Did dinosaurs migrate between species?
Dinosaurs in Germany
In 1834 Johann Friedrich Engelhardt was the first to come across the remains of a dinosaur in Germany. The species, baptized three years later by Hermann von Meyer under the name Plateosaurus engelhardti, was only the fifth described dinosaur worldwide.
Plateosaurus was not only discovered early, it lived over 200 million years ago at the end of the Triassic, making it one of the older dinosaurs. Plateosaurus had a giraffe-like neck and was up to ten meters long.
This makes him one of the prosauropods, which later became the largest dinosaurs, the sauropods: long-necked herbivores, some of which were 30 to 40 meters long.
Complete for the first time
The Compsognathus fossil found in 1859 was the world's first complete dinosaur skeleton. Like the remains of the famous Archeopteryx, it comes from the Solnhof limestone.
Despite his short body length of 80 centimeters, Compsognathus was probably extremely fast on the move. British researchers have used a computer model to determine a top speed of 64 kilometers per hour - much faster than the nimble velociraptors and also than the much larger ostriches of today.
For a long time, the small, bird-like Compsognathus was considered the smallest dinosaur and the closest relative of the ancient bird Archeopteryx. In the last decades of the 20th century, however, even smaller, more bird-like species were discovered in China.
Sickle claws in Europe
Other, much more dangerous predatory dinosaurs were also up to mischief in Germany. Fossil footprints in Obernkirchen, Lower Saxony, are the first evidence of the existence of sickle-clawed dinosaurs in Europe. Colloquially, this group is often referred to as "raptors".
Characteristic of these robbers is a folded-up claw on the hind legs as a hunting weapon. The traces of Lower Saxony probably come from the waist-high Troodon. This species probably also fed on plants and was not quite as terrible a hunter as its notorious relatives: the Velociraptor and the Deinonychus ("Dread Claw").
Tyrannosaurus Rex, the most popular and perhaps also the most dangerous dinosaur of the Cretaceous period, left no traces in Germany or Europe. But its predecessor, the Allosaurus. It lived around 150 million years ago and is considered the T-Rex of the Jura: it was up to eleven meters long and weighed two tons.
The allosaurs probably fed on gigantic sauropods, which they might even hunt in packs. There are also traces of other huge carnivores in Germany.
Liliensternus was a predator up to seven meters long from the early days of the dinosaurs between 215 and 200 million years ago. Dinosaur tracks in Barkhausen in Lower Saxony point to other large predatory dinosaurs.
Perhaps they came from a Megalosaurus: a predator nearly ten meters long, about whom little is known, although it is the first ever described dinosaur.
Large predatory dinosaurs were probably compared to no less large herbivores. Fossil tracks of sauropods were found in Münchehagen, Lower Saxony. They were giant herbivores and the largest land animals that ever lived on earth.
The tracks are believed to come from Apatosaurus, originally also known as Brontosaurus. Apatosaurus had - similar to the closely related Diplodocus - an extremely long neck and tail and, with a body length of 26 meters, is one of the largest land animals in the history of the earth.
Mini-Dino from Germany
Unusually small sauropods also lived in Germany with the Europasaurus. They were "only" up to six meters long and many times shorter and lighter than their closest relatives.
The small europeansaurus probably represents a form of island dwarfing. Since Germany was mostly under water 150 million years ago, small animals had a survival advantage on the narrow islands. They needed less food and were already isolated from larger predators due to the island situation.
The cows of the Cretaceous Period
Iguanodonts are among the most common and best preserved dinosaurs. They are known as the "cows of the Cretaceous". Numerous bone finds and traces show that they wandered around in Germany around 120 million years ago, presumably in large herds. They were about ten meters long and three to four tons in weight.
In 1825, the British doctor Gideon Mantell described it as the second species of dinosaur ever. The original, very lizard-like idea of a clumsy, clumsy creature crawling on four legs can probably be traced back to the first discoveries. The teeth resembled those of an iguana, as evidenced by the name "Iguanodon" ("iguana tooth").
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