Clever Girls: Ranking the Smartest Dinosaurs

Leave a comment / / Updated on: 23rd September 2023

With their enormous size, terrifying features, and ancient existence, dinosaurs have captured our imagination for millennia.

Nevertheless, recent scientific findings have shed fresh light on these unique creatures, showing that certain dinosaurs exhibited intellect unmatched by even modern species.

Now that we’ve delved into the depths of the prehistoric past, it’s time to focus on a particular subset of dinosaurs known as the “smartest dinosaurs” to have roamed the Earth.

Gage Beasley's Prehistoric Shirt Collection
Gage Beasley’s Prehistoric Shirt Collection
Gage Beasley's Prehistoric Plush Collection
Gage Beasley’s Prehistoric Plush Collection

The Smartest Dinosaurs On The List

Brain cavity of S. stenops is in red | Frederick Berger via Flickr

These dinosaurs displayed astounding cognitive abilities and problem-solving capabilities.

We learn how these ancient species’ intelligence played a crucial part in determining their fate by examining their mental capacities and the benefits they provided.

In general, intelligence gave dinosaurs the capacity to adapt to a changing environment, enabling them to resolve challenging issues and overcome obstacles.

Their intellect provided them with a tremendous edge in their survival tactics, allowing them to cross demanding terrains, find food sources, and identify possible enemies.

For some dinosaurs, intelligence fueled social complexity and cooperation, enabling them to thrive in group settings.

Though not a dinosaur, Mosasaurus is said to have been one of the smartest in prehistoric times.

Studies suggest that these dinosaurs exhibited pack behavior, cooperating during hunting and protecting their young.

Their ability to outwit larger, lone predators and maintain their position in the ecosystem required a certain level of intellect and communication.

The ability to adapt to various surroundings and available resources was another essential function of intelligence for dinosaurs.

Certain dinosaurs adjusted their habits and survived in shifting environments by recognizing and reacting to environmental cues.

This flexibility was especially noticeable when moving from terrestrial to aquatic habitats.

In this article, we will explore some of the smartest dinosaurs and how their intelligence helped them navigate their habitats successfully.

Keep reading to discover more.

5. Allosaurus

Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Allosaurus Concept
Name MeaningOther Lizard
EraMesozoic – Late Jurassic
ClassificationDinosauria, Saurischia, Theropoda
Height5 meters (16.4 feet)
Length8.5 to 12 meters (27.89 to 39.37 feet)
Weight1,500 to 2,000 kilograms (3,306.93 to 4,409.25 lbs)
LocationPortugal, Utah, Germany, Nebraska

Renowned for its colossal size and predatory skills, the Allosaurus is a dinosaur that existed 155 to 145 million years ago in the Late Jurassic period.

Allosaurus means “different lizard” because of its unique concave vertebrae.

Othniel Charles Marsh, a naturalist, reported the first fossil remains that could be linked to this species in 1877.

With a strong build and a length of up to 40 feet, this apex predator was equipped with a powerful bite, strong claws, and teeth with serrated edges for cutting into flesh with ease.

Its strong limbs and nimble frame allowed for quick movements, allowing it to pursue and conquer its victim successfully.

Endocast (cast of the brain cavity) of Allosaurus | Carpenter, Kenneth via Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Asides from being one of the most famous theropods, this dinosaur has also received recognition for its intelligence; it possessed a level of intelligence that played a pivotal role in its survival amidst the competitive landscapes of the Mesozoic Era.

According to experts, fossil findings and behavioral studies shed light on the adaptive intelligence of this ancient predator, and several of their social behaviors were driven by intelligence.

For instance, cooperative hunting and pack dynamics gave these dinosaurs an edge in taking down formidable prey and defending against rival predators.

Their intelligence was also evident in other aspects of their hunting in that they developed sophisticated hunting strategies.

Allosaurus dinosaur 3D illustration
Allosaurus dinosaur 3D illustration / Warpaintcobra via Istock

They combined stealth, stalking, and coordinated attacks to target vulnerable prey.

Recent research also reveals that the Allosaurus exhibited problem-solving skills crucial for survival in the ever-changing landscapes of the Late Jurassic, indicating a high level of intelligence.

The size and structure of its brain and highly developed sensory organs point to an animal with the capacity for sophisticated cognitive functions.

There were significant climatic shifts and the appearance of new herbivorous animals on Earth during the Late Jurassic.

The Allosaurus showed an outstanding ability to adapt to these changes, changing its food, behavior, and hunting tactics accordingly.

Its intelligence was demonstrated by its flexibility, which allowed it to flourish in a dynamic habitat that was always changing.

4. Compsognathus 

Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Compsognathus Concept
Name MeaningPretty Jaw
EraMesozoic – Late Jurassic
ClassificationDinosauria, Saurischia, Theropoda
Height0.2 to 0.3 meters (0.66 to 0.984 feet)
Length0.65 to 1 meter (2.13 to 3.28 feet)
Weight2.5 to 3 kilograms (5.51 to 6.61 lbs)
LocationFrance, Germany, Portugal

Despite its diminutive size, the Compsognathus has captured the attention of scientists and paleontologists due to its unique characteristics and potential intelligence.

The Compsognathus, meaning “elegant jaw,” lived during the Late Jurassic period, approximately 150 million years ago.

With its slender body, long tail, and sharp teeth, it was a nimble and agile predator, preying upon small reptiles and mammals.

While it is challenging to study the intelligence of extinct creatures, scientists have pieced together valuable information through the analysis of fossil records, skeletal structures, and comparisons with its modern-day relatives – birds.

Reconstruction of a skeleton of C. longipes at the Museum of Ancient Life | Zach Tirrell via Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The brain-to-body ratio is one of the primary measures of dinosaur intelligence, and Compsognathus had a higher brain-to-body ratio compared to many other dinosaurs of comparable or bigger size, even though Compsognathus had a relatively tiny brain in comparison to its body size.

As compared to its contemporaries, this shows that Compsognathus may have had a superior cognitive ability.

Additional evidence for the possible intelligence of Compsognathus is provided by the process of encephalization, which describes the evolution-driven growth in brain mass and complexity.

Analysis of its cranial anatomy indicates a sizable brain cavity, indicating the capacity for sophisticated cognitive abilities and actions.

Findings from paleontology provide essential hints about Compsognathus’ cognitive capacities.

It has been established by fossil evidence that Compsognathus had feathers, a crucial trait linked to high intellect and problem-solving skills.

Two compsognathus dinosaurs walking and thirsty in the desert looking for water by day - 3D render
Two Compsognathus looking for water / Elenarts108 via Istock

These fossils were found in Germany’s renowned Solnhofen Limestone Formation.

Modern birds, who are extremely intelligent organisms, are known to have feathers, suggesting a possible connection between Compsognathus and its avian successors’ cognitive capacities.

Also, an examination of Compsognathus’ skeletal structure indicates changes frequently linked to improved cognitive function.

Its lengthened hind limbs, for instance, indicate exceptional locomotor abilities and agility, potentially facilitating complex hunting methods and avoidance tactics.

3. Oviraptor

Gage Beasley Prehistoric's Oviraptor Concept
Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Oviraptor Concept
Name MeaningEgg Thief
EraMesozoic – Late Cretaceous
ClassificationDinosauria, Saurischia, Theropoda
Height1 to 1.6 meters (3.28 to 5.25 feet)
Length2 meters (6.56 feet)
Weight20 kilograms (44.09 lbs)
LocationMongolia, Kyrgyzstan

The Oviraptor was a medium-sized dinosaur, typically measuring about 6-8 feet and weighing approximately 200-300 pounds.

It lived approximately 75-70 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous period.

Fossil findings suggest it inhabited several environments, including desert-like regions and forested areas.

Despite its small size, scientific studies and findings have revealed the remarkable intellect and cognitive skills of this dinosaur, altering our understanding of its role in the prehistoric world.

Scientists have been able to recreate its general look and comprehend its ecological niche because of fossil discoveries that have shed light on its physical characteristics.

The Oviraptor’s brain size and skull structure point to a relatively high degree of intelligence compared to other dinosaurs of the same era.

After the discovery of a nest in the 1920s, the Oviraptor’s infamous reputation as an egg robber underwent a dramatic change.

The Oviraptor was discovered in what initially seemed to be the middle of an attack on a nest of Protoceratops eggs. 

However, further studies showed that the Oviraptor was not an egg robber but a protective parent who nurtured its eggs.

A model Oviraptor with an egg
A model Oviraptor with an egg / Kitti Kahotong via Istock

This discovery upended our preconceived notions of the dinosaur’s behavior and offered the first evidence of its intellect and intricate social structures.

Further research has emphasized the Oviraptor’s exceptional parental care and nesting habits.

Adult Oviraptors have been found meticulously organized atop their eggs in fossilized nests, suggesting that they may have used their body to regulate temperature and safeguard the growing embryos.

These dinosaurs may have had advanced cognitive abilities and sophisticated social systems based on detailed nest construction and parental involvement.

Scientists have been captivated by evidence of the Oviraptor’s tool usage and problem-solving abilities.

Oviraptor nest | Ryan Somma via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A fossilized Oviraptor specimen with a clawed hand was discovered next to a clutch of eggs, suggesting that the animal may have used tools to capture prey or move objects.

This finding suggests dinosaurs may have had higher adaptation and cognitive flexibility than is typically believed.

The intelligence displayed by the Oviraptor has broader implications for our understanding of dinosaur evolution.

As one of the few dinosaur species showcasing higher cognitive abilities, the Oviraptor challenges the notion that intelligence was limited to select lineages.

The intelligence of this dinosaur may have provided a competitive advantage, enabling it to adapt to changing environments and exploit new food sources.

2. Deinonychus 

Gage Beasley Prehistoric's Deinonychus Concept
Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Deinonychus Concept
Name MeaningTerrible Claw
EraMesozoic – Early Cretaceous
ClassificationDinosauria, Saurischia, Theropoda
Height0.87 to 1.45 meters (2.85 to 4.76 feet)
Length3 meters (9.84 feet)
Weight75 kilograms (165.34 lbs)
LocationMontana & Wyoming (USA), Oklahoma (North America)

Deinonychus, meaning “terrible claw,” was a medium-sized dinosaur that roamed North America approximately 115 to 108 million years ago.

The Deinonychus was a highly agile predator, capable of quick and precise movements.

It possessed long, slender legs and a stiffened tail that likely aided in maintaining balance and stability while pursuing prey.

However, recent scientific advancements and paleontological studies have revealed a fascinating facet of Deinonychus’ existence: its extraordinary intellect.

Deinonychus had a drastic brain-to-body ratio, indicating a high degree of intelligence.

While not as massive as some modern animals’ brains, this dinosaur’s brain was nevertheless relatively enormous compared to other dinosaurs of its size.

Reconstructed skull and neck, Royal Ontario Museum | Rob Hurson via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

This suggests that Deinonychus may have possessed a higher aptitude for sophisticated cognition and action.

The possibility that Deinonychus may coordinate and engage in cooperative hunting tactics is one of the fascinating features of its intelligence.

According to fossil evidence, the Deinonychus may have engaged in pack hunting like the Velociraptor.

Such cooperative activities needed high intellect levels since they entailed planning, communication, and the capacity to cooperate.

Current research suggests that Deinonychus may have had the ability to use tools or manipulate items in its environment.

Fossilized bones of this dinosaur have been discovered with preserved prey, displaying signs of intentional puncture wounds and cutting marks.

Deinonychus on the lookout
Deinonychus on the lookout / Elenarts108 via Istock

These discoveries raise the notion that it used its pointed, curved claws not just for slicing prey but also for handling objects or carcasses.

The intelligence of Deinonychus likely extended beyond its physical capabilities.

Scientists propose that this dinosaur had sophisticated problem-solving abilities based on examining its brain anatomy.

It possessed cognitive abilities that allowed it to overcome obstacles and adjust to its surroundings, as its brain exhibited characteristics linked to sophisticated processing and decision-making.

The social organization and communication skills of Deinonychus were closely related to their intelligence.

Effective coordination and communication among individuals were necessary for pack hunting and group life.

Vocalizations, visual signals, and body language may have all aided information transmission and maintained group cohesion.

1. Troodon

Troodon | Srdjan Stefanovic via Getty Images
Name MeaningWounding Tooth
EraMesozoicLate Cretaceous
ClassificationDinosauria, Saurischia, Theropoda
Height0.9 to 2 meters (2.95 to 6.56 feet)
Length2 meters (6.56 feet)
Weight40 kilograms (88.18 lbs)
LocationAlaska (North America), Montana (USA), China (Asia)

Within the realm of dinosaurs, the Troodon has emerged as a prime candidate for the title of the smartest dinosaur ever to have roamed the Earth.

The Troodon was a small theropod dinosaur that lived during the Late Cretaceous period.

Compared to other dinosaurs, the Troodon had a larger brain in relation to its body size, raising the possibility of a link between brain size and cognitive capacities.

Scientists speculate that the Troodon had highly developed cognitive abilities that allowed it to navigate its surroundings with outstanding flexibility and problem-solving abilities.

The Troodon’s brain anatomy has been fascinatingly uncovered by studying fossilized remains.

Increased optic lobe size and well-developed olfactory areas are traits that paleontologists have linked to improved sensory perception and information processing.

Restored skeleton of an unnamed Alaskan species, Perot Museum | bryan… via Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

These modifications suggest enhanced sensory awareness and the ability to gather and analyze environmental information, two traits that characterize intelligent organisms.

Further behavioral studies have bolstered the Troodon’s reputation as a highly intelligent dinosaur.

Fossilized remains exhibit behaviors consistent with cooperation and social activities.

Based on these remains, the Troodon may have lived in groups, participating in complicated social dynamics and potentially working together on projects.

The Troodon’s social structure may have been characterized by advanced communication, cooperative hunting tactics, and group problem-solving, demonstrating a degree of intelligence not often observed in dinosaurs.

Moreover, agility was considered essential to the Troodon’s problem-solving capacity.

Troodon 3d render
The winner! / CoreyFord via Istock

It would have been capable of precisely manipulating objects and navigating its surroundings because of its long, gripping fingers and sharp eyesight.

The Troodon possessed a distinct edge in hunting, foraging, and adjusting to shifting environmental conditions due to these physical characteristics and its highly developed cognitive capacities.

Studies on avian dinosaurs have shown ties between the Troodon and some bird species, helping researchers better grasp this dinosaur’s intelligence by comparing it to some of its modern bird progeny.


The article highlights the five dinosaur species: Troodon, Deinonychus, Oviraptor, Compsognathus, and Mosasaurus.

These dinosaurs are regarded as some of the brightest based on their cognitive capabilities and problem-solving ability.

In summary, these dinosaurs demonstrated exceptional cognitive ability and problem-solving abilities that enabled them to adapt to their environments, participate in cooperative behavior, and overcome obstacles.

In the primordial world, their intellect was essential to their survival and prosperity.

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