcosaurus.
  • Dinosaur species: Theropod
  • Period in which he lived Early Jurassic Period, 194 million years ago
  • Where found England
  • Estimated length: 5-6 m

Sarcosaurus, a predatory dinosaur, inhabited Britain during the Early Jurassic Period. Its name, derived from Greek, translates to ‘meat lizard,’ indicating its carnivorous diet and nature. Although our knowledge about Sarcosaurus is limited, it is primarily based on the discovery of a pelvis, a vertebra, and a fragment of a femur.

These skeletal remains provide valuable insights into the morphology and characteristics of Sarcosaurus. However, due to the scarcity of fossils, details about its appearance, behavior, and other aspects of its biology remain relatively unknown. As new discoveries and research emerge, our understanding of Sarcosaurus and its place in the Early Jurassic ecosystem may expand.

Stegosaurus

stegosaurus
Stegosaurus.
  • Dinosaur species: Stegosauria, Ornithischia
  • Period in which he lived Late Jurassic Period, 155-150 million years ago
  • Where it was found: Morrison Formation, western USA
  • Estimated length: 9 m 5-6 m (12-20 ft.)

The most distinctive feature of Stegosaurus is the two rows of large plates on its back. These could have been a defense against predators or a means of controlling the dinosaur’s body temperature.

The most remarkable characteristic of Stegosaurus is its two rows of prominent plates adorning its back. These plates are believed to have served multiple purposes. One proposed function is defense against predators, as the arrangement of plates could have presented a formidable and intimidating sight. Another hypothesis suggests that the plates played a role in thermoregulation, aiding in controlling the dinosaur’s body temperature by absorbing or dissipating heat. The large surface area of the plates and the network of blood vessels within them could have facilitated this thermal regulation. While the exact purpose of the plates is still a subject of scientific debate, they undoubtedly contribute to the distinctiveness and recognition of Stegosaurus.

Vulcanodon

Vulcanodon
Vulcanodon.
  • Dinosaur species: Sauropod
  • Period in which he lived Early Jurassic Period, 199-188 million years ago
  • Location Zimbabwe
  • Estimated length: 5 m (21 ft.)

Vulcanodon is indeed an early sauropodomorph dinosaur that lived during the Early Jurassic Period in what is now South Africa. However, there seems to be some confusion regarding the name and the association with volcanic rock and teeth.

The name Vulcanodon does not directly translate to ‘Vulcan tooth.’ The name Vulcanodon is derived from the Roman god of fire, Vulcan, and the Greek word “odon,” meaning tooth, which collectively refers to the location of the dinosaur’s discovery in the vicinity of the Godwanaland volcanic rocks.

Regarding the teeth associated with the Vulcanodon fossil, it appears that there was a subsequent realization that they did not belong to this specific dinosaur. It is not uncommon for paleontological discoveries to undergo revisions and updates as further research and analysis take place. As our understanding of dinosaurs and their fossil records evolves, scientists continuously refine their interpretations.

Therefore, while Vulcanodon remains an important early sauropodomorph dinosaur from South Africa, it is necessary to note that the association with volcanic rock and teeth is not accurate.