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Age of Dinosaurs

Cretaceous Europe

A map of Europe in Cretaceous timesA map of Europe in Cretaceous times Today, Europe has two main islands—Britain and Ireland. Back in Cretaceous times, Europe was almost all islands, surrounded by wide shallow seas. Only the hills and mountains of Scandinavia in the north towered above the waters. Nearly all southeastern Europe was under the waves. There was also a strait between Europe and Asia, where the Ural Mountains now stand. Many new kinds of dinosaurs evolved on these islands. Some were able to feast on the new flowering plants, such as herbs and blossom trees, which brought fresh colours to the landscape.

A scene in Early Cretaceous EuropeA scene in Early Cretaceous Europe

Fish-eating predator

Somewhere in what is now southern England, about 120 million years ago, lurked the fearsome predator Baryonyx. It was 10 metres (33 feet) long. Its long, crocodile-like head had rows of small, sharp teeth perfectly suited to grabbing slippery prey such as fish. Perhaps it scooped these out of rivers and lakes using the big, curved claws on its thumbs.

Southern England in the Mid-Cretaceous periodSouthern England in the Mid-Cretaceous periodIn this scene, small Hypsilophodon scurry away at speed from the meat-eater, while a herd of Iguanodon pull the leaves from trees with their beak-like mouths. Such plant-eaters lived in constant fear of attack. They probably moved about in herds, sprinting for safety whenever danger threatened. If alone and cornered, Iguanodon could rear up on its hind legs and jab its vicious thumb spike into the body of its attacker.

Balaur, a small feathered theropod just 2 m (6.6 ft) long, including its tail, had not one but two large sickle claws on each foot. Its relatives, including Velociraptor, had only one. Balaur, discovered in Romania in 2009, is the most complete theropod fossil from Late Cretaceous Europe ever found.

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