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Troodon

Updated on April 22, 2013

Troodon was a bird-like dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous period 75-65 million years ago. Discovered in 1855 and named in 1856 by Joseph Leidy an anatomy professor and paleontologist at the University of Pennsylvania, it was among the first dinosaurs discovered in North America. Its species ranged from as far north as Alaska and far south as Texas and New Mexico. Troodon has been classified as the smartest dinosaur discovered thus far with a brain to body ratio that is the highest among the dinosaurs. Equipped with large eyes and binocular vision it is thought that Troodon was a nocturnal hunter. It also had killing claws on both feet, similar to the dromaeosaurids but smaller in comparison. Troodon's name means "wounding tooth" for it's uniquely shaped dentition. The shape of Troodon's teeth indicate that it might have been omnivorous.

Troodon brain size compared to sauropod brain, note sauropods were much bigger than Troodon.
Troodon brain size compared to sauropod brain, note sauropods were much bigger than Troodon.

Troodon Brain cavity

Troodon had one of the largest known brains of any dinosaur, for its body mass (comparable to modern birds)Troodon's cerebrum-to-brain-volume scale was 31.5% to 63% of the way from a nonavian reptile ratio to a more avian design. This leads paleontologists to speculate that Troodon was extremely quick on it's feet, and the position of it's inner ear meant that it had excellent balance. With it's large eyes, and binocular vision it is believed that Troodon hunted at night, probably in a similar way to wolves or hyenas today but with a more bird-like appearance.

Various Troodon teeth
Various Troodon teeth

Diet

Some paleontologists believe Troodon was an omnivore, and only preyed on other animals on occasion. This is because some of Troodons teeth are leaf shaped like those of some herbivores. It was not very large although there have been exceptions including the discovery of morphologically similar teeth in Alaska. They were twice the size of Troodon teeth discovered in Montana, Wyoming, and Mexico. Due to it's generally small stature ranging from about 3-6 feet high, and 8-10 feet long, weighing in at about 90-120 pounds, Troodon was not well equipped for taking out large prey. That is unless they hunted in packs. But it is also likely that Troodon spent it's time looking for small mammals or reptiles to eat. It is conceivable to determine that Troodon would have exploited a variety of food sources within it's environment including, insects, and occasionally, berries and leaves. Scientists speculate that it used its long arms and grasping hands to seize live prey, which would have consisted of small animals. It also had a curious opposable thumb on it's three fingered clawed hands. This meant that it would be able to manipulate simple objects, probably not as efficiently as primate or human hands however.

Dale Russell's "Dinosauroid" with it's ancestor the Troodon.
Dale Russell's "Dinosauroid" with it's ancestor the Troodon.

The Dinosauroid

In 1982, curator of vertebrate fossils at the National Museum of Canada, Dr. Dale Russell presumed the possibility of a sapient dinosaur descended from Troodon that might have been taken the evolutionary niche that human beings fill today. Had it not died out after the KT extinction event 65 million years ago, Russell suggests that Troodon could have evolved into an intelligent being with a body plan comparable to modern humans. Russell's dinosauroid was considered too anthropomorphic and was criticized by many of his fellow paleontologists for it.

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    • ChrisIndellicati profile imageAUTHOR

      ChrisIndellicati 

      6 years ago from New York, NY

      How come they never talked about dinosaurs when I was in school? Anyway, happy to help :)

    • rutley profile image

      rutley 

      6 years ago from South Jersey

      This helps with my son's homework! Thanks so much!

    • ChrisIndellicati profile imageAUTHOR

      ChrisIndellicati 

      6 years ago from New York, NY

      LOL for real imagine waking up to one of those!

    • scottcgruber profile image

      scottcgruber 

      6 years ago from USA

      Yeesh! That dinosauroid is gonna give me nightmares tonight.

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