|Name Meaning||“Wounding Tooth”||Height||1 meter (3 ft.)|
|Pronunciation||TROH-oh-don||Length||2.4 meters (7.9 ft.)|
|Era||Mesozoic – Late Cretaceous||Weight||34 to 49 kg. (70 to 110 lbs.)|
|Classification||Dinosauria, Saurischia, & Theropoda||Location||North America (United States)|
Troodon is a dinosaur that lived in North America during the late Cretaceous period, dating to the Campanian age.
Found in Montana in 1855, its fossils were one of the first types of dinosaurs discovered in North America.
What is known about Troodon has changed throughout the years, and originally this dinosaur was believed to be a species of lizard.
Troodon is a former wastebasket taxon, which is a taxon used to classify an animal that does not currently fit into any current group.
While there is still a lot of mystery to discover about this bird-like dinosaur, years of research and fossil discoveries have allowed paleontologists to learn more about this ancient theropod that lived around 86.3 to 66 million years ago.
Here you will learn about the “Wounding Tooth” dinosaur Troodon, and what has managed to be learned about this ancient species.
Even though this dinosaur was discovered over a hundred years ago, there is still a lot of work to be done to fully understand what Troodon was, and how they fit into their prehistoric environments.
Troodon is a small theropod that has many features similar to modern birds, and this dinosaur gets its name from the unique shape of its teeth.
Translating from Greek, Troodon means “Wounding Teeth”, but this was not because of their teeth size, as their teeth only had a height of around 9 mm and a width of around 4 mm.
What made this bird-like dinosaur teeth stand out to paleontologists was the saw-like serrations they had, which was much different than any other meat-eating, or herbivorous dinosaur.
Troodon had a length estimated at 2 m (6.5 ft.) and stood at around 1 meter (3 ft) tall.
Its eyes were very large, suggesting they had a nocturnal lifestyle, and great vision.
This dinosaur had an estimated weight between 31.7 to 50 kgs (70 to 110 lbs.), and they had a sleek build.
They walked on two legs like other theropods, and had long legs, with three clawed toes on each foot.
One of the claws on the feet of Troodon was sickle-shaped, and retractable, similar to dinosaurs like the Velociraptor.
Depictions of this dinosaur have them covered with feathers and short feathered arms.
Due to the limited fossils of Troodon there have been several ways paleontologists think this dinosaur could have looked, and more fossils may give us a clearer picture of this dinosaur in the future.
Habitat and Distribution
Troodon lived in North America and Asia during the Late Cretaceous period around 77 to 66 million years ago.
In the United States Troodon fossils were one of the first fossils to be discovered and remains from this dinosaur have been discovered from as far south as Texas, and all the way north to Alaska.
The habitats that Troodon lived in varied, as North America and Asia both had varying climates.
The majority of Troodon fossils have been discovered in North America, but there have been a few discovered in places like Heilongjiang China.
In North America during the Late Cretaceous period, the continent was split by the Western Interior Seaway, and there were also lots of water sources in the region.
Troodon lived in wetlands, deserts, forests, and other habitats, and are believed to prefer colder regions.
The little fossil evidence from this dinosaur and the debate on findings is why it is difficult to figure out the true range of this dinosaur.
Troodon has been an extremely controversial genus, and some fossils discovered may actually not be of this genus, so their range may change.
North America is where these dinosaurs mainly lived, based on the higher number of fossils found in the area.
Behavior and Diet
The saw-like teeth of Troodon give an insight into what these dinosaurs ate, and there are several possibilities of what their diet could have consisted of.
Troodon not only had sharp wounding teeth with serrations on them but they had several different types of teeth that allowed them to eat a variety of foods.
The build and teeth of Troodon suggested they were a speedy predator that ate smaller mammals, lizards, and other dinosaurs, doing most of their hunting at night.
Evidence of fossils with scratches, and saw-like lacerations has helped scientists understand how dinosaurs like Troodon fed on their prey.
Dinosaurs like Troodon ate prey by biting into their prey and pulling the meat off.
Studies have shown that using this method of biting and pulling would have been difficult to do on larger prey, as the struggling would have broken their teeth.
Computer reconstructions of Troodon teeth suggest these animals’ teeth could only experience around 300 mpa of force before breaking.
It is also likely that Troodon could have eaten plants, seeds, fruits, and nuts.
Studies of Troodontids suggest these dinosaurs were not herbivores, but could have survived off an omnivore diet.
Troodons were one of the smartest dinosaurs of their time and may have also used intelligence to steal food from other dinosaurs.
Troodon dinosaurs started out in eggs, and fossil evidence suggests these dinosaurs laid their eggs in communal nests.
Their eggs had shapes similar to modern birds and had a bluish-green color which helped them camouflage into their environment.
In 2023 a study done looking at Troodon eggshells from the Old Man Formation showed that they had slow calcification which is more similar to reptiles than birds.
Modern birds like ostriches also lay eggs in communal nests, and looking at reptiles, and birds brings insights into how dinosaurs lived.
Fossils from Alaska suggested that Troodons grew to a larger size than in other regions where they lived, which helps support Bergmann’s Rule.
Bergmann’s rule can be seen in modern animals like bears, and the cold likely affected the size of dinosaurs like Troodon, causing them to grow larger.
Evolution and History
Troodon was one of the first fossils discovered in the United States, and there has been lots of controversy about this genus.
The first fossils discovered of this dinosaur were their serrated teeth, and they were discovered in 1856 in Montana.
When first found the teeth of Troodon were thought to belong to a lizard species, but was reassigned in 1901 by Franz Nopcsa von Felso-Szilvas into the Megalosuaruid family.
It was only in the 1930s when fossils of Troodon that were not teeth were found, discovered in the Dinosaur Park Formation in Alberta Canada.
The fossils found in Alberta created the Stenonychosaurus genus, which is now considered a synonym to Troodon.
Other fossils found near Alberta included a jaw segment, which was first classified as a new species, Polyodontosaurus grandis.
It was only until better-preserved fossils were found of Stenoychosaurus, and an analysis done in 1987 by Phil Currie on Troodon, was concluded that Stenonychosaurus, Troodon, and Polyodontosaurus fossils all belonged to the same genus.
Confusion came from the age, and placement of teeth in the fossils found of Troodon, which made these specimens look like they were different species.
One of the most insightful fossils discovered of Troodon was a skull that allowed scientists to take a cast of this dinosaur’s brain.
Troodons had a brain the size of a golf ball, and they had one of the largest brains for their size when compared with all dinosaurs.
It is believed this dinosaur was one of the smartest of their time, and if they did not go extinct some theories suggest they would have evolved into a reptilian humanoid.
Interactions with Other Species
The region that Troodon lived in had lots of trees, flowering plants, and shrubs that fed many herbivorous dinosaurs that they lived alongside with.
Troodon was different from other theropods, as they mainly fed on smaller animals like small lizards and mammals.
The dinosaurs that lived alongside Troodon include the likes of Edmontosaurus, Nanuqsaurus, Alaskacephale, Maiasaura, Gorgosaurus, Albetosuaurs, and Daspletosaurus.
Troodon were very vulnerable to larger predatory dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurids.
Apex predators like the Tyrannosaurus rex co-inhabited with Troodon in prehistoric North America.
Breeding in numbers would help their survival, but Troodon also had to use their speed and intelligence to survive.
Troodon may have eaten other dinosaurs, and also stolen food from other species.
While small in size this dinosaur still had enough intelligence to survive with some of Earth’s deadliest predators.
Troodons are one of the most controversial dinosaurs, and it is not surprising since they are one of the first discovered dinosaurs in North America.
The science of paleontology has existed since the 1700s, and over time the methods used to describe, and date fossils has changed and improved.
Troodon showed many evolutionary links between birds and dinosaurs but also helped prevent future mistakes in identifying fossils discovered.
There have been several well-preserved fossils of Troodon that allowed studies to be done in dinosaur breeding, their diet, and intelligence.
Compared to other dinosaurs Troodon is one of the most interesting since some paleontologists do not consider this a valid species, but many do.
Debate is still underway about this dinosaur, but it is still one of the most beloved species and is featured in many books, games, and museums.
Troodon is a very important dinosaur, as it was one of the first dinosaurs discovered, but even more than 100 years later is still a very controversial species.
One of the main reasons this dinosaur has been with so much controversy is that its genus is based on the discovery of only a single tooth fossil.
The teeth of Troodon suggested they could have eaten both plants and meat, but this dinosaur’s diet was likely made up of mostly small animals.
Troodon has been very well studied, and with more fossil discoveries in the future the fate of this genus may finally be decided.
Could Troodon fly?
Despite having feathers, and many features similar to a bird Troodon was not able to fly, and only traveled by swift terrestrial movement.
The larger size of the Troodon and their small arms made it impossible for them to fly.
Feathers of dinosaurs like Troodon were used to keep them warm and also could have been used as a display to attract mates.
Why did Troodon go extinct?
Troodon went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period along with the other dinosaurs when the Chicxulub asteroid hit Mexico.
This asteroid killed Troodon by its impact and drastically changed the ecosystem making it unsustainable for most life on Earth.
Did Troodon hunt in packs?
It is very likely that Troodon hunted in packs since that is a common trait for smaller theropods since it made it easier to take down larger prey.
While the little fossil evidence of Troodon makes it difficult to understand the hunting and behavior patterns of these dinosaurs, the higher intelligence of this dinosaur and communal breeding made it likely they also hunted together.