FMNH Parasaurolophus fossil.jpg
Mounted skeleton of Parasaurolophus cyrtocristatus, Field Museum of Natural History
Scientific classification edit
Marsh, 1881

Ornithopods (ɪ-/[1][2]) or members of the clade Ornithopoda (ə/ or ɪ-/[3]) are a group of ornithischian dinosaurs that started out as small, bipedal running grazers, and grew in size and numbers until they became one of the most successful groups of herbivores in the Cretaceous world, and dominated the North American landscape. Their major evolutionary advantage was the progressive development of a chewing apparatus that became the most sophisticated ever developed by a non-avian dinosaur, rivaling that of modern mammals such as the domestic cow. They reached their apex in the duck-bills (hadrosaurs), before they were wiped out by the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event along with all other non-avian dinosaurs. Members are known from all seven continents, though they are generally rare in the Southern Hemisphere.


Three-toed feet of Iguanodon

Ornithopoda means "bird feet", from the Greek ornithos ("bird") and pous ("feet"); this refers to their characteristic three-toed feet, although many early forms retained four toes. They were also characterized by having no armour, the development of a horny beak, an elongated pubis that eventually extended past the ilium, and a missing hole in the lower jaw. A variety of ornithopods and related cerapods had thin cartilaginous plates along the outside of the ribs; in some cases, these plates mineralized and were fossilized. The function of these intercostal plates is unknown. They have been found with Hypsilophodon, Othnielosaurus, Parksosaurus, Talenkauen, Thescelosaurus,[4] and Macrogryphosaurus to date.[5]

Size of a variety of iguanodontian ornithopods

The early ornithopods were only about 1 metre (3 feet) long, but probably very fast. They had a stiff tail, like the theropods, to help them balance as they ran on their hind legs. Later ornithopods became more adapted to grazing on all fours; their spines curved, and came to resemble the spines of modern ground-feeders such as the bison. As they became more adapted to eating while bent over, they became facultative quadrupeds; still running on two legs, and comfortable reaching up into trees; but spending most of their time walking or grazing while on all fours. The taxonomy of dinosaurs previously ascribed to the Hypsilophodontidae is problematic. The group previously consisted of all non-iguanodontian bipedal ornithischians, but a phylogenetic reappraisal has shown such species to be paraphyletic. As such, the hypsilophodont family is currently represented only by Hypsilophodon.[6]

Later ornithopods became larger, but never rivalled the incredible size of the long-necked, long-tailed sauropods that they partially supplanted. The very largest, such as Shantungosaurus, were as heavy as medium-sized sauropods at up to 23 metric tons (25 short tons) but never grew much beyond 15 metres (50 feet).

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Ornithopoda
العربية: أورنيثوبودات
brezhoneg: Ornithopoda
català: Ornitòpode
Cebuano: Ornithopoda
čeština: Ornithopoda
Deutsch: Ornithopoda
español: Ornithopoda
euskara: Ornithopoda
français: Ornithopoda
한국어: 조각하목
hrvatski: Ornithopoda
italiano: Ornithopoda
magyar: Ornithopoda
Nederlands: Ornithopoda
日本語: 鳥脚類
polski: Ornitopody
português: Ornitópodes
română: Ornithopoda
русский: Орнитоподы
Simple English: Ornithopod
slovenčina: Ornitopody
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Ornitopodi
svenska: Ornithopoder
Tagalog: Ornithopoda
татарча/tatarça: Орнитоподлар
українська: Орнітоподи
Tiếng Việt: Khủng long chân chim
中文: 鳥腳亞目