1997 32c Dinosaurs

# 3136 - 1997 32c Dinosaurs

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US #3136
1997 The World of Dinosaurs

  • 2nd US issue picturing dinosaurs (the first being the 1989 block of four)
  • Showcases 8 dinosaurs from the Jurassic Period and 7 from the Cretaceous


Stamp Category: 
Commemorative
Value:  32¢, First Class Mail Rate
First Day of Issue:  May 1, 1997
First Day City:  Grand Junction, Colorado
Quantity Issued:  219,000,000
Printed by:  Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd.
Printing Method:  Offset
Format:  Panes of 15 (Vertical and horizontal, laid out in 2 irregular groups, 8 in upper group, 7 in lower group)
Perforations:  11.1 x 11
Tagging:  Two large tagging blocks, one over the top eight stamps and one over the bottom seven stamps.  Tagging follows the odd shape of the perforations.

Why the stamp was issued:  Issued in hopes of capturing the attention of young people with a subject they might find interesting.

About the stamp design:  Stamps picture artwork by James Gurney of Rhinebeck, New York (best known as the author and illustrator of the Dinotopia books).  Originally to be four stamps, Gurney was later asked to do eight designs, then 10, and finally 15.  This was partially inspired by complaints USPS had received in the past about wasting paper on big souvenir sheets.  Gurney arranged the dinosaurs in two panoramic shots, one representing the Jurassic Period (150 million years ago) and the other representing the Cretaceous (75 million years ago).  The artist consulted with famous dinosaur expert Jack Horner as well as Michael Brett-Surman of the Smithsonian, Ken Carpenter of the Denver Museum of Natural History, and Phil Currie of the Royal Tyrell Museum of Paleontology in Alberta, Canada. 

Special design details:  In addition to offering suggestions for less-common dinosaur species, Gurney said “The scientists also provided me with lots of information about other creatures that would have shared the world with dinosaurs:  frogs, turtles, insects, crocodiles, pterosaurs, mammals, and birds – as well as the plants:  sequoias, cycads, tree ferns, and horsetails…  Recreating the full texture of this environment was very important to me.  Too often, illustrations give the impression that dinosaurs just trotted around on dry lakebeds looking grumpy while a volcano chugged away in the background.  In fact, their world was a rich and diverse ecosystem.  There were plenty of plants and animals that looked a lot like what you would find today in Florida.”

First Day City:  The World of Dinosaurs stamps were dedicated in a ceremony at the Museum of Western Colorado’s Dinosaur Valley Museum in Grand Junction, Colorado.  Grand Junction is known as the “Dinosaur Triangle” of western Colorado and northeastern Utah.  Many dinosaur fossils have been found in the area over the years.

Second Day Ceremony:  The second-day ceremony was held on May 2nd at the Berger Dinosaur Hall of the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana.  Consultant Jack Horner was the main speaker.  Horner’s famous long-time rival, Dr. Robert Bakker, had attended the first-day ceremony, making one wonder if, perhaps, Horner had decided not to attend in order to avoid him.

History the stamp represents:

Ceratosaurus
The terrifying Ceratosaurus was one of the meat-eating dinosaurs that lived during the long Mesozoic Era – also called the Age of Reptiles.  Throughout this time, dinosaurs dominated the land, sea, and sky.

Fossil records reveal that thousands of different kinds of dinosaurs existed.  They also show that some types lived during the entire 150 million years of the Mesozoic Era while others lived during only one or two of the periods into which the era is divided – the Triassic, the Jurassic, and the Cretaceous.  Each period is defined by the dominant life forms which were present, as well as by the appearance of new ones, because the Mesozoic Era witnessed enormous changes on Earth.

Ceratosaurus lived during the Jurassic Period.  As a meat eater, they belonged to a group called Theropoda, which means “beast footed.”  They were large animals with short, muscular necks which supported their big heads.  The jaws ran the length of the skull and were lined with huge, curved, serrated teeth.  Their powerful hind legs and short forearms were armed with terrible claws – effective for hunting and eating.  Like all theropods, Ceratosaurus walked on two legs, though probably not quickly due to their immense weight.

Camptosaurus
The Earth changed mightily during the 150 million years the dinosaurs ruled the planet.  In the early millenniums, Earth was warm and humid.  Tropical and semi-tropical plants such as cycads, ferns, horsetails, and pine trees were the dominant vegetation.  But in the Late Jurassic, the covered seeds of flowering plants appeared.  They became the dominant plant group during the Cretaceous Period and continue to be so today.

The plant-eating Camptosaurus appeared as the variety of vegetation was changing and increasing, and its body structure reflects this.  Camptosaurus was a medium-sized dinosaur that varied in length from 6-20 feet.  They were relatively primitive bipeds with strong hind limbs and heavy tails which supported their weight when they stood on two legs.  Though capable of walking on all fours, Camptosaurus preferred to forage for food while standing.

Camptosaurus had a long, massive skull.  And, like so many plant-eating dinosaurs, they had beak-like upper jaws which were longer than their lower jaw.  The tough beak was designed for pushing plant material into their mouths.  From there, the broad, leaf-shaped teeth on the sides of its mouth ground up the food before swallowing it.

Camarasaurus
Camarasaurus was one of the first more massive dinosaurs, attaining lengths up to 23 feet.  They were bigger because of a new and improved bone structure from previous dinosaurs.

Unlike its predecessors which had solid, dense bones, the Camarasaurus had hollow bones that were infinitely lighter.  Boney spikes along the top of its backbone anchored its powerful muscles, while sturdy, six-foot-long ribs stabilized its spine and protected its internal organs.  Thick legs and elephant-like feet placed squarely beneath its massive belly and huge frame supported Camarasaurus’s weight like pillars supporting a heavy roof.

The bones of Camarasaurus’s long neck and tail were special, too.  These “chevron” or Y-shaped bones, which were jointed for flexibility, hung on the underside of its neck and tail bones, firmly anchoring the bone and tissue together.  Powerful muscles offered additional support.

Though large, Camarasaurus had a small, snub-nosed skull and nostrils high on its head between its eyes.  Survival was chiefly a matter of shoveling the plentiful land and water plants into its mouth with spoon-like teeth.

Brachiosaurus
Mounted in a Berlin museum is a Brachiosaurus skeleton measuring 80 feet long and 39 feet high.  In life, the creature probably weighed 75 tons and was capable of holding its head 42 feet in the air.  At one point, Brachiosaurus was thought to be the largest land animal that ever lived.  But the discovery of a nine-foot-long shoulder blade bone suggests other dinosaurs, dubbed Ultra- and Supersaurus, attained lengths of over 100 feet and weights of 100 to 150 tons.

Brachiosaurus differed from other giant plant eaters in that its front legs were longer than its back legs, giving a head-to-tail slant to its backbone.  Like a giraffe, Brachiosaurus sought food in high places.  Food was plentiful during the Jurassic Period, a time when forests developed and spread.  And this giant creature needed a lot of it – three or more tons a day.

Like other massive plant-eating dinosaurs, the Brachiosaurus lived in herds which roamed about, browsing on vegetation.  Extremely slow moving, their main defense was their enormous size.  And although an Allosaurus may have tried to size a stray young one or sick adult, it would never attack a healthy, full-grown Brachiosaurus.

Goniopholis
Fifty-foot crocodiles with jaws six feet long have never been seen, but fossilized bones from these massive creatures have been found.  Gonipholis lived during the time of the dinosaurs and, except for its size, was probably much like crocodiles of today.

Ancestors of the Goniopholis first appeared during the late Triassic Period.  Since that time, this semi-aquatic predator has changed very little.  The long, low-bodied reptile was equipped with a powerful tail for swimming, horny plates to protect the rough skin on its back, and leathery scales covering its legs and belly.

Like modern-day crocodiles, its eyes were specially positioned on top of the skull, with the nostrils similarly located on the tip of the snout.  Both features allowed Goniopholis to move stealthily through the water almost completely submerged.  Perhaps its most distinguishing characteristic was its huge jaws, which rivaled those of the fierce Tyrannosaurus.

Modern types of crocodiles, closely resembling the Florida crocodile of today, appeared toward the end of the late Jurassic Period.  For reasons unknown, these prehistoric reptiles survived extinction.  And although the dinosaurs vanished, the crocodiles remained.

Stegosaurus
When first found, scientists named this creature Stegosaurus, or “Roof Lizard,” because they thought its plates were protective armor that laid flat on its back, much like the shingles on a roof.  Since then, scientists have determined that the plates ran vertically down the length of the spine.

Arranged alternately in a single row, the plates were thin an were also grooved and honeycombed with spaces.  These facts have led to the theory that, rather than merely a form of defense, the plates actually functioned like solar panels, regulating the animal’s body temperature.

A mid-sized, Late Jurassic animal, Stegosaurus grew to be 30 feet long and weighed about two tons.  At the hips, it stood as tall as 12 feet, with its back legs being nearly twice as long as the front.  Oddly shaped, Stegosaurus lumbered along with its nose almost touching the ground and its backside nearly eight feet in the air.

A peaceful herbivore, Stegosaurus’s main defense was its tail, which sported two pairs of foot-long spikes.  And, thanks to a special nerve center in its tailbone, it was able to whip this around most effectively.  For in its dangerous world, Stegosaurus could not wait for the nerve signals to travel 20 feet to its brain and back again to its tail.

Allosaurus
Allosaurus was the most feared carnivore of the Late Jurassic/Early Cretaceous period.  Its most frightening features were not its 40-foot length and two-ton weight, but rather the 52 razor-sharp teeth and five-inch-long scythe-like claws on its hands and feet.

Allosaurus was a well-designed killing machine.  It had exceptionally strong hind limbs and a massive pelvis.  When it attacked, its powerful muscles permitted it to leap and spin in the air with feet, arms, and claws extended in front of it.  With its limbs extended, Allosaurus’s 20-foot-long tail went rigid to help control its acrobatic movements.

Once its prey was down, Allosaurus used its teeth for tearing, not chewing, with inward curves ensuring its meal went down its throat and not a scrap was wasted.  Like a snake, Allosaurus’s hinged jaws expanded sideways to accommodate huge chunks of meat.

Though the herbivores on which Allosaurus fed were extremely plentiful (outnumbering them by 100 to 5), survival was not easy.  Besides feeding itself, Allosaurus also had to feed its young, which remained dependent not for days, but for years.  Had it not been for a keen sense of smell, binocular vision, greater intelligence, and cunning teamwork, Allosaurus would not have prospered.

Opisthias
More than 200 million years ago during the Triassic Period, a diverse group of lizards appeared which continued to develop throughout the Jurassic Period.  In time, an offshoot of these prehistoric reptiles went on to become the true lizards and snakes we know today.

The Opisthias however, remained virtually unchanged.  Its modern-day relative, the tuatara, is the only living link to this ancient group of reptiles.  Considered to be a close relative of the extinct dinosaurs, this lizard-like reptile is literally a living fossil.

Our world has changed drastically since the time of the dinosaurs.  During the early Triassic Period, the continents we know today once formed a giant land mass.  Dinosaurs and other reptiles, including the Opisthias, were able to wander freely over land connections between continents.  Today, however, the tuatara can only be found on a few islands off the coast of New Zealand.

Primitive-looking creatures with scaly, greenish-gray skin, tuataras grow slowly and do not mate until they are about 20 years old.  However, they also have an extremely long life span – some are known to have lived for as long as 77 years.  Rats introduced to the islands are a serious threat.  This unique reptile, which survived for millions of years, may now be in danger of extinction.

Edmontonia
Some of the best protected dinosaurs were the ankylosaurs.  Covered with thick bony plates, lumps, and spines, these formidable-looking creatures are considered to be the “armored tanks of the dinosaur world.”

An ankylosaur that lived during the Late Cretaceous Period, Edmontonia, was discovered in 1928 when famed dinosaur hunter Charles m. Sternberg identified a skeleton found at the Edmonton (now Horseshoe Canyon) Formation in Alberta, Canada.  Hence its unusual name.

Edmontonia existed at a time when fierce predators terrorized the land.  And although it was lacking in brain power, it was well endowed with bony armor.  Studs and plates fused together covered its back and tail – forming a single plate that was thick, tough, heavy, and impenetrable.  Fearsome shoulder and flank spikes completed this protective covering.

Because its vulnerable spot was his soft underbelly, Edmontia, like other ankylosaurs, crouched down and played dead when danger threatened.  Predators could try flipping it over on its back, but its well-armored body and protective spikes made this a difficult task.  And since carnivores avoided injuries whenever possible, they would attack only when easier prey wasn’t available.

Einiosaurus
One of the last main groups of dinosaurs to appear were the ceratopsians or horned dinosaurs.  These formidable-looking creatures were equipped with enormous frills and fearsome horns.  In fact, fully a third of their length was devoted to their long skulls and solid bone frills.  Later ceratopsians frequently attained a length of 25 feet and a weight of 5 tons – certainly enough bulk to put lethal thrust behind their horns, which could be three feet in length.

A newcomer to the dinosaur line-up, Einiosaurus, was discovered in 1986.  But it wasn’t until 1995 that the public first learned about the “buffalo lizard.”  Like other ceratopsians, eh was a dangerous-looking creature, sporting two long spikes on the back of his frill and a nose horn which curved forward like a can opener.

Fossilized footprints suggest the Einiosaurus and other horned dinosaurs lived in herds.  When threatened by a predator, they undoubtedly gathered in a tight group with their young protected in the middle.  Facing outward, they presented a massive wall of sharp spikes.  And certainly, given their size, their sharp horns were strategically positioned for delivering belly wounds to the likes of Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Daspletosaurus
When Daspletosaurus was found in Alberta, Canada, it looked very much like Tyrannosaurus Rex, the mightiest carnivore that ever lived.  It turned out that it was a close relative – just a smaller version.

Though smaller, Daspletosaurus was a terrifying creature in its own right, measuring 30 feet long and weighing between 3 and 4 tons (in contrast to Tyrannosaurus’s 50-foot length and 7 tons).  It had bird-like feet with three long, taloned toes pointing forward, and a small dewclaw pointing backward for balance.  Daspletosaurus often sat upright on its tail, letting its keen sense of smell and hawk-like eyes detect the presence and location of prey.  It walked and ran on its hind legs, using its short, virtually useless forelimbs to help get up from a lying down position.

Like its predecessor Allosaurus, Daspletosaurus had a massive head complete with razor-sharp teeth, hinged jaws, and powerful jaw muscles.  Large eye sockets and nasal passages suggest that it had the eyesight of a hawk and the nose of a bloodhound – essential tools for survival.  Some paleontologists believe Daspletosaurus, along with its relatives, was too ungainly to hunt successfully, relying instead on scavenging.  Others argue that a creature so equipped was no double a fierce hunter.

Palaeosaniwa
During the Triassic Period, early reptiles began to appear.  Able to successfully adapt to deserts, swamps, forests, grasslands, rivers, lakes, and even the seas, they continued to thrive through the Mesozoic Era.

Although dinosaurs dominated this prehistoric period, they shared their world with a variety of creatures, including a number of reptiles which still exist today.  Like the Gonipholis and Opisthias, the Palaeosaniwa – a prehistoric relative of the Komodo dragon – changed remarkably little during that time.

Literally a “living fossil,” the Komodo dragon is found on the island of Komodo and other islands of Indonesia.  The largest living lizard, it can grow to be more than 10 feet long, and when threatened will puff up its body in order to look larger.  Extremely strong, Komodo dragons can overpower small deer, wild pigs, and even water buffalo.

Scientists are still uncertain why several species of reptiles, including the Palaeosaniwa, survived when the great dinosaurs died out.  Millions of years later, however, the Komodo dragon teeters on the brink of extinction.  Programs to control overhunting of the animals on which it preys are the only hope of survival for this ancient reptile.

Corythosaurus
Dinosaurs came in all shapes and sizes during their long evolutionary journey.  In heads alone, there was a huge diversity – many sporting unusual lumps, bumps, crests, and bony spikes.  Corythosaurus got its name from the helmet-like crest on its head.  As a hadrosaur, it was a Late Cretaceous dinosaur, a group distinguished by duckbills and strangely decorated heads.

Corythosaurus was a mid-sized dinosaur, ranging from 18-33 feet long and weighing 2-4 tons.  Because it had a pebble-like, armorless skin, these dinosaurs herded with their own kind, relying on keen eyes, ears, and sense of smell of the group for detecting danger.  At the warning signal, the group would stampede away, running on two legs as fast as possible.

Like other hadrosaurs, Corythosaurus was a plant eater.  And though its duckbill was toothless, it had lots of teeth – in fact, hadrosaurs had more teeth than any other dinosaur group.  With their duckbills, they ingested twigs, leaves, and pine needles.  As the vegetation moved toward the throat, as many as 200 sharp, diamond-shaped teeth set in multiple rows along the back of their jaws ground the food, much like a modern vegetable grater.  Because these teeth would frequently wear down, new ones continually emerged to replace them.

Ornithomimus
Watch an ostrich run, mentally change the feathers to small arms, and you might be watching an Ornithomimus of the Cretaceous period.

Ornithomimus was a small dinosaur, although certainly not the smallest.  He measured between 8 and 15 feet long, two thirds of which was neck and tail.  He had a small head, a horny beak, and toothless jaw.  Nevertheless, he was an omnivore who ate fruit, small reptiles, insects, and the eggs of other dinosaurs.

With claws unsuited for defense or attack, survival depended on speed and intelligence.  As for speed, Ornithomimus was the “road runner” of the dinosaur world, capable of reaching 35 miles per hour.  Like all the fast-moving dinosaurs, its’ back legs and feet were long and slender.  It ran on its’ hind legs alone with its’ long neck stretched forward and tail stiffened for balancing.

Although its’ head was small, Ornithomimus had a large braincase and is considered one of the most intelligent dinosaurs.  It needed every ounce of intelligence when robbing the nests of the multi-ton giants, especially those that maintained communal nurseries.  Occasionally it tripped up and paid for it with its’ life.

Parasaurolophus
Some of the strangest Cretaceous creatures were a group of dinosaurs known as hadrosaurs.  Plant eaters with duckbilled snouts, these dinosaurs also sported unusual crests and helmets on top of their heads.  One of the most remarkable of these crests belonged to Parasaurolophus.

Like other hadrosaurs, Parasaurolophus had powerful jaws lined with a spectacular array of diamond-shaped teeth which were used to grind the leaves of the conifer trees on which he fed.  Believed to have attained a length of 30 to 33 feet and a weight of four to five tons, he walked upright on his hind legs, using his flat, broad tail to rest on while browsing.  But the long, curved, bony tube which protruded back from his head set the Parasaurolophus apart.

When scientists cut the crest open, they discovered that it had several air passages connected to the nostrils.  By forcing air through the passages, a bellowing noise was created, causing some scientists to believe this crest was used as a resonator to sound alarms and attract mates.  Others have suggested that the crest served as a defense mechanism, allowing the Parasaurolophus to spray a heated, chemical vapor, much as a bombardier beetle does today.

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US #3136
1997 The World of Dinosaurs

  • 2nd US issue picturing dinosaurs (the first being the 1989 block of four)
  • Showcases 8 dinosaurs from the Jurassic Period and 7 from the Cretaceous


Stamp Category: 
Commemorative
Value:  32¢, First Class Mail Rate
First Day of Issue:  May 1, 1997
First Day City:  Grand Junction, Colorado
Quantity Issued:  219,000,000
Printed by:  Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd.
Printing Method:  Offset
Format:  Panes of 15 (Vertical and horizontal, laid out in 2 irregular groups, 8 in upper group, 7 in lower group)
Perforations:  11.1 x 11
Tagging:  Two large tagging blocks, one over the top eight stamps and one over the bottom seven stamps.  Tagging follows the odd shape of the perforations.

Why the stamp was issued:  Issued in hopes of capturing the attention of young people with a subject they might find interesting.

About the stamp design:  Stamps picture artwork by James Gurney of Rhinebeck, New York (best known as the author and illustrator of the Dinotopia books).  Originally to be four stamps, Gurney was later asked to do eight designs, then 10, and finally 15.  This was partially inspired by complaints USPS had received in the past about wasting paper on big souvenir sheets.  Gurney arranged the dinosaurs in two panoramic shots, one representing the Jurassic Period (150 million years ago) and the other representing the Cretaceous (75 million years ago).  The artist consulted with famous dinosaur expert Jack Horner as well as Michael Brett-Surman of the Smithsonian, Ken Carpenter of the Denver Museum of Natural History, and Phil Currie of the Royal Tyrell Museum of Paleontology in Alberta, Canada. 

Special design details:  In addition to offering suggestions for less-common dinosaur species, Gurney said “The scientists also provided me with lots of information about other creatures that would have shared the world with dinosaurs:  frogs, turtles, insects, crocodiles, pterosaurs, mammals, and birds – as well as the plants:  sequoias, cycads, tree ferns, and horsetails…  Recreating the full texture of this environment was very important to me.  Too often, illustrations give the impression that dinosaurs just trotted around on dry lakebeds looking grumpy while a volcano chugged away in the background.  In fact, their world was a rich and diverse ecosystem.  There were plenty of plants and animals that looked a lot like what you would find today in Florida.”

First Day City:  The World of Dinosaurs stamps were dedicated in a ceremony at the Museum of Western Colorado’s Dinosaur Valley Museum in Grand Junction, Colorado.  Grand Junction is known as the “Dinosaur Triangle” of western Colorado and northeastern Utah.  Many dinosaur fossils have been found in the area over the years.

Second Day Ceremony:  The second-day ceremony was held on May 2nd at the Berger Dinosaur Hall of the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana.  Consultant Jack Horner was the main speaker.  Horner’s famous long-time rival, Dr. Robert Bakker, had attended the first-day ceremony, making one wonder if, perhaps, Horner had decided not to attend in order to avoid him.

History the stamp represents:

Ceratosaurus
The terrifying Ceratosaurus was one of the meat-eating dinosaurs that lived during the long Mesozoic Era – also called the Age of Reptiles.  Throughout this time, dinosaurs dominated the land, sea, and sky.

Fossil records reveal that thousands of different kinds of dinosaurs existed.  They also show that some types lived during the entire 150 million years of the Mesozoic Era while others lived during only one or two of the periods into which the era is divided – the Triassic, the Jurassic, and the Cretaceous.  Each period is defined by the dominant life forms which were present, as well as by the appearance of new ones, because the Mesozoic Era witnessed enormous changes on Earth.

Ceratosaurus lived during the Jurassic Period.  As a meat eater, they belonged to a group called Theropoda, which means “beast footed.”  They were large animals with short, muscular necks which supported their big heads.  The jaws ran the length of the skull and were lined with huge, curved, serrated teeth.  Their powerful hind legs and short forearms were armed with terrible claws – effective for hunting and eating.  Like all theropods, Ceratosaurus walked on two legs, though probably not quickly due to their immense weight.

Camptosaurus
The Earth changed mightily during the 150 million years the dinosaurs ruled the planet.  In the early millenniums, Earth was warm and humid.  Tropical and semi-tropical plants such as cycads, ferns, horsetails, and pine trees were the dominant vegetation.  But in the Late Jurassic, the covered seeds of flowering plants appeared.  They became the dominant plant group during the Cretaceous Period and continue to be so today.

The plant-eating Camptosaurus appeared as the variety of vegetation was changing and increasing, and its body structure reflects this.  Camptosaurus was a medium-sized dinosaur that varied in length from 6-20 feet.  They were relatively primitive bipeds with strong hind limbs and heavy tails which supported their weight when they stood on two legs.  Though capable of walking on all fours, Camptosaurus preferred to forage for food while standing.

Camptosaurus had a long, massive skull.  And, like so many plant-eating dinosaurs, they had beak-like upper jaws which were longer than their lower jaw.  The tough beak was designed for pushing plant material into their mouths.  From there, the broad, leaf-shaped teeth on the sides of its mouth ground up the food before swallowing it.

Camarasaurus
Camarasaurus was one of the first more massive dinosaurs, attaining lengths up to 23 feet.  They were bigger because of a new and improved bone structure from previous dinosaurs.

Unlike its predecessors which had solid, dense bones, the Camarasaurus had hollow bones that were infinitely lighter.  Boney spikes along the top of its backbone anchored its powerful muscles, while sturdy, six-foot-long ribs stabilized its spine and protected its internal organs.  Thick legs and elephant-like feet placed squarely beneath its massive belly and huge frame supported Camarasaurus’s weight like pillars supporting a heavy roof.

The bones of Camarasaurus’s long neck and tail were special, too.  These “chevron” or Y-shaped bones, which were jointed for flexibility, hung on the underside of its neck and tail bones, firmly anchoring the bone and tissue together.  Powerful muscles offered additional support.

Though large, Camarasaurus had a small, snub-nosed skull and nostrils high on its head between its eyes.  Survival was chiefly a matter of shoveling the plentiful land and water plants into its mouth with spoon-like teeth.

Brachiosaurus
Mounted in a Berlin museum is a Brachiosaurus skeleton measuring 80 feet long and 39 feet high.  In life, the creature probably weighed 75 tons and was capable of holding its head 42 feet in the air.  At one point, Brachiosaurus was thought to be the largest land animal that ever lived.  But the discovery of a nine-foot-long shoulder blade bone suggests other dinosaurs, dubbed Ultra- and Supersaurus, attained lengths of over 100 feet and weights of 100 to 150 tons.

Brachiosaurus differed from other giant plant eaters in that its front legs were longer than its back legs, giving a head-to-tail slant to its backbone.  Like a giraffe, Brachiosaurus sought food in high places.  Food was plentiful during the Jurassic Period, a time when forests developed and spread.  And this giant creature needed a lot of it – three or more tons a day.

Like other massive plant-eating dinosaurs, the Brachiosaurus lived in herds which roamed about, browsing on vegetation.  Extremely slow moving, their main defense was their enormous size.  And although an Allosaurus may have tried to size a stray young one or sick adult, it would never attack a healthy, full-grown Brachiosaurus.

Goniopholis
Fifty-foot crocodiles with jaws six feet long have never been seen, but fossilized bones from these massive creatures have been found.  Gonipholis lived during the time of the dinosaurs and, except for its size, was probably much like crocodiles of today.

Ancestors of the Goniopholis first appeared during the late Triassic Period.  Since that time, this semi-aquatic predator has changed very little.  The long, low-bodied reptile was equipped with a powerful tail for swimming, horny plates to protect the rough skin on its back, and leathery scales covering its legs and belly.

Like modern-day crocodiles, its eyes were specially positioned on top of the skull, with the nostrils similarly located on the tip of the snout.  Both features allowed Goniopholis to move stealthily through the water almost completely submerged.  Perhaps its most distinguishing characteristic was its huge jaws, which rivaled those of the fierce Tyrannosaurus.

Modern types of crocodiles, closely resembling the Florida crocodile of today, appeared toward the end of the late Jurassic Period.  For reasons unknown, these prehistoric reptiles survived extinction.  And although the dinosaurs vanished, the crocodiles remained.

Stegosaurus
When first found, scientists named this creature Stegosaurus, or “Roof Lizard,” because they thought its plates were protective armor that laid flat on its back, much like the shingles on a roof.  Since then, scientists have determined that the plates ran vertically down the length of the spine.

Arranged alternately in a single row, the plates were thin an were also grooved and honeycombed with spaces.  These facts have led to the theory that, rather than merely a form of defense, the plates actually functioned like solar panels, regulating the animal’s body temperature.

A mid-sized, Late Jurassic animal, Stegosaurus grew to be 30 feet long and weighed about two tons.  At the hips, it stood as tall as 12 feet, with its back legs being nearly twice as long as the front.  Oddly shaped, Stegosaurus lumbered along with its nose almost touching the ground and its backside nearly eight feet in the air.

A peaceful herbivore, Stegosaurus’s main defense was its tail, which sported two pairs of foot-long spikes.  And, thanks to a special nerve center in its tailbone, it was able to whip this around most effectively.  For in its dangerous world, Stegosaurus could not wait for the nerve signals to travel 20 feet to its brain and back again to its tail.

Allosaurus
Allosaurus was the most feared carnivore of the Late Jurassic/Early Cretaceous period.  Its most frightening features were not its 40-foot length and two-ton weight, but rather the 52 razor-sharp teeth and five-inch-long scythe-like claws on its hands and feet.

Allosaurus was a well-designed killing machine.  It had exceptionally strong hind limbs and a massive pelvis.  When it attacked, its powerful muscles permitted it to leap and spin in the air with feet, arms, and claws extended in front of it.  With its limbs extended, Allosaurus’s 20-foot-long tail went rigid to help control its acrobatic movements.

Once its prey was down, Allosaurus used its teeth for tearing, not chewing, with inward curves ensuring its meal went down its throat and not a scrap was wasted.  Like a snake, Allosaurus’s hinged jaws expanded sideways to accommodate huge chunks of meat.

Though the herbivores on which Allosaurus fed were extremely plentiful (outnumbering them by 100 to 5), survival was not easy.  Besides feeding itself, Allosaurus also had to feed its young, which remained dependent not for days, but for years.  Had it not been for a keen sense of smell, binocular vision, greater intelligence, and cunning teamwork, Allosaurus would not have prospered.

Opisthias
More than 200 million years ago during the Triassic Period, a diverse group of lizards appeared which continued to develop throughout the Jurassic Period.  In time, an offshoot of these prehistoric reptiles went on to become the true lizards and snakes we know today.

The Opisthias however, remained virtually unchanged.  Its modern-day relative, the tuatara, is the only living link to this ancient group of reptiles.  Considered to be a close relative of the extinct dinosaurs, this lizard-like reptile is literally a living fossil.

Our world has changed drastically since the time of the dinosaurs.  During the early Triassic Period, the continents we know today once formed a giant land mass.  Dinosaurs and other reptiles, including the Opisthias, were able to wander freely over land connections between continents.  Today, however, the tuatara can only be found on a few islands off the coast of New Zealand.

Primitive-looking creatures with scaly, greenish-gray skin, tuataras grow slowly and do not mate until they are about 20 years old.  However, they also have an extremely long life span – some are known to have lived for as long as 77 years.  Rats introduced to the islands are a serious threat.  This unique reptile, which survived for millions of years, may now be in danger of extinction.

Edmontonia
Some of the best protected dinosaurs were the ankylosaurs.  Covered with thick bony plates, lumps, and spines, these formidable-looking creatures are considered to be the “armored tanks of the dinosaur world.”

An ankylosaur that lived during the Late Cretaceous Period, Edmontonia, was discovered in 1928 when famed dinosaur hunter Charles m. Sternberg identified a skeleton found at the Edmonton (now Horseshoe Canyon) Formation in Alberta, Canada.  Hence its unusual name.

Edmontonia existed at a time when fierce predators terrorized the land.  And although it was lacking in brain power, it was well endowed with bony armor.  Studs and plates fused together covered its back and tail – forming a single plate that was thick, tough, heavy, and impenetrable.  Fearsome shoulder and flank spikes completed this protective covering.

Because its vulnerable spot was his soft underbelly, Edmontia, like other ankylosaurs, crouched down and played dead when danger threatened.  Predators could try flipping it over on its back, but its well-armored body and protective spikes made this a difficult task.  And since carnivores avoided injuries whenever possible, they would attack only when easier prey wasn’t available.

Einiosaurus
One of the last main groups of dinosaurs to appear were the ceratopsians or horned dinosaurs.  These formidable-looking creatures were equipped with enormous frills and fearsome horns.  In fact, fully a third of their length was devoted to their long skulls and solid bone frills.  Later ceratopsians frequently attained a length of 25 feet and a weight of 5 tons – certainly enough bulk to put lethal thrust behind their horns, which could be three feet in length.

A newcomer to the dinosaur line-up, Einiosaurus, was discovered in 1986.  But it wasn’t until 1995 that the public first learned about the “buffalo lizard.”  Like other ceratopsians, eh was a dangerous-looking creature, sporting two long spikes on the back of his frill and a nose horn which curved forward like a can opener.

Fossilized footprints suggest the Einiosaurus and other horned dinosaurs lived in herds.  When threatened by a predator, they undoubtedly gathered in a tight group with their young protected in the middle.  Facing outward, they presented a massive wall of sharp spikes.  And certainly, given their size, their sharp horns were strategically positioned for delivering belly wounds to the likes of Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Daspletosaurus
When Daspletosaurus was found in Alberta, Canada, it looked very much like Tyrannosaurus Rex, the mightiest carnivore that ever lived.  It turned out that it was a close relative – just a smaller version.

Though smaller, Daspletosaurus was a terrifying creature in its own right, measuring 30 feet long and weighing between 3 and 4 tons (in contrast to Tyrannosaurus’s 50-foot length and 7 tons).  It had bird-like feet with three long, taloned toes pointing forward, and a small dewclaw pointing backward for balance.  Daspletosaurus often sat upright on its tail, letting its keen sense of smell and hawk-like eyes detect the presence and location of prey.  It walked and ran on its hind legs, using its short, virtually useless forelimbs to help get up from a lying down position.

Like its predecessor Allosaurus, Daspletosaurus had a massive head complete with razor-sharp teeth, hinged jaws, and powerful jaw muscles.  Large eye sockets and nasal passages suggest that it had the eyesight of a hawk and the nose of a bloodhound – essential tools for survival.  Some paleontologists believe Daspletosaurus, along with its relatives, was too ungainly to hunt successfully, relying instead on scavenging.  Others argue that a creature so equipped was no double a fierce hunter.

Palaeosaniwa
During the Triassic Period, early reptiles began to appear.  Able to successfully adapt to deserts, swamps, forests, grasslands, rivers, lakes, and even the seas, they continued to thrive through the Mesozoic Era.

Although dinosaurs dominated this prehistoric period, they shared their world with a variety of creatures, including a number of reptiles which still exist today.  Like the Gonipholis and Opisthias, the Palaeosaniwa – a prehistoric relative of the Komodo dragon – changed remarkably little during that time.

Literally a “living fossil,” the Komodo dragon is found on the island of Komodo and other islands of Indonesia.  The largest living lizard, it can grow to be more than 10 feet long, and when threatened will puff up its body in order to look larger.  Extremely strong, Komodo dragons can overpower small deer, wild pigs, and even water buffalo.

Scientists are still uncertain why several species of reptiles, including the Palaeosaniwa, survived when the great dinosaurs died out.  Millions of years later, however, the Komodo dragon teeters on the brink of extinction.  Programs to control overhunting of the animals on which it preys are the only hope of survival for this ancient reptile.

Corythosaurus
Dinosaurs came in all shapes and sizes during their long evolutionary journey.  In heads alone, there was a huge diversity – many sporting unusual lumps, bumps, crests, and bony spikes.  Corythosaurus got its name from the helmet-like crest on its head.  As a hadrosaur, it was a Late Cretaceous dinosaur, a group distinguished by duckbills and strangely decorated heads.

Corythosaurus was a mid-sized dinosaur, ranging from 18-33 feet long and weighing 2-4 tons.  Because it had a pebble-like, armorless skin, these dinosaurs herded with their own kind, relying on keen eyes, ears, and sense of smell of the group for detecting danger.  At the warning signal, the group would stampede away, running on two legs as fast as possible.

Like other hadrosaurs, Corythosaurus was a plant eater.  And though its duckbill was toothless, it had lots of teeth – in fact, hadrosaurs had more teeth than any other dinosaur group.  With their duckbills, they ingested twigs, leaves, and pine needles.  As the vegetation moved toward the throat, as many as 200 sharp, diamond-shaped teeth set in multiple rows along the back of their jaws ground the food, much like a modern vegetable grater.  Because these teeth would frequently wear down, new ones continually emerged to replace them.

Ornithomimus
Watch an ostrich run, mentally change the feathers to small arms, and you might be watching an Ornithomimus of the Cretaceous period.

Ornithomimus was a small dinosaur, although certainly not the smallest.  He measured between 8 and 15 feet long, two thirds of which was neck and tail.  He had a small head, a horny beak, and toothless jaw.  Nevertheless, he was an omnivore who ate fruit, small reptiles, insects, and the eggs of other dinosaurs.

With claws unsuited for defense or attack, survival depended on speed and intelligence.  As for speed, Ornithomimus was the “road runner” of the dinosaur world, capable of reaching 35 miles per hour.  Like all the fast-moving dinosaurs, its’ back legs and feet were long and slender.  It ran on its’ hind legs alone with its’ long neck stretched forward and tail stiffened for balancing.

Although its’ head was small, Ornithomimus had a large braincase and is considered one of the most intelligent dinosaurs.  It needed every ounce of intelligence when robbing the nests of the multi-ton giants, especially those that maintained communal nurseries.  Occasionally it tripped up and paid for it with its’ life.

Parasaurolophus
Some of the strangest Cretaceous creatures were a group of dinosaurs known as hadrosaurs.  Plant eaters with duckbilled snouts, these dinosaurs also sported unusual crests and helmets on top of their heads.  One of the most remarkable of these crests belonged to Parasaurolophus.

Like other hadrosaurs, Parasaurolophus had powerful jaws lined with a spectacular array of diamond-shaped teeth which were used to grind the leaves of the conifer trees on which he fed.  Believed to have attained a length of 30 to 33 feet and a weight of four to five tons, he walked upright on his hind legs, using his flat, broad tail to rest on while browsing.  But the long, curved, bony tube which protruded back from his head set the Parasaurolophus apart.

When scientists cut the crest open, they discovered that it had several air passages connected to the nostrils.  By forcing air through the passages, a bellowing noise was created, causing some scientists to believe this crest was used as a resonator to sound alarms and attract mates.  Others have suggested that the crest served as a defense mechanism, allowing the Parasaurolophus to spray a heated, chemical vapor, much as a bombardier beetle does today.