Where did dinosaurs live
Long Neck Dinosaurs
Long Neck Dinosaurs

it is widely accepted that dinosaurs were the dominant life-form for over 170 million years until around 66 million years ago. We take a look at how widespread dinosaur life was during those years and where dinosaurs lived during their time on Earth.

Dinosaurs lived on every modern continent on Earth, as evidenced by fossil discoveries.  Early dinosaurs are thought to have evolved on the single supercontinent Pangea in a location that is now Argentina. As the continents split over the 170 million years dinosaurs spread to every continent on the planet.

We take a look at the locations and habitats where dinosaurs lived all over the world and why their fossils are found on every continent.

Where did dinosaurs live

Where Did Dinosaurs Live – Locations

We will, for the sake of ease!, split where dinosaurs lived into modern day continents, although at the time of the dinosaurs there was actually only one continent the huge landmass called Pangea we have more details on that below and a link to an interactive map so you can see your hometown and what dinosaurs would have been walking around 250-66 million years ago.

Let’s take a look at where dinosaurs lived in our modern day continents.

Where Did Dinosaurs live? – Africa:

Is currently one of largest continents and has an incredibly diverse range of climates and habitats. From mountainous ranges, huge deserts, plains and grasslands, and jungles and forests, as well as one of the longest coast lines of an continent.

However, although 200-150 million years ago there were still different habitats they were in very different places than today. For example the congo, now a huge tropical rainforest, was very dry with little rainfall when dinosaurs lived there 200-150 million years ago.

Species that lived included some of the largest, carnivores at least,Which we have included in the table below.

African DinosaurWhere lived ( present day equivalent) When livedClimate and HabitatExtra information
SpinosaurusNorthern Africa / EgyptLate Cretaceous: 112 to 93 million years ago. Tidal flats, Mangrove forests and wetlandsProbably the longest ever carnivorous dinosaur
CarcharodontosaurusNorth Africa / Algeria Late Cretaceous: 99-94 million years agoMangrove forests, floodplainsOne of the largest carnivorous dinosaurs.
AjnabiaNorthern Africa / MoroccoLate Cretaceous: 68 to 66 million years agoCoastal, Only Hadrosaur known to africa and one of the smallest.
KentrosaurusEast Africa / TanzaniaLate Jurassic – 152 million years agovegetated inland, and lagoons. Had two sikes sticking out of its shoulders.

As you can see, just from the eight examples of Dinosaurs from Africa above, dinosaurs lived in Africa thought-out the whole timeline of dinosaurs. from 210 million years+ to 66 million years ago, right before the asteroid impact caused the extinction. There were also various species represented from Apex carnivores like Spinosaurus, sauropods like Jobaria, Stegosaurus like Kentrosaurus, and even Hadrosaurus like Ajnabia.

Although there are less examples of Africa dinosaurs compared to North America for example, this may be more due to lack of studies and research rather than lack of evidence and in years to come we can expect many more dinosaurs to be found that lived in Africa at that time.

Where Did Dinosaurs live? – Antarctica

Antarctica, looking at it today, may not seem an ideal environment for any species of life other than penguins and seals, but it was if not very, at least quite different 150 million years ago.

So while the sun still disappears for months on End ( at the Earth’s poles) it was still warm enough to support dinosaurs 150-66 million years ago. Even sea temperatures may have been 30 degrees Celsius close to there! it was still cooler than the rest of the planet, but Antarctica was about 1000 km closer to the equator than it is now. and considerably more habitable!

Antarctic DinosaurWhere lived (present day equivalent) When livedClimate and
Habitat
Extra information
CryolophosaurusAntarcticLate Cretaceous: 71 million years ago. Forests and woods. ( still cooler than rest of world) Found 400 miles from the South pole!
AntarctopeltaAntarctic Late Cretaceous: 70 million years agoconifer and deciduous treesdiscovered on James Ross Island in 1986
GlacialisaurusAntarcticEarly Jurassic – 184 million years ago. forests and woodsAn Early dinosaur about 6 metres in length.
ImperobatorAntarcticLate Cretaceous: 71 million years ago large conifer forests, 
cycads and gingkos
a carnivore found in 2003.

So Antarctica was also a place where dinosaurs lived, and although less species ( around 7 so far) have been found compared to every other continent we can fairly confidently put this down to difficulties in finding fossils under the ice and snow and rock hard ground!

Where Did Dinosaurs live? – Asia

Asia is huge, the largest continent and there have been hundreds of dinosaurs discovered here especially in more recent years as Chinese paleontologists have gone to work in the gobi. However, dinosaurs lived all over the continent as it was then and are found in many countries in Asia.

However the majority, by far, of these have been found in Mongolia and China. This is unlikely to be because there were more dinosaurs there, though its a possibility, similarly the areas they are found are open, desert and rocks and much easier to look and search for fossils that the tropical forests and Jungles of Thailand, Malaysia and other South Asian Countries.

Asia DinosaurWhere lived (present day equivalent) When livedClimate and
Habitat
Extra information
VelociraptorAsia / MongoliaLate Cretaceous: 75 – 71 million years ago. Arid, desert and rare streamsProbably the most famous Asian Dinosaur
CitipatiAsia / MongoliaLate Cretaceous: 75-71 million years agoArid, desert and rare streamsMany well preserved specimens
DeinocheirusAsia / MongoliaLate Cretaceous – 69 million years ago. Steams and rivers, and shallow lakes. Huge Omnivorous dinosaur.
KinnareemimusAsia / ThailandLate Cretaceous: 133 million years ago large forestsone of the few dinosaurs discovered in Thailand.

There are hundreds of fossilized dinosaur discoveries in Asia, and dinosaurs certainly lived there in great numbers. We have just highlighted four in the table on Where dinosaurs lived above but a larger list is available here on Wiki.

Where did dinosaurs live

Where Did Dinosaurs live? – Australasia

Australia has huge open spaces, plenty of sparsh vegetation and rocks but only a few dinosaur species have been found in the huge continent. this is mainly due to the vastness of that space and the fact that there are no where near as many people living there as in Asia or North America for example.

This is improving and it won’t be long till more fossils are found providing evidence that Australia too was a place where plenty of dinosaurs lived.

Australasia DinosaurWhere lived (present day equivalent) When livedClimate and
Habitat
Extra information
MinmiAustralasia Early Cretaceous: 133 – 120 million years ago. Forests and bushesa longish legged ankylosaur
MuttaburrasaurusAustralasia Early Cretaceous: 107 million years agoconifer and cycads tree forestsa large iguanodon type dinosaur
OzraptorAustralasia Middle Jurassic – 169 million years ago. conifer and cycads tree forestsa carnivorous raptor like dinosaur.
WeewarrasaurusAustralasia Late Cretaceous: large conifer forests, 
cycads
was preserved in opal.

The most famous of these dinosaurs is probably Minmi, both for its cutesy name and its longer legs which were thought to be to move quicker into cover away from predators.

Where Did Dinosaurs live? – Europe

The continent which invented the word dinosaur has plenty that have been found thought out the years though with the 2000 years of development it is likely that many more were lost to building and construction over the centuries. However the first three ever named and described dinosaurs were discovered here, as well as the first examples of feathered dinosaurs. Dinosaures certainly lived here in numbers!

European DinosaurWhere lived (present day equivalent) When livedClimate and
Habitat
Extra information
MegalosaurusEurope / UKMid Jurassic 166 million years ago. Forests and tropical treesOn of the first ever dinosaurs.
BaryonyxEurope / UK Spain, PortugalEarly Cretaceous: 130 million years agoRivers and forestsA large fish eating dinosaur.
ArchaeopteryxEurope /GermanyLate Jurassic – 150 million years ago. forests with cycads and conifersOne of first discovered feathered dinosaurs.
CompsognathusEurope / GermanyLate Cretaceous: 71 million years agoLagoons, beaches and islandsone of the smallest known dinosaurs.

There are hundreds of dinosaur that lived in Europe and a full list is available here. The area though possibly dry in area also had islands, lagoon, and forests for a wide range of species of dinosaur to live and thrive here.

Where Did Dinosaurs live? – North America

There are More Dinosaurs discovered in North AMerica than any other area, although Asia is fast catching up and has a much larger area to search. However, of all the dinosaurs that lived here there are some stand out ones for both their fame and their size. It was the heyday of paleontology and its seems a dinosaur a day was being found to have lived in the states of Utah, Montana, and Wyoming. Again where there is plenty or sand, dirt, rock and erosion!

North
American
Dinosaur
Where lived (present day equivalent) When livedClimate and
Habitat
Extra information
Tyrannosaurus RexNorth America / MontanaLate Cretaceous: 68 – 66 million years ago. Semi Arid Inland PlainsThe most famous carnivore of them all.
TriceratopsNorth America / ColoradoLate Cretaceous: 68-66 million years agoForest and dry plainsprobably the most famous herbivore dinosaur.
BrachiosaurusNorth America / ColoradoLate Jurassic – 154 million years ago. Semi Dry with seasons, tall large trees and rivers. A huge sauropod 72 feet long
AtrociraptorNorth America / CanadaLate Cretaceous: 68.5 million years ago large conifer forests, 
cycads and gingkos
A type of raptor made famous by Jurassic World.

While the most famous of the worlds dinosaurs lived in what is now North America, there were plenty i canada as well, and more are discovered yearly. The same obstacle remains, canada is very heavily forested and dinosaurs are not easy to find when compared to the arid and dry areas of the Badlands, and hells creek areas of North America.

Where Did Dinosaurs live? – South America

If north America was where the famous dinosaurs lived, then South America was where the giant dinosaurs lived, both herbivore and carnivore . From the huge Argentinosaurus, and Giganotosaurus to Patagotitan and carnotaurus it was a land of plenty and the dinosaurs sizes represent that. It was a heavily forested landscape for the most part but with dry areas as well.

South American DinosaurWhere lived (present day equivalent) When livedClimate and
Habitat
Extra information
ArgentinosaurusSouth America Late Cretaceous: 96 – 95 million years agoLarge Forests with flowering plants with rivers. Possibly the largest ever dinosaur
GiganotosaurusSouth AmericaLate Cretaceous: 99 million years agoPlenty of river and streams, and swampyPossibly the largest ever carnivore dinosaur
PatagotitanSouth America Late Cretaceous: 100 million years ago. Large Forests with flowering plants with rivers.another contender for largest dinosaur ever.
CarnotaurusSouth AmericaLate Cretaceous 71 – 69 million years agoCoastal plains – estuaries seasonal with dry and wet seasons. Known for its very short arms.

Dinosaurs lived all over South america and their diversity was matched by their size. By around 140 million years ago South America continent was in the process of splitting with the African Continent and what was a a narrow sea continued widening into what is known now as the South Atlantic.

This gave the dinosaurs that lived in South America the chance to evolve to sizes more suited for the environments they lived in.

Where did dinosaurs live

There was only one Continent!

Although we have highlighted examples of dinosaurs that lived on all modern ( not that modern) day continents one thing that truly demonstrates that dinosaurs lived all over the Earth is the supercontinent Pangea.

Pangra is the landmass that was in existence 230 or so million years ago, when dinosaurs were just starting to take over from their archosaur ancestors. At that time the oldest known dinosaurs actually came from what is now Argentina, but was then the south of Pangea.

Pangea was made up of all the worlds landmasses and was slowly torn apart but volcanic activity along the edges of North America, South America and Africa.

It became two continents around 160 million years ago, Laurasia ( the Northern Continent) and Gondwana ( the southern) and continued to split into our 7 continents today. These splits are the explanation why threre are clearly relations and similarities between dinosaur species, and also why there are only certain dinosaurs found on individual continents.

So while dinosaurs may have been lived all over the world this continental drift, which continues today, is why there are different species of dinosaurs in different places from the Early Cretaceous onwards.

This is why a T-Rex has never been found in Africa for example, it evolved long after the split of of both Pangea and the two other continents ( laurasia and Gondwana) and similarly with Carnotaurus from South America, evolving towards the end of the age of the dinosaurs it was a world that looked much more like the one today, continent wise at least, rather than the one when dinosaurs first started to evolve.

Why Were Dinosaurs on Every Continent

Just like animal life today there are adaptations to their environments, and while there are dinosaurs discovered on every continent today, even the remotest of them Antarctica these dinosaurs although similar, there were differences.

When the landmass of Pangea started to split 230 or so million years ago it had dinosaurs of varying species on each of the two supercontinents it created, as further splits occurred up to 66 million years ago, dinosaurs again were present on these continents and natural barriers like seas and oceans or Mountain ranges separated them.

It gave them the chance to adapt to the changing environment and to evolve into more varied species of dinosaurs.

So while there are similar species of dinosaurs on all continents, from large carnivores to large sauropods they are all just that little bit different as they evolved to meet the constraints of the environment they found themselves in. this was far from a quick process, but with dinosaurs having about 170 -180 million years of evolution they had plenty of time to change, adapt and as we can see spread.

Where did dinosaurs live

Where Did Dinosaurs Live: Habitats

this really warrants an article on its own, but as habitat and environment are equally important to answer the question where did dinosaurs live we will address it here in the list below.

Water and Wetlands

Dinosaurs lived in all of Earth’s habitats to varying degrees. Though primarily a land animal, in fact there are very few species that could be labelled water dinosaurs, they like modern animal life sought out water and needed it to live. Where there was water there were dinosaurs, and birds, crocodiles, lizards and even mammals!

Desert: Deserts and Arid Habitats.

Although dinosaurs are often depicted walking through jungles and forests, and there were plenty that did, equally accurate would be to place them in semi arid and dry environments with some river systems, deltas and lakes. Some like the Shuvuuia even fully evolved for dry environments with incredible hearing and eyesight to catch much scarer food.

Grasslands:

Grass as we know it just wasn’t a dominant feature of the prehistoric world of the dinosaurs, there were ferns and bushes but grass is thought to have evolved after the extinction of the dinosaurs 65-55 million years ago. Although some forms may have been present before it would not have been plentiful enough ( like today) to be a full habitat.

Jungles and Forests

The wet tropical environments back when dinosaurs live, as well as cooler environments would have had trees and ferns in abundance and dinosaurs, especially large herbivores thrived here, examples being the huge sauropods of South America.

Oceans / Lakes

While there is no known Ocean living dinosaur ( there were marine lizards though) there may have been some that swam shallow seas to migrate or find food. However lakes, as a water source, were well populated with dinosaur species as were rivers. Spinosaurus for example is thought to be one of the rare examples of an Aquatic dinosaur.

Snow and Tundra

We have a larger article on this on the site called ‘Could dinosaurs live in the snow‘ but some species could tolerate it why migrating, and some like yutyrannus may have evolved fuller coats of feathers to live in cooler temperatures.

Where did dinosaurs live

Conclusion

So over the 170 million years of dinosaur life they lived in every corner of the Earth as it was then, and witnessed the breakup of the single continent land mass Pangea and the formation of a world that looks much more like our modern day world.

They were not limited by borders but more by climate, but like modern day animals given time they could adapt and evolve to live in multiple habitats and environments. We have found evidence that dinosaurs not only lived on every continent but it almost every environment as well, from wet and dry to hot and cold.

This level of diversity is why they managed to live for those 170 million years, and spread around the world.

References

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