Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History: Dinosaurs PaleobiologyNational Museum of Natural HistorySmithsonian Institution
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What Is a Dinosaur? | Anatomy & Evolution | General Behavior | Where Did They Live?| Why Did They Go Extinct?

General Behavior
Feeding | Reproduction | Locomotion | Social Behavior


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Social Behavior

Evidence from footprints, nesting grounds, and anatomy all suggest that at least some dinosaurs were at least as social as modern crocodilians. For example, sauropods and hadrosaurs appear to have nested in large groups. Numerous trackways show that sauropods traveled in herds, and similar mammalian-level social structures may have also characterized other large herbivores such as hadrosaurs and ceratopsians.

Many dinosaur species display large crests, horns, or frills that would have been highly visible to other animals. In many living animals, these structures often serve to attract mates or signal other members of the same species. The hadrosaur and theropod crests, along with ceratopsians horns, might have been used in this manner. Hadrosaurs may also have been able to vocalize by using their crests as resonance chambers.

Like ungulates, ceratopsians may have used their horns to defend themselves from predators and tTriceratops skullo battle members of their own species for mates or territories. Pachycephalosaurs could have engaged in similar behaviors by using their dome-like skulls. The dermal armor of stegosaurs, ankylosaurs, and titanosaur sauropods probably had some role in defense. Some theropod skulls show healed bites that may have been inflicted by a member of the same species, suggesting violent intraspecific interactions. However, most of these hypotheses come through analogy with living animals; paleontologists have found little direct evidence for these behaviors in dinosaur fossils.

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