Primal bird, whose fossils were found in the upper Jurassic (circa 150 millions of years ago) in Germany. It has teeth, clawed fingers, a long boned tail and feathers on the inferior part of the body. It was considered for a long time the oldest bird.

Binomial nomenclature

Conventional system used to denote the species, it was introduced by C.N. Linneus in 1753-58 and it is used in Biology and scientific disciplines (Paleontology included). Each species is named through a combination of two names.

The first name refers to the Gender to which the species belongs and the second refers to the identification name of the Species. Both are conventionally written in Latin and in italic. The generic name starts with a capitol letter, the second name with a lowercase letter. For example, in Tyrannosaurus rex, Tyrannosaurus is the name of the Gender, rex is the identification name of the Species among the ones included by the same Gender, Tyrannosaurus (if it would come to include other species, for example, Tyrannosaurus bataar).

If the name has been already cited once, you can shorten it in T. rex; the shortening T-rex is not correct but is a vulgarization introduced in spoken English and adopted by other cultures.


First age of upper Cretaceous, it goes from 100,5 to 93,9 millions of years ago. It is named after the Cenomans, gallic population settled nearby the city of Le Mans, France. At the end of this period the sea reached his highest level of the last 540 millions of years (at least 150 m above the actual level). Therefore, there was a mass extinction and a lot of species disappeared, for example the ichtyosaurus.


Similar to a fence. “Chiostra of teeth” refers to a double arch (upper and lower) of the teeth.


The reproduction of a living being identical to another one, starting off from a single cell.


Ritual attitude acted by animals to communicate their availability to procreate.


Period of the Mesozoical Era placed between Jurassic and Paleogene, extended from 145 to 66 millions of years ago. It thus means it lasted 79 millions of years.

Divided in lower Cretaceous (145 -100,5 millions years ago) and upper Cretaceous (10,5 – 66 millions years ago).

The lower Cretaceous is divided into six ages: Berriasian, Valanginian, Hauterivian, Barremian, Aptian and Albian.

The upper Cretaceous is divided too into six ages: Cenomanian, Turonian, Conician, Santonian, Campanian and Maastrichtian.

At the end of the Cretaceous there was a big mass extinction caused by the impact of a meteorite which landed in Yucatan, Mexico. The landing of the meteorite caused the extinction of all non avian dinosaurs, marine reptiles (Plesiosaurs and Mosasaurs), pterosaurs and many other groups of marine organisms such as Ammonites and Rudists. After this period the land was populated by mammals.



Short for deoxyribonucleic acid, it is a nucleic acid made of a spiral molecule. DNA contains the genetic code of all organisms and it is in charge of transmitting genetic information.

Eye socket

The cavity in the skull which encloses an eyeball with its surrounding muscles.


Fossils are what remain of the life during the geological era. The findings of historical ages are not considered fossils; they are archaeological objects whereas the fossils are the object of study of Paleontology.

The fossilization process is complex and there are several kinds of fossils. Fossilization is quite an unique event: most part of animals and plants don’t leave any trace of their existence.
Usually, the hard parts of the organisms fossilize more easily than the soft ones (skin, muscles, etc.). The hard shells of the shellfishes and other invertebrates, the techae of the sea urchins, the corals, the tallia of the calcareous seaweeds, the bones and teeth of the vertebrates are more frequently preserved.
The leaves and wooden parts of vegetals are preserved only under particular circumstances. The tracks or other organisms’ activities -of both vertebrates and invertebrates- inside and on not-yet-fully-hardened deposits are quite frequent too. Eggs, feces (called coprolites) and trees’ resin (the amber) rarely fossilize. Fossils enable the paleontologist to reconstruct the organisms that lived in the past, their habits, the modifications they underwent and thus their evolution.

Geological time

The geological Time is divided, for practical motives, in a hierarchic way. These divisions of the geological time have a precise meaning. To confuse an Era with a Period is the same as to change a month for a year.

There are three big main breaks in geological time, the Aeons, respectively from the most ancient to the most recent: Archean, Proterozoic and Phanerozoic.

The Aeons are divided into Eras. The Phanerozoic Aeon is divided into the Paleozoic Era (from 541 to 252,17 millions of years ago), Mesozoic Era (from 252,17 to 66 millions of years ago) and Cenozoic Era (the last 66 millions of years).

The Eras are divided into Periods, time’s gaps that lasted variably from 21 to 80 millions of years. The Quaternary Period is an exception, it started circa 2,5 millions of years ago and it is still going on.

The Periods are divided in Ages. For example, the Maastrichtian Age of the Cretacean Period of the Mesozoic Era is the time gap that goes from 72,1 to 66 millions of years ago. Absolute datings are not completely firm, this means that they can vary a little year after year giving the progress of dating techniques; the dating of the end of the Mesozoic Era for example, is gone from 65 to the actual 65,5 millions of years.


A system in which members of an organization or society are ranked according to relative status or authority.


Group of hornitopods dinosaurs (Higuanodontia) that includes primitive forms (such as Rhabdodontids and Tenontosaurus) and Driomorphes. These group Driosaurids and Ankylopollexia. Among the Ankylopollexia there are the Camptosaurus and the Styracosterna. Iguanodonts ad Adrosaurids (from Hadrosauridae, the “dinosaurs with duck beak”) belong to Styracosterna. Thus, they are advanced forms of Iguanodontians.

Lambe Lawrence M.

Canadian paleontologist (1863-1919). He named the Gorgosaurus, Euoplocephalus, Panoplosaurus, Edmontosaurus, Gryposaurus, Stegoceras, Centrosaurus, Styracosaurus and Chasmosaurus.

Marsh Othniel Charles

US paleontologist (Lockport, 1831 – New Haven, 1899). He became paleontologist at the University of Yale because his rich uncle created a Museum of paleontology in that university. He named the Ceratosaurus, Allosaurus, Coelurus, Dryptosaurus, Ornithomimus, Ammosaurus, Anchisaurus, Diplodocus, Apatosaurus, Barosaurus, Pleurocoelus, Stegosaurus, Nodosaurus, Dryosaurus, Camptosaurus, Claosaurus, Triceratops and Torosaurus.


Central-Asian country without sea access, It borders on Russia and on China.

New Mexico

US State, north of Mexico and Texas, south of Colorado. It has a little more than two millions inhabitants and a surface of 315.195 Km2 (1,04 times of Italy). It is crossed longitudinally by the Rocky Mountains.


Region of the skeleton placed nearby the sacred bone. Through it, the weight of the animal is distributed throughout the back limbs. It is composed by iliac bones, sciatic bones and pubic bones and a lot of muscles are attached to it.

South Dakota

U.S. State, north of Nebraska and south of North Dakota. It has a little more than 883.354 inhabitants and a surface of circa 200.000 Km2. It is mostly made of flatlands and low hills and it also has the Black Hills, with peaks that exceed 2000 m of altitude.

Sternberg Charles Hazelius

Professional fossil researcher from the US (Cooperstown, 1850 – Toronto, 1943). He has searched for fossils in the U.S. and in Canada. Even his sons George Fryer, Charles Mortram and Levi became paleontologist and fossil researchers. His family discovered the famous “mummies” of Edmontosaurus in Wyoming.

Wealden Clay

South England rocky formation that originated from the deposition of sediments (above all clay, mud and sand) in a continental environment or during the transiction between continent and marine environment.

It is thick 460 m at its maximum. It’s dated to the loer Cretaceous (circa 130-125 millions of years ago) and it provided important dinosaurs’ findings



Barnum Brown

US paleontologist (Carbondale, 1879 – New York, 1963). He discovered the first specimen of Tyrannosaurus Rex and named the Dromaeosaurus, Ankylosaurus, Prosaurolophus, Saurolophus, Corythosaurus, Hypacrosaurus, Pachycephalosaurus, Leptoceratops and Anchiceratops.


Meat-eating animal (opposite of herbivore or omnivore)

Cervical ribs

Ribs attached to cervical vertebras, those of the neck.


Result of ranking, it means to categorise objects according to specific criterions. In paleontology, it refers to the institution of a hierarchic system where the organisms are placed. The Linnean Classification is the distinction of the hierarchic categories: Reign, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Gender and Species.


From the greek Kopros (dung) and Lithos (stone), it identifies a fossil excrement  indipendently from its dimensions or author. Usually, it is made of little carbonaceous masses or calcium phosphate but the original matter can be replaced by a lot of other minerals too.


Head skeletal structure typical of the vertebrates which are called craniates for this reason.


In paleontology it is the placement of a fossil in a classification categoryIn particular, it is the identification of the species (or other upper category) to which an object belongs to.



Community of organisms who interact with each other and with a specific environment (for example the marine ecosystem is the community of organisms that live in the sea).


Animal condition consisting of having teeth of different shapes.



In geological terminology it means a rocky set-up, composed by one or more types of rock, which is clearly distinguishable from others found nearby.
This set-up has to be quite wide, so that it can be mapped on a geological map.

For example, Hell Creek Formation is a rocky set-up made of sandstones, clays and mudstones derived from deposits predominantly laid by rivers in the flatland between the Rocky Mountains and the internal sea which cut longitudinally North America at the end of the Cretaceous. It is in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming.



The study of the transmission of inherited characteristics through the genes.

Hell Creek Formation

Geological formation in Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota (USA).
It originated during upper Maastrichtian (upper Cretaceus) between 68 and 66 millions of years ago.
t collects many dinosaurs including Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops, Edmontosaurus, Ankylosaurus and Pachycephalosaurus.



Bone or tissue structure placed on the head of tetrapods. It can have different shapes but it is usually conic or branched.


Bony structure of the head divided into two parts that can or cannot be united and that brings to the cranium. Usually, it may or may not contains the teeth.



The last period of the Cretaceous, it goes from 72 to 66 millions of years ago. It is named after the dutch city Maastricht where, nearby, a geological section was discovered. At the end of this period there was a mass extinction and lots of species disappeared.


Artificial copy of an object. In the case of dinosaurs, it means copies or replicas of bones and teeth, once made predominantly of chalk. Today, lighter and less fragile synthetic materials replaced it.


An organism that eats dead or decaying flesh. It is opposed to the “predator” which prefers to kill and eat its preys.


Bone formation of variable dimension, generally plaque, conic or of semispheric shape originated inside the skin. More osteoderms can form a real shell.


Following the Linnean classification of the Vertebrates, it’s an Order that includes all the Amniotes which are not Birds or Mammals.



The biological species (according to Mayr’s definition in 1942) is the group of population, built by inter-fruitful individuals in natural conditions, who generates fruitful children. In Paleontology, on the other hand, this definition cannot be used because it is not possible to ascertain the inter-fruitfulness of animals died millions of years ago.

Thus, the concept of morphologic species is used, based on morphological characteristic found in fossils. It is a subjective definition, above all based on minimal morphological differences that could be due to the normal variability of character among individuals of the same population.




It refers to a structure (horn, crest, etc.) situated above the orbit of the eye, the cranial cavityv which contains the eyeballs.


The last Age of Jurassic, it goes from 152,1 to  circa 145 millions of years ago. It lasted 7,1 millions of years.
It is named after the greek god Titone, who was in love with the goddess Aurora (which means Dawn, because this is the dawn of Cretaceous). During this age some of the most important fossiliferous sites with dinosaurs were created.


Synonyme of “physique”, meaning robust build. More specifically, it is used to indicate the internal volume of a ship.

Varano lizard

Scaled reptile from the Varanide Family common in Africa, Asia and Australia. The Varanids vary in length, when adult, from 20 cm to beyond three meters and they are predominantly carnivores.


Backbone’s constitutive elements, the structure which constitutes the load-bearing axis  of  the body of each vertebrate. In the dinosaur, it is made of an inferior cylindrical part, called vertebral center, and of a superior part called neural arch. This last is crossed at the basis by the neural channel where the spinal cord passes. From the neural arch, protrudes, generally upside, the neural spine. The vertebrae of the neck are called cervical vertebrae (they can or cannot bring to cervical ribs), those of the torso, the ones which are attached to the ribs, are called dorsal vertebrae whereas those of the torso which are not attached to ribs are called lumbar vertebrae. The vertebrae linked to the pelvis are the sacral ones and those of the tail are the caudals.