Trying to Trace the Dinosaur Family Tree

Dinosaur Evolution Poster – Tracing the Dinosaur Family Tree – A Tricky Business

Trying to organise Dinosauria into clades or family groups has kept many palaeontologists burning the midnight oil.  Unfortunately, unlike extant animals; when it comes to organising the family tree of extinct animals such as dinosaurs, a new fossil find, or some new research into existing specimens can throw everything into confusion.

What were once accepted relationships are often questioned and new fossils provide tantalising glimpses into the true nature of the relationship between different types of dinosaur.

The two great groups of dinosaurs are the Saurischians (Lizard-hipped Dinosaurs) such as the Sauropods and the Theropods and the Ornithischians (Bird-hipped Dinosaurs) examples being the Ornithopods such as Iguanodon and the Ceratopsians such as Triceratops.

Much of the general classification was carried out in the late 19th Century and this can lead to further problems.  The Victorian scientists cannot be criticised for their enthusiasm and endeavour, they worked according to the principles and practices of the era and of course their technology was very limited.  Often dinosaurs were grouped together and described using comparative anatomical measures, which is fine in itself, but we now have a lot more specimens to study.  Even the names for the sub-orders can lead to false assumptions.  For example, the Ornithopods were so named as it was thought that the feet and footprints of these type of animals resembled birds.  In contrast, the word Theropod means “Beast Foot”.  However, the common consensus amongst scientists today is that it is some of the Theropods, specifically the Maniraptorans such as Microraptor and Velociraptor who are closely related to true birds (Aves).

As our knowledge builds up of the 160 million year long fossil legacy left by the dinosaurs; a group so diverse that at one extreme tiny dinosaurs such as Micropachycephalosaurus could perch in the palm of your hand whilst others such as Seismosaurus could exceed 50 metres in length, scientists are still trying to classify these animals.

With thousands of different genera (and new ones being discovered all the time), it is quite difficult to piece dinosaur evolution together.  You can get a good idea from one of our posters which attempts so show the inter-relationships between the main dinosaur family groups.  The poster illustrates the complexity of the dinosaur family tree, as well as the diversity and it is certainly impressive to see so many different animals featured on one poster.

Dinosaur Evolution – See the Dinosaur Family Tree

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the poster and dinosaur books: Dinosaur Books for Kids

One interesting viewpoint put forward recently is to re-classify all dinosaurs using our understanding of their relationship to living creatures – the birds.  Two main groups of dinosaurs would emerge but not “Lizard-hipped or Bird-hipped” as before but “Non-avian” and “Avian Dinosaurs”.  If this classification was adopted it would make the dinosaur family tree look very different and the birds in your garden, penguins, pelicans, kiwis, in fact all birds would be basically classified as dinosaurs.

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77 Responses to “Trying to Trace the Dinosaur Family Tree”

  1. arl rodriguez-porta says:


    • Mike says:

      The Dinosauria can be classified in many ways, the relationships between different families is complex and in some cases not well understood. A cladistic approach can be attempted but this too can prove troublesome – imagine trying to organise the Dinosauria into a simple poster – not easy. The image in the article “Trying to Trace the Dinosaur Family Tree” , is reasonably accurate and does stand up to scientific scrutiny… we did mention this was a tricky business.

  2. Adrianna says:

    What is the Dinosour with the 2 hornes one in the Front and one in the Back and it has that flap on the back of the horn (Back horn).

  3. daniel says:

    please can someone inlarge this image

    • Mike says:

      A team member at Everything Dinosaur has contacted you and supplied high resolution image as requested. If you have any other queries, just let us know.

      • Craig says:

        I am trying to figure out dinosaurs with my 3 year old and I can not make out anything in this picture, could you forward me higher resolution picuture, thanks.

  4. Cody Woody says:

    I would like to see the chart above, however my eyes cannot possibly perform this task. Does anybody know where to get a larger higher res pic?

    • Mike says:

      Simply, go to Everything Dinosaur’s website, at the home page, scroll down to the “contact us” field which is found at the bottom of the page and send Everything Dinosaur team members an email with this request – they will do their best to help. Probably, send out jpg image in high res.

  5. Johnna Antich says:

    What is the dinosaur that has a mow-hawk type spike on its head?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!!?~!?!?!?!??!?!!?!??!?!?!?!!?

    • Mike says:

      We will try to email you a high res image so that you can zoom in and see your “mow-hawk” dinosaur. We have just one example of this poster left, it is not online anymore, if you want to purchase this poster, respond to the email we send.

      Hope this helps.

  6. Mar-Mar says:

    Do you have any classification of dinosaurs that spent time in the oceans or rivers?
    Do you have any rare dinosaur species?
    Nice Amargasaurus cazauil.
    can you make the drawings or printings more detailed and more visible?

    • Mike says:

      As far as we know the Dinosauria were almost entirely terrestrial. All dinosaurs could swim and many crossed rivers and lakes during migrations etc but no known species took to an entirely marine existence. Some recently published theories on the habits of Spinosaurs propose that these animals were very much at home in freshwater – see our blog article dated February 20th 2010 entitled “Swimming Spinosaurs”. In terms of what you call “rare dinosaur species” we specialise in dinosaurs and prehistoric animal products, suggest you check out to see the ranges. We will endeavour to send you hi res image of the classification.

  7. Sarah Cotten says:

    Can you send me a larger image? ‘im trying to figure out names with my little 2 year old!!! thank you so much!!!

    • Mike says:

      Have responded and sent you a email with a high resolution image attached.

      • Chris Tucker says:

        I’m in the same dilemna as Sarah above. My three year old is so excited about dinosaurs right now and we’re trying to label some dinosaur magnets for the fridge. This poster looks fantastic, but we can’t make out the names. Can you help?

  8. Kate says:

    Hello! Please could you send me an image of the dinosaurs too! My 3 yr old is soo into dinosaurs and we’re trying to find out all the names and types. That would be amazing if you could, thank you!

  9. Esther says:

    Hola tengo un hijo de 8 años,es fan de los dinosaurios, ahora los está estudiando en el colegio y me gustaria que me enviaran una imagen de alta resolucion del arbol genealogico de los dinosaurios, ya que la que hay en internet no se ve muy bien. Gracias, un saludo.

  10. Esther says:

    Me pueden enviar una imagen más grande

  11. Peter says:

    Could you please send me a high resolution version of the image also. Thanks

  12. Gonzalo says:

    The poster looks awesome! could you please send one in high resolution? Thank you.

  13. matt says:

    Can u send me high res version of dinosaur poster

    Many thanks

    • Mike says:

      One of our team members has emailed you the information you requested.

      • chris says:

        Would you be able to send me the high res image? Thanks so much.

        • Mike says:

          One of our team members has emailed you the information you requested. If you like our customer service, look up Everything Dinosaur on Facebook and give us a “like”.

  14. Helen Fishman says:

    Could you please send me the high res image as well? Thank you very much. Helen

  15. Marta says:

    Hi, like most of the above comments, I would love to have a high resolution image to be able to see the names or else I will have a pretty upset 5 year old son. The poster is FANTASTIC. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  16. Rachel says:

    I would love a high resolution image to be able to see the names. I teach english to a 7 year old boy and he loves dinasaurs. Thanks Rachel

    • Mike says:

      One of our team members will send you (email) the highest resolution image we have although we fear that the resolution will not be enough for you to read the details on each dinosaur.

  17. franziska says:

    I would be grateful for a high res picture, too. My 2.5 year old is obsessed with dinosaurs right now.

  18. jim says:

    Hi Mike, seasons greetings, we think the poster is great, but a hi-res picture would be even better, cant really blame my 3 yr old, (tho dinosaurs have overrun the cinderella castle and the treehouse) its really for me! cant remember half the things i learnt at uni!

    • Mike says:

      We can email you the highest resolution we have but even then at 300dpi compared to 72dpi in the post, it may not be that clear. Our own dinosaur experts have suggested they create their own high resolution, downloadable version but it is just a question of pulling all the materials together and making a cladogram or something similar. We will email you our high resolution image though of the poster.

  19. Parris says:

    Can someone please send me a higher resolution poster for my 3 yr old son and I. He just loves it. Thank you.

  20. Alex says:

    Please could I get the high res picture also?

  21. Adiene Rasper says:

    My 5 year old really is trying to read this image and would love to print it out. Can you send me a copy of this image. Thanks!

    • Mike says:

      One of our team members will send you the highest resolution image we have, unfortunately even or largest image is really difficult to read, however it will be emailed to you shortly.

  22. Nilmini says:

    Could you pls. email me high resolution image of this poster.

  23. P. Kamilya says:

    Dear Mike, the same problem here, cant make anything out of this image, so it would be very helpful if i could be provided one with higher resolution, thanks

  24. Rachel W says:

    I would love a high res version of the poster too, my son is dinosaur mad and loves to learn the names.
    Thank you!

  25. Ramesh says:

    My son is doing a project on Dinosaur is his school, is there any possibility that I can get a good resolution poster?

    Thanks in advace for your help!

    • Mike says:

      One of our team members has tried to email you the largest resolution image of the picture that we have.

      • Ramesh says:


        Thank you, but I didnt receive any email, can you please resend it?


        • Mike says:

          We did send you the high resolution image that you requested. However, we received a bounce back from the email message box stating that the 9MB file that we were sending was too big for the mailbox.

  26. Darlene Korson says:

    I would love to have a higher resolution image of this picture. Could you please email me one as well? Thanks
    Maybe you could pull together a poster for sale. Looks like it would be a big hit. Any suggestions on books that are available or something similar with the same information?

    • Mike says:

      One of our team members will email you with the highest resolution visual we have, if you like our customer service, look up Everything Dinosaur on Facebook and please give our page a like. Most decent dinosaur books will show a cladagram as part of the text.

  27. Dan says:

    Hi im also looking for an inlarged image.

  28. billy gallagher says:

    Could I get the hi-res version of the dino tree?

  29. Liz says:

    I would love a high-resolution image of the dino family tree. Thanks!!

  30. Paul Sawbridge says:


    Could you send me a high resolution image of the image above so I could read the dinosaurs names?


  31. Navneet Singh says:

    Could you please send me a high resolution of the image.

    Thank you-Navneet

  32. A Dovell says:

    Hi there,
    As with everyone else above, my kids love your image but can not read the names, may we have a copy as well, Is this poster still able to be bought?
    Kiwi Kids

    • Mike says:

      We can send you the highest resolution image we have. It is a large file but even so the names may not be able to read. Don’t think this poster is available any more.

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