As Meat-Eating Hunters With Strong Jaws, Theropods Ruled the Mesozoic

Theropods were a group of meat-eating dinosaurs that lived during the Mesozoic Era. Learn more about these fascinating creatures and their unique adaptations for hunting and surviving in their environment.

Fig. 1 Neotype Spinosaurus © Witton 2020 R

This 2020 illustration shows the Spinosaurus, the largest-known carnivorous dinosaur. (Credit: Mark Witton)
What do a velociraptor, Tyrannosaurus rex and Spinosaurus all have in common?

For starters, the carnivorous trio clawed their way to superstar status as antagonists in the first three films in the Jurassic Park franchise. But on a more basic level, these dinosaurs are all theropods. Put simply, this group of dinosaurs mostly walked on two legs, had three claws on their feet, and of course, ate meat.

“Theropods are the most charismatic of the dinosaurs,” says Joseph Frederickson, museum director at the Weis Earth Science Museum. “These are the ones that would be the stereotypical monsters that we know from movies like Jurassic Park.”

What Are Theropods?

Theropod means “beast-footed,” and these carnivorous (and sometimes omnivorous) dinosaurs roamed the earth from the Late Triassic through the end of the Cretaceous —although with modern-day birds are their distant relatives, in a sense their reign never ended.