Texas Almanac, 1992-1993 Page: 19
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TEXAS DINOSAURS 19
AV: C s
This Tenontosaur once roamed ancient North Texas. Its skeleton, reconstructed by the Dallas Museum of Natural Histo-
ry, was found in Wise County. It is the only mounted Texas dinosaur specimen on display at this time. (See sketch, page
24.) Photo courtesy Dallas Museum of Natural History.
The following article was prepared especially for this edition of the Almanac by Georg Zappler of Smithville.
Among Texas' numerous fossil finds are 16 of the
approximately 300 kinds of dinosaurs known worldwide.
(A "kind" of dinosaur as used here is the scientific cat-
egory of the genus, such as Tyrannosaurus. Each genus
contains one or more related species. Tyrannosaurus
rex, for example, is one of several species of Tyranno-
saurus. The vast majority of dinosaur genera contain
only a single species.)
The dinosaurs that once roamed the land now
called Texas can be arranged into three "batches" in
terms of the geological time frames within which their
preserved bones and footprints are found.
The earliest batch dates to about 225 million years
ago and comes from a fossil-bearing, late Triassic for-
mation exposed along the brakes and escarpments of
the Panhandle High Plains. The time represented by
these sedimentary deposits marks the first appearance
of the two major categories of dinosaurs: the saurischi-
ans, or "lizard-hips," and the ornithischians, or "bird-
hips." ("Lizard-hips" include all the carnivorous dino-
saurs, small and large, as well as the giant herbivorous
brontosaurlike sauropods. "Bird-hips" include only
plant-eaters, among them the duckbills and the horned,
armored and plated dinosaurs.) Finds from late-Trias-
sic Texas include one early, small-sized representative
from each dinosaur category:
Coelophysis was a lightly built, two-legged, sharp-
toothed lizard-hip. About eight feet long, three feet high
at the hips and weighing under 100 pounds, this early di-
nosaur is well known from dozens of complete skeletons
found in New Mexico; Texas remains are fragmentary.
Technosaurus was named after Texas Tech, since it
was discovered near Lubbock. Only a distinctive jaw
fragment with small, leaf-shaped teeth identifies this di-
nosaur as belonging to a stem group of plant-eating bird-
hips best known from South Africa. About four feet long,
slight and light-boned, it ran on its hind legs and proba-
bly afforded many a meal to flesh-eating Coelophysis.
The environment in which these dinosaurs lived
was a tropical inland basin surrounded by mountains.
Dense stands of archaic, 50- to 100-foot-high conifers
formed a closed canopy across well-drained bottom-
lands, and fern- and cycad-covered swamps bordered
numerous streams and ponds. In the waters lived small
and large primitive fishes (including a lobefin and a
lungfish), huge, pancake-shaped amphibians and
crocodilelike archaic reptiles. Sharing the land with
the two dinosaurs were heavily armored and spiked,
now extinct, reptiles, as well as the earliest known rep-
resentatives of modern lizards, snakes and birds.
The second batch of Texas dinosaurs are world-fa-
mous by virtue of the hundreds of well-preserved foot-
prints left in what then were tidal flats bordering the
Gulf of Mexico of about 105 million years ago during
early Cretaceous times. The rocks preserving this
ancient, fluctuating shoreline are now exposed
through much of Central and North Central Texas.
Complementing three distinctive kinds of tracks are
partial fossil skeletons, found in the same or contem-
porary deposits, that permit educated guesses as to
the identity of the track-makers. Discovered fossil
bones belong to five different dinosaurs:
Acrocanthosaurus was a 30-foot-long, dagger-toothed
lizard-hip with elongated spines enclosed in a ridge of
muscle, along the back. Weighing about three tons, this
powerful hunter is thought to be the originator of the
most common kinds of tracks: 12- to 14-inch-long, bird-
like, three-toed imprints, with a stride ranging from
almost four to over five feet. Fossils of this dinosaur in-
clude a partial skull from Texas and several incomplete
skeletons from Oklahoma.
Pleurocoelus, was a giant, up-to-50-foot-long, 40-ton
sauropod, or brontosauruslike, plant-eating lizard-hip. It
had a relatively short tail, which it probably used as a
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Kingston, Mike. Texas Almanac, 1992-1993, book, 1991; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth279642/m1/23/: accessed January 22, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.