Introduction

The saurischian dinosaurs are classified into two suborders, the Sauropodo-morpha (Chap.10) and the Theropoda. With few exceptions, the latter consisted of bipedal, flesh-eating Saurischia. It was traditionally divided into the infra-orders Ceratosauria and Carnosauria. The first of these consisted of small light-weight hunters and medium-sized carnivores with a slashing or killing claw (Sect. 9.2.1), while the largest predators comprised the Carno-sauria, which contained the families Megalosauridae, Spinosauridae, Allo-sauridae and Tyrannosauridae. These are now recognised as having little in common, apart from their size (Benton 2004). The term carnosaur is nevertheless a convenient one to use provided that this limitation is recognised.

The Herrerasauridae and other early or primitive carnivorous dinosaurs (Sect. 9.1) will not be discussed further in the present chapter. The ceratosaurs, following Palmer (1999), are subdivided into the families Ceratosauridae and (division Maniraptora) Coeluridae, Compsognathidae, Ornithomimidae, Ovi-raptoridae, Dromaeosauridae and Troodontidae. Mention will also be made of the Therizinosauridae or segnosaurs and the carnosaurs.

The Theropoda comprised a group of carnivorous dinosaurs of bewildering variety. Their relationships are far from clear because, although many isolated fossil bones and teeth have been found, few reasonably complete skeletons or skulls have been discovered. Although this book is not concerned with the problems of taxonomy - which have been considerably simplified - it would be a mistake to think that types grouped together on account of shared predatory habits and associated skeletal form are necessarily closely related.

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