The Online Library of Knowledge

How dinosaurs lived

Dinosaur movement

Animation of Cryolophosaurus on the moveAnimation of Cryolophosaurus on the moveClick to play video The ability to walk upright on straight legs was the key to the dinosaurs’ success. All other types of reptiles moved by sprawling (like lizards), or by straightening their legs for short distances (like crocodiles, sprinting). This ability allowed the dinosaurs to evolve a whole range of body types and lifestyles. So how can we work out how different dinosaurs walked and ran?

The skeleton of Iguanodon on all foursThe skeleton of Iguanodon on all fours

Fossil evidence

Study of fossil skeletons reveal the dinosaur’s body type: for example, whether it was light-boned and bipedal, or a heavy-boned quadruped. Biomechanics, applying the principles of engineering to animal posture and movement, tells us how they may have moved and whether they were fast or slow.  

The long bones in its back legs showed Iguanodon walked bipedally. The hooves on the ends of its fingers tell us it must have walked on all fours as well. Infants, which had proportionally shorter arms, probably spent more time running on two legs.

An adult and infant Iguanodon walk along side by sideAn adult and infant Iguanodon walk along side by side
 

While some dinosaurs walked on four legs, others on two, all dinosaurs, large and small, walked on tiptoe.

© 2019 Q-files Ltd. All rights reserved. Switch to Mobile