The Mesozoic Era is the middle stage of the Phanerozoic geological timeline—the era of recorded history before the present age. This period of time began roughly 252 million years ago, after the Paleozoic Era ended. The Mesozoic Era is also perhaps the most popular era from a cultural perspective, as it contained the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods. The Jurassic period is, of course, what inspired the wildly successful Jurassic Park book and film franchise. There are different types of Mesozoic era dinosaurs that children and adults alike are familiar with, a few of which we detail below.


The Triceratops was one of the largest plant-eating land animals of the late Cretaceous period. Contrary to popular belief, it technically only had two horns, not three—the third was a keratin point on its snout. Its skull was about one-third of its entire body and contained one of its most prominent features—the skull frill. This is the large, flat protrusion behind the Triceratops’ head and was speculated to be used for signaling other members of a herd.


The Deinonychus, also known as “terrible claw,” was another dinosaur from the early to late Cretaceous period. This creature used its many teeth, razor-sharp claws, and vicious speed to engage in killing prey for a carnivorous diet. Deinonychus was also used as the real model for the Jurassic Park films’ velociraptors, which were dinosaur cousins of each other.


The Masiakasaurus was yet another type of Mesozoic era dinosaur that lived in the area now known as Madagascar. Its appearance was similar to that of the velociraptor and Tyrannosaurus rex, though it was smaller in size than both. Masiakasaurus had forward-projecting teeth and short forelimbs and was anywhere from six to six and a half feet long. It was a carnivorous dinosaur that fed on vertebrates, invertebrates, and potentially small fruits.

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