T. Rex might be king of the dinosaurs, but it looks like his court was home to more than a few jesters - here are some of the most unusual, bizarre, and downright weird dinosaurs to have roamed the planet.
Appearance of a giant rat, three metres tall, six metres long, weighed around 1,300kgs. Furry body, suggesting a distant ancestor of the giant ground sloth.
Herbivore, just 60cm long and covered in quills. Described as a cross between a parrot and a porcupine, it had a beak and teeth which sharpened themselves against each other.
Freakishly short arms with tiny claws at the end of them, giving it no obvious defence option. Only known non-avian dinosaur with one finger!
A tiny (12cm) flightless, feathered dinosaur with elongated forearms completely out of proportion to the rest of its body. The third finger is huge, like an aye-aye’s, possibly for probing for insect food inside trees.
Had six to eight appendages fanned along its back which are believed to have been primitive feathers. Possible precursor to modern birds.
At nearly five metres tall and eight metres long, it was possibly the largest feathered dinosaur/bird in history, and may have weighed up to 2,000kg. It had no teeth, and strange claws at the end of its wings.
Had a neck 9-12 metres long.
Vampire dinosaur, preying on the blood of other dinosaurs. Small enough to go undetected on another dinosaur’s underbelly.
Omnivore, less than a metre long. Had prominent, rodent-like front teeth, face of a raptor, body of an ostrich and hands/feet of a chicken. Truly bizarre.
Lizard-like flying reptile that fed on insects. It grew wings on its hing legs, rather than its arms and looks like an evolutionary mistake. How it walked remains a mystery.
A shark-like fish. As it grew new teeth, they pushed the older teeth forwards from the snout, thus it continually extended its jaw as it grew. Believed to have initially survived the Permian extinction event, later to die out with the other remaining dinosaurs.
Bipedal dinosaur with unique thick horizontal horns across the top of its head above the eyes. Name means “meat-eating bull”. Its anatomy was baffling, including vestigial forelimbs even smaller than a T-rex’s, a strangely-shaped head and small teeth.
Unusually small sauropod with a unique head and jaw shape not seen in any other animal. All its 500 teeth are at the end of its jaw at the front of the mouth, making its head look like the attachment to a vacuum cleaner. Each mature tooth had nine replacement teeth stacked up behind it ready to take over when it wore down.
Possessed a bizarre double row of parallel spines along its neck and back, taller than any other sauropod.
Had a truly bizarre domed head for display. Although the skull roof was up to 25cm thick, it was fairly brittle bone.
Extraordinary head shape and adornments evolved for head-butting opponents; closest-looking dinosaur to a mythical dragon. It’s latin name means meaning “dragon king of Hogwarts” after the Harry Potter series of books.
Possessed tube-like extensions to the back of its skull which had acoustic properties. Thought to be a means of “trumpeting” calls over large distances.
Science Focus Podcast: The truth about dinosaurs
The image of dinosaurs as drab, slow-witted reptilians is slowly being overturned thanks to exciting new fossil discoveries and advances in the technology used to analyse them. Check out the Science Focus Podcast episode where we speak to Steve Brusatte, a palaeontologist based at the University of Edinburgh and author of The Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs: The untold story of a lost world (£20, Macmillan), about palaeontology’s emerging golden age that is revealing what dinosaurs really looked like and why they were much smarter than we used to think. Listen to the podcast here.