Studies have shown that learning about dinosaurs helps boost child development. Dinosaurs are also widely popular topics for children of many ages as they spark children’s imagination and curiosity by offering a variety of learning opportunities.
Learning about these ancient creatures, according to studies, help children develop intense interests, which benefit their young minds in many ways. Intense interests usually occur when children reach about 3-5 years old. It develops with the children’s imagination and is equally helpful in enhancing child development.
Helping children explore their interest in dinosaurs can also act as a gateway to encouraging them to learn about other branches of science like biology. One such science lesson that you can incorporate into learning about dinosaurs is how they eat or their positions in the food chain.
While, in most cases, kids tend to gravitate towards the carnivores like the ever-famous tyrannosaurus rex and velociraptors or the herbivores like the semi-aquatic brachiosaurs and majestic brontosaurus that dwarf fellow dinos around them, very few recognize the omnivorous titans that walked the earth with the more prominent and beloved species.
To mix some science with your kids’ dino fun, here are some omnivorous dinosaurs that you can talk about with your children so they can explore other prehistoric creatures outside the more famous names they already know.
Related: Dinosaur Costumes for Kids
The oviraptor has made some small cameo in pop culture in the past decade, portrayed as the small but nimble reptiles in Jurassic Park and video games in arcades. The oviraptor is a small theropod or small dinos that may be carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores that walked on two legs and had feathers.
The oviraptor can grow as long as two meters with a slim build, weighing up to 20 kilograms. Its diet is omnivorous in nature, eating things like hard fruits, eggs, and according to recent discoveries, shellfish with its beak.
The oviraptor lived in the Late Cretaceous period or 85 to 75 million years ago and the location of its fossils suggests that they may have been found in Mongolia. It’s been speculated that the curved structure of its upper and lower jaws would have been strong enough to crush hard objects.
Also, a small theropod is the Avimimus and like the oviraptor, it is also a theropod. It grows just a bit smaller than the oviraptor, reaching lengths of about 1.5 meters. Not too many things are known about the Avimimus but it has been confirmed that these small, long-necked dinos also lived in the Late Cretaceous period or 80 to 75 million years ago.
It has many similarities with the oviraptor because they have many similar taxonomical properties to each other. Avimimus remains have been found in certain areas in the world, allowing archaeologists to hypothesize that the species can be found around Mongolia and China.
With a long neck and a long tail, the Melanosaurus is a colossus that lived in the late Triassic period 227 to 221 million years ago. Growing up to 12 whole meters, the Melanosaurus is considered to be an early sauropods or large dinosaurs that walked primarily on their four legs.
Its name, Melanosaurus, means Black Mountain Lizard. Remain discovered in 1924 suggest that this species of omnivorous dinos was found in areas in South Africa.
Living in the Late Cretaceous period of 84 to 71 million years ago, the Nanshiungosaurus is an example of an omnivorous dinosaur. While its true form is shrouded in mystery, professionals, through their reconstruction systems believe that the Nanshiungosaurus is a large theropod or large dinosaurs that walked on two legs.
The mystery of its body form stems from the fact that only vertebral columns and pelvises of the Nanshiungosaurus were ever found and skull remains have yet to be discovered. To get an accurate representation of its head shape, experts used dinosaurs with similar structures to capture the idea of the closest possible form.
The length of the Nanshiungosaurus can reach up to 4.4 meters. Its theorized is quite unique; having a long neck and bulky torso, standing on its two hind legs. The pelvic and vertebral remain that were found in China gives it its name as experts believe that the Nanshiungosaurus existed around the region.
Named “Terrible Hand” or Deinocheirus, what makes the form of this particular omnivorous dino is its menacingly dangerous hands. Armed with strong bones and long claws, the Deinoseirus is one of the most bizarre-looking dinosaurs around. Aside from its long claws, its head had an odd beak like a duck and a back that had a hump like a camel.
At first, scientists only had a pair of arm bones that had long claws to study the Deinocheirus. However, in 2014, experts found a large hump that fit with the rest of the Deinocheirus remains, supported by its back.
Like the Nanshiungosaurus, the Deinocheirus is also a large theropod. It walked the Earth during the Late Cretaceous about 70 to 66 million years ago. Remains suggest that the Deinocheirus grew up to 10 meters in length and frequented certain areas in Mongolia.
One fact that your kids might find funny is that the name Gallimimus means “chicken mimic.” Standing at a whopping six meters and weighing up to 200 kilograms, the Gallimimus is a behemoth in its own right despite its funny name.
Like the Deinocheirus and the Nanshiungosaurus, the Gallimimus is also a large theropod and it is also found in areas in Mongolia. With slim limbs, it had short arms but long legs. Its neck and tail are both long while its body had considerable mass.
This omnivorous dino lived in the Late Cretaceous period about 74 to 70 million years ago. The Gallimimus is the largest known ornithomimid or a family of dinosaurs that had a striking resemblance with the modern ostrich. Many of its cousins like the Ornithomimus, has led experts to believe that the Gallimimus had feathers. While the Gallimimus did not have teeth, it had a horny beak and a delicate lower jaw.
The Beipiaosaurus, like the oviraptor and the Avimimus, is also a small theropod. As a small theropod, like many of its cousins and contrary to the stereotypical dinos most kids have in mind, the Beipiaosaurus is relatively smaller in size, growing up to only two meters in length.
Its remains were found in China and according to the studies conducted on the Beipiaosaurus, it has been suspected to have lived in the Early Cretaceous period or about 127 to 121 million years ago.
Experts were surprised to discover certain characteristics from the Beipiaosaurus. One of the features of this certain dino that took professionals by surprise is its underdeveloped inner toes. This is a big departure from the characteristic of later therizinosaurids, the Beipiaosaurus’ family, as dinos under this certain taxonomical categorization usually have four developed toes that are in contact with the surface they stand-in.
However, the biggest surprise from the Beipiaosaurus is the presence of primitive feathers. What makes it rare is that instead of having just one kind of feather as a covering, it was also dressed in the second set of feathers. The first kind of feathers present in the Beipiaosaurus is said to have a downy covering that helps insulation, a feature that has been prevalent in small active theropods. The second kind of feathers are much bigger in size; about 10 – 15 centimeters long and three millimeters in width. While not much has been written on the function of the bigger feathers, it is said that its purpose is more aesthetic than practical.
Even smaller than the Beipiaosaurus is a fellow small theropod called the Caudipteryx, a bird-like dinosaur that lived after the Archaeopteryx. Its name was derived from its most notable feature, which means tail feather. It has a fan-like formation of feathers at the very tip of its tail which experts used to derive this omnivorous dino’s name.
It grows only up to a meter long and is lightweight. Its average weight only reaches up to two kilograms and it moves with its two nimble legs. The remains, according to experts, show that the Caudipteryx lived in the Early Cretaceous period 125 to 122 million years ago.
There are certain features on the Caudipteryx that researchers found to be unique. This dino had sharp teeth that pointed outwards but it was only present at the front of the upper jaw. It was also discovered that the Caudipteryx has gizzard stones or small stones that the dinosaur swallows. It’s been suggested that dinosaurs acquire gizzard stones to help their digestion. The Caudipteryx only had small and weak teeth, leading to speculations that it preyed on insects and plants as well.
Sources have been contesting whether Chirostenotes are omnivorous or carnivorous. However, according to the National History Museum, this dino is widely considered to be omnivorous. This small theropod, like many of its close cousins, is relatively small compared to the big, bad, dinosaurs most people know. Its name, Chirostenotes means narrow-handed.
Studies on the remains of the Chirostenotes point out that the dinosaurs lived in the Late Jurassic period, about 79 to 67 million years ago. Experts claim that, primarily, this species roamed around in prehistory Alberta, Canada; Coahuila, Mexico; and North Dakota, USA.
To study the Chirostenotes, paleontologists make use of 26 different specimens that were found in many regions in the Americas.
The Citipati is an interesting specimen that confirmed many theories for experts who studied the connection between modern birds and dinosaurs. Able to grow to over two meters long, the Citipati is an omnivorous small theropod that thrived in the Late Cretaceous period about 81-75 million years
This particular dino has helped paleontologists confirm many connections between birds and dinosaurs beyond just common ancestry. Remains of a Citipati guarding its eggs has shown that many of today’s feathered friends take after their ancestor when it comes to nourishing their young. This dino, through a beautiful fossil, provided evidence that nesting is an ancient behavior, even present in what is presumed to be many non-bird dinosaur lineages.
The fossil that the experts of the field found was of a Citipati, positioned over the middle of the nest, the parenting dino has its forearm spread out in an attempt to protect its eggs from the cold or the heat. It is through this fossil that professionals uncovered that the position birds assume when brooding their eggs is similar to how dinosaurs tend to their unhatched offspring.
Standing at about four meters in length, the Coloradisaurus is a sauropod that was in the Late Triassic period or over 221 to 210 million years ago. Its name is derived from the location in which its fossils were unearthed, a mostly complete skull that was discovered with an undescribed partial skeleton in the Los Colorados Formation around Pagancillo, La Rioja Province, Argentina. All of the specimens ever found that related to the Coloradisaurus was found around the same region.
The right side of the skull that was found was well-preserved with most of its bones still intact. The left portion of the skull, however, was more damaged and distorted, having more missing bones. By estimation, the holotype individual is approximately three to four meters long and weighed over 70 kilograms or 150 lbs.
A close cousin of the Coloradusaurus is the Massospondylus. Also a sauropod, the Massospondylus lived in the Early Jurassic period about 208 to 204 years ago according to the National History Museum.
With the similar biology with the Coloradisaurus, the Massospondylus is also recorded to have been about four meters in height and 70 kilograms heavy. Its name, Massospondylus, translates to massive vertebrae.
The Massospondylus was first described by Sir Richard Owen in 1854, becoming one of the earliest dinosaurs to have ever been named. The remains that were used to describe the Massospondylus were found in South Africa and Botswana but many other fossils have also been found in various locations in the continent such as Lesotho, and Zimbabwe. Materials that were found in Arizona’s Kayenta Formation, India, and Argentina, at some points, have also been assigned to this same genus despite the Arizonan and Argentinian materials being assigned to other genera after some time.
This dinosaur’s name, Struthiomimus, translates to ‘ostrich mimic.’ Bigger than most of its fellow small theropods, the Struthiomimus grows up to four meters tall and can weigh up to an impressive 150 kilograms. In fact, this dino is recorded to be the largest North American ornithomimosaur.
With no teeth and a horny beak, the National History Museum website indicates that despite its exact diet is unknown, it may have lived off plants and small animals during its day. Able to move quickly on its two feet, the Struthiomimus lived 76 to 74 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous period. According to the remains that were found of this dinosaur, its body and skeletons were built similarly to how most ornithomimids are structured. It is still, however, quite different from its cousins like the Ornithomimus and the Gallimimus in terms of anatomical details and bodily proportions.
Its remains were found in Canada which professionals studied in depth. Their research led to the belief that the Struthiomimus looked like a hairless ostrich that had a long tail.
Standing up to seven meters long, the Yunnanosaurus was a particularly massive omnivorous dinosaur. Its name directly translates into the Yunnan Lizard, a tribute to the place where most of the specimens used to study it were found.
Through the 20+ specimens unearthed and studied, experts believed that the Yunnanosaurus existed in the Early Jurassic period, 205-190 million years ago. This specimen helped researchers who were studying the dinosaur that it had over sixty spoon-like teeth within its jaws. It surprised experts to have found that these teeth were self-sharpening, a unique trait among early sauropodomorphs. Its teeth sharpened as they fed and ate. This was something that experts considered to be advanced for other early sauropodomorphs, sharing features with the sauropods.
The Yunnanosaurus is also an instrumental discovery that supported convergent evolution as it is not considered to be close to the sauropods in phylogeny as the remaining portions of the animal’s body are recognizably prosauropod in structure.
Cousin to the Yunnanosaurus, yet smaller in comparison, is the Thecodontosaurus. It grows to up to two and a half meters and was omnivorous in nature. It lives in the Late Triassic about 227 to 2-5 million years ago. According to the remain found of the Thecodontosaurus, the long-necked dino thrived in the prehistoric United Kingdom.
The Thecodontosaurus is recorded to be one of the first dinosaurs to be ever discovered in history and is one of the oldest to ever exist. There have been several species to be named in the genus but there is only one type of specie that is viewed to be valid today: the Thecodontosaurus antiquus
Dromiceiomimus means emu mimic because of how much it looked like an emu. This dinosaur is a large theropod that grew to up three and a half meters in length and 100 kilograms in weight.
Due to its horny beak, it’s been speculated that the Dromiceiomimus’ diet consisted of plants, insects, and smaller animals too. It stood on its strong legs to live in the Late Cretaceous period about 74 to 70 million years ago.
First thought to be a Struthiomimus because of a cranial specimen from Canada, the Dromiceiomimus was given its own distinction due to anatomical differences from the former. The humerus of the Dromiceiomimus was shorter than the scapula; the ulna was approximately 70% of its femoral length. The preacetabular process, tibia, metatarsus was and pedal digit III were also longer compared to the femur.
Despite difference from the Struthiomimus, it is said that the Dromiceiomimus still resembled the ostrich by quite a bit; without the thick later of feathers – although whether or not it did have feathers is still unsolved today.
The Dromiceiomimus’ much larger cousin is the Nothronychus, a large theropod that lived in prehistoric USA in the Late Cretaceous 94 to 89 million years ago. It has been suggested, through a partial skill and postcranium and the examination of the specimens that for some reason, this dino evolved from being a carnivore into a herbivore somewhere down the line.
Standing at over five meters, the Nothronychus is a particularly interesting dinosaur as its relatives’ remains, the therizinosaurs, were mostly found almost exclusively in China and Mongolia. The Nothronychus remain is also known to be one of the most complete fossils despite missing a skull.
The Nothronychus are naturally sluggish dinosaurs that have pot-bellied abdomens. They have extensive necks, broad and sturdy hindlimbs, and four-toed feet. The arms of Nothronychus are large and are used to defend themselves or hunt as they are equipped with long, carved, and piercing claws that extend from their fingers. This is where the Nothronychus gets its name which means sloth-like claw.
Lurking in the harsh biomes of the Late Cretaceous is the Nomingia, a small theropod, like the oviraptor and its cousins, that grows up to only a little over a meter and a half. It lived in the Late Cretaceous period about 72-68 million years ago, feeding on an omnivorous diet.
Its remains were mostly found in Mongolia. Unearthing partial postcranium materials, the Nomingia’s form was reconstructed using the information gathered from other dinosaurs and other close relatives.
What makes the Nomingia’s overall look and aesthetic interesting is its distinct pygostyle-like mass that’s constituted by a fusion of five vertebrae at its tail end. Experts have suggested that this formation of bone supported a feather fan similar to the Caudipteryx. Prior to the discovery of the Nomingia’s remains, similar bone structures had only ever been discovered in birds.
Its name is derived from the location where the Nomingia’s fossils were dug. Its generic name mentions and gives tribute to the Nomingiin Gobi, a distinct area in the Gobi desert.
Another interesting omnivorous dino is the Heyuannia, whose name directly translates to “from Heyuan,” using the place of origin of many materials used to study it as a reference in its etymology. Like many of its small theropod cousins, it stood at up to two meters in length. Studying its remains, experts believe that the Heyuannia roamed the Earth about 72 to 68 million years ago.
There are two species of Heyuannia known: H. Huangi, named in 2002 by Lü Junchang and H. Yanshini. The two species were originally considered to be two different species once named as a separate genus Ingenia in 1981 by Rinchen Barsbold.
Heyuannia, a medium-sized oviraptorid is said to weigh about twenty kilograms. Its skull is toothless and is short with a distinctly steep snout. The Heyuannia had very short digits and arms, having a first digit that was reduced. Colors and preserved pigments in the eggshells that have been proven to have come from Heyuannia suggest that they were blue-green in color.
The colors of the Heyuannia helped it survive for millions of years in two ways. The first function is camouflage to avoid its predators by blending in with the surroundings. The second function its colors serve is through sexual signaling and mating, In order to locate mates, the Heyuannia brandishes its beautiful colors. This dino was also seen by experts as caring parents, having partially open nests and many indicators of nourishing parents.
This dinosaur’s name literally translates to a bird. One of the smallest small theropods in this list, the Shuvuuia is just over half a meter long, averaging about 60 centimeters in length. This omnivore lived in the Late Cretaceous period about 75 to 81 million years ago around the regions of Mongolia.
The Shuvuuia is studied through the well-preserved skulls and postcranium gathered through digging expeditions. Experts believe that this desert dino used to eat termites and plants as its lower jaw is not interlocked with the skull which allows the Shuvuuia to open its mouth wide for larger prey.
Shuvuuia were equipped with forelimbs that they can use to pry open insects’ nests. While deceptively agile, its slender jaws help prey on insects. New research also suggests that through the description of the Shuvuuia’s ears that it was a nocturnal hunter that made use of its strong legs to outrun its prey and use its arms to dig up small prey such as insects and mammals off burrows and shrubs. It was also found, through a thorough examination of its scleral ring, that the Shuvuuia had night vision.
The name of this dinosaur, Erlikosaurus, translates to Erlik’s Lizard. Towering at nearly three and a half meters, the Erlikosaurus is a small theropod that feeds on an omnivorous diet. From a skull and partial skeletons dug up from locations in Mongolia that were used to study the Erlikosaurus, it was found that this dino roamed the Earth around 99 to 89 million years ago.
However, there are still only very few materials that experts can use to study the Erlikosaurus. Most of the bones that researchers have used in their study were incomplete so determining the size of this dinosaur was a bit of a headscratcher for the experts.
Generally, the Erlikosaurus is a small therizinosaurid, just a bit more agile than the slow-moving Segnosaurus. To capture the approximate body mass of this dino, experts had to use theropod-specific equations in 2012.
Towering up to nearly five meters, the Garudimimus is an omnivorous large theropod, a dinosaur that stands on two legs. Its name which means Garuda Mimic is derived from the winged creature, Garuda, whose origins are traced back to Mongolian Buddhist mythology.
The Garudimimus thrived in the late Cretaceous period, 99 to 89 million years ago. The specimen discovered and used to study the Garudimimus was a medium-sized dinosaur that was known to be three and a half meters in length and weight to about 98 kilograms. Its upper and lower jaws were toothless and its legs were short and stocky. Its feet had four toes and its first digit is reduced. The skull has distinctly straight jaws that round out at the end around the tip of the snout.
The Khaan has an interesting name, translating directly into ruler or lord. It is a cousin of the oviraptor and is also a small theropod. Its size is smaller compared to the more prominent dinosaurs as it stands only at about less than two meters long.
As an omnivorous dinosaur, it fed on both plants, insects, and other small animals. It thrived in the Late Cretaceous period about 81 to 75 million years ago. Its remains that were used for research and studies were found in Mongolia and the primary specimens initially discovered are three skeletons with skulls. It is observed to be a beaked dinosaur that shows similarities with Oviraptors, Ingentia, and Conchoraptor.
Another dino name that was taken from a mythological beast is the Harpymimus. Its name is a reference to the Harpy, a bird-like creature in Greek mythology. The Harpymimus is a small theropod with an omnivorous diet. It stood at up to two meters and thrived in the Early Cretaceous period from 121 to 99 million years ago in various areas in Mongolia.
The Harpymimus remains that were studied were a skull and a partial skeleton. This dinosaur had small, blunt teeth. While it looked like its cousins, the ornithomimosaurs, the teeth of a Harpymimus are different. Its teeth were restricted to the dentary, and are cylindrical in shape. They were also separated by interdental plates. There are at least ten or eleven per side to complete the teeth of a Harpymimus.
In hindsight, not many know too many omnivorous dinosaurs so through learning about these equally admirable and majestic dinos, your kids can become part of the future generations who would be able to share awareness about these prehistoric marvels.
Discovered in the 21st Century is the omnivorous dinosaur, Hagryphus, whose name means a combination of Ha, the Egyptian God of the Western Desert, and the Griffin, the mythological animal that combines the form of a lion and an eagle.
It is a small theropod that grows up to three meters long. Its remains, which were used to study everything there is to know about it was found in the United States. Unfortunately, there are only a few fossils discovered from the Hagryphus, fragmentary metatarsals from the left hand, and some pedal phalanges so the only way to reconstruct its form is to base its complete structure from the Chirostenotes – a dinosaur that is believed to be extremely similar in shape.