The Dinosaur Awards: the biggest, fastest, and fiercest of them all
“Which dinosaur was the biggest?,” “Which was the fastest?,” or “Which did we discover first?” We’ve put together a list of dinosaur superlatives – the biggest, fastest, scariest dinosaurs of them all – and awarded the winners a “Dinosaur Award”.
“She’s as long as six buses and as heavy as 12 African elephants. The biggest animal to ever roam the earth. Ladies and Gentlemen, please put your hands, claws or flippers together where possible,” eyeing T-Rex apologetically, “For this Dinosaur Award winner…”
During my nephew’s “thirst for dinosaur knowledge” phase, he bombarded us with questions about superlative dinosaurs, the winners of the Dinosaur Awards:
Which dinosaur was the biggest?
Which dinosaur was the fastest?
Which dinosaur was the scariest?
(This was followed by his, “If there was a fight between a T-Rex and a *insert any prehistoric or living animal*, who would win?”-phase, AKA his combative phase).
If your dinosaur fan is equally curious, you need these Dinosaur Awards. We’ve compiled a list of the superlative dinosaurs to make it easy to answer these tough questions.
So without further ado, we welcome you to the Dinosaur Awards.
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Dinosaur Award Winner: The Colossus Award
LIVED: 100 to 92 MYA in South America (Argentina)
DIET: Leaves, seeds and fruit
LENGTH: 22 to 35 metres
WEIGHT: 66 to 77 tonnes
For most dinosaurs, we only have partial fossils; length and weight are estimated. Still, the herbivorous titanosaurs are generally accepted to be the biggest animals to ever roam the earth. Argentinosaurus is the largest of them all (at least of the ones we have found).
Runner-up Dreadnoughtus is estimated to be around 25 metres long and weigh 40 tonnes (initial estimates were adjusted).
Dinosaur Award Winner: The Largest Carnivore
LIVED: 95 to 70 MYA in North Africa (Egypt, Morocco)
DIET: Fish, sea reptiles
LENGTH: 12 to 18 metres
WEIGHT: 8 to 18 tonnes
Spinosaurus is the longest known terrestrial carnivore, bigger than Tyrannosaurus, Giganotosaurus and Carcharodontosaurus, although the most recent study suggests body size estimates are overrated and should be 14 metres long and 7.4 tonnes in weight.
The distinctive neural spines of the Spinosaurus are part of what gives the Spinosaurus the edge in the size stakes. These could be up to 1.65 metres long and probably had skin connecting them to form a sail-like structure. The function of this sail is unclear.
Unlike the other giant terrestrial carnivores, Spinosaurus’ diet consisted of mostly fish and it may have been semiaquatic.
Spinosaurus appeared in Jurassic Park III (2001). To quote the film’s consulting palaeontologist, John R. Horner, “If we base the ferocious factor on the length of the animal, there was nothing that ever lived on this planet that could match this creature.”
And yes, he may just win in a fight with a T-Rex.
Dinosaur Award Winner: The Fastest Dinosaur
LIVED: 86 to 66 MYA in North America (USA, including Alaska)
DIET: Small prehistoric mammals and lizards, possibly small dinosaurs. Troodon may have been omnivorous (eating both meat and plants)
SPEED: Up to 80 km/h
Galimimus is often quoted as the fastest dinosaur, with a top speed of 68 km/hr. Recent estimates have Troodon around 12 km/hr faster, at 80 km/hr. Troodon is also viewed as one of the smartest dinosaurs as it has a proportionately large brain (in contrast, Stegosaurus is seen as one of the least intelligent dinosaurs, with a brain the size of a walnut).
Dinosaur Award Winner: The Smallest Dinosaur
LIVED: 150 to 160 MYA in China (Liaoning)
LENGTH: Up to 45 cm (60 cm with tail feathers)
WEIGHT: 600 to 1000 grams
This award was difficult to judge because there are numerous contenders. In 2020, experts reclassified the almost winner (Oculudentavis) as a prehistoric reptile rather than a bird-like dinosaur the size of a hummingbird, while researchers showed the second smallest (Parvicursor) was a juvenile in 2022.
To complete the list:
- Smallest raptor: Microraptor (80cm long, weighed less than 1 kg)
- Smallest tyrannosaur: Dilong (2 m long, 11 kg)
- Smallest sauropod: Europasaurus (6 m long, 500kg (about the same as a cow)
- Smallest ceratopsian: Aquilops (60 cm long, 1.5 kg)
- Smallest armoured dinosaur: Minmi (3 m long and 300 kg)
- Smallest hadrosaur: Tethyshadros (4.5 m long and 550 kg)
Dinosaur Award Winner: The Tallest Dinosaur
LIVED: 113 to 110 MYA in North America (Oklahoma, Wyoming, Texas)
DIET: Leaves (conifers, sycamores, palms)
HEIGHT: Up to 18 m
LENGTH: 27 to 34 m
The “lizard earthquake god” was the last large sauropod in North America during the Early Cretaceous before a 40 MY gap until the appearance of Alamosaurus.
Extrapolations based on Brachiosaurus estimated Sauroposeidon’s height at 18 m (neck extended), as tall as a six-story building, making it the tallest known dinosaur. It was also estimated to be one of the longest and heaviest, which led to it being hailed as “the largest dinosaur ever!” in the media.
These estimates may be inaccurate. Sauroposeidon may be more closely related to a titanosaur than Brachiosaurus.
Dinosaur Award Winner: The Longest Tail
LIVED: 154-152 MYA in North America
DIET: Unknown – remains of the head have not been found
TOTAL LENGTH: 24 to 25, possibly even up to 32 metres
TAIL LENGTH: Up to 14 metres long!
Diplodocus had a whip-like tail, which was one of the longest tails compared to the body. The tail had about 80 vertebrae, almost double any other sauropod (Shunosaurus had 43; Camarasaurus had 53).
Skin impressions showed the Diplodocus had narrow, pointed spines of keratin, like those of an iguana. These were up to 18 cm long and grew on the whiplash portion of the tails and possibly on the back and neck as well.
Dinosaur Award Winner: The Best Defensive Line Player
LIVED: 74-66 MYA in North America (USA and Canada)
DIET: Tough leaves, pulpy fruits, ferns, and roots
LENGTH: 6 to 8 m
WEIGHT: 4.8 to 8 tonnes because of all that armour!
Ankylosaurus was extremely heavily armoured. It had:
- a wide, heavily armoured skull with two horns pointing backwards from the back of the head and two horns below which pointed backwards and down
- armour plates and knobs on every part of its body
- armour even on its eyelids!
- large spines projecting sideways from the body (though this is not definite from the fossil found)
- a large club on the end of its tail which may have been 57 cm wide and was capable of breaking bones.
Dinosaur Award Winner: The Oldest Dinosaur
LIVED: 243 MYA in Africa (Tanzania)
DIET: Unknown – remains of the head have not been found
LENGTH: 2 to 3 metres
RUNNER-UP: Herrerasaurus, Eoraptor and Pisanosaurus
Nyasasaurus is currently the oldest known dinosaur in the world. While it was discovered in Tanzania in the 1930s, scientists announced that Nyasasaurus was 243 MY old in 2012. This is about 10 MY older than any other known dinosaur.
The fossil is not complete so scientists do not know, for example, what Nyasasaurus ate.
Nyasasaurus had a bony crest on its upper arm (deltopectoral crest) making it a dinosaur and not a close relative.
Dinosaur Award Winner: The First Dinosaur Discovery
LIVED: 166 MYA in Europe (the UK)
DIET: Carnivorous: Megalosaurus hunted on Sauropods, including Stegosaurus
LENGTH: 6 m
WEIGHT: 700 kg
An incomplete statue of Megalosaurus was discovered in the early 1790s about 12 metres underground in a Stonesfield slate mine. It was named in 1827 and was one of three genera used by Richard Owen as a basis for his Dinosauria in 1842.
A tooth and the lower part of a femur found in the 17th century (the latter known as Scrotum humanum) were later reclassified as Megalosaurus fossils.
Dinosaur Award Winner: The Most Recent Dinosaur Discovery
WINNER: 4 unnamed dinosaurs found in the Las Chinas Valley in Chile, including a Megaraptor
LIVED: 75 to 66 MYA in South America (Chile)
DIET: Mostly carnivorous
RUNNER-UP: Balaenognathus (A Pterosaur with more than 400 teeth!)
In January 2023, palaeontologists announced that the remains of four species of dinosaurs, including a Megaraptor, had been found in Cerro Guido in Chile, near the border with Argentina. The remains belong to Cretaceous dinosaurs not been previously found in the area and may also represent new species.
One of the dinosaurs found is a Megaraptor, and two are closely related to the Velociraptor. The group also found the remains of two bird species.
The discovery of a new species of dinosaur – or pterosaur to be more precise – was announced in 2023. It was discovered in the Altmühl Valley and was named Balaenognathus, due to its more than 400 teeth, which look a little like a whale’s baleen. It ate in a similar way to flamingos.
Dinosaur Award Winner: The Longest Name
WINNER: Micropachycephalosaurus (23 letters!)
LIVED: 75 to 71 MYA in what is now China
LENGTH: 1 m
Typical: a tiny dinosaur has the longest name! Micropachycephalosaurus means “tiny thick-headed lizard.” The fossils of the tiny ceratopsian from the late Cretaceous were discovered in China. It was named in 1978. The full name has 37 letters.
Dinosaur Award Winner: The Scariest Dinosaur
LIVED: 135 to 130 MYA in North America
LENGTH: 6 m long
WEIGHT: 280 to 300 kg
This was a close race. Many would have awarded the prize to Tyrannosaurus Rex, which could receive it just on reputation alone.
Instead, we’ve chosen Utahraptor, the largest known raptor species, which lived in North America during the Early Cretaceous.
Utahraptor was the size of a small T-Rex. It was bulky and had a large head. It was also possibly covered in feathers like other, smaller raptors.
What made it terrifying? Cutting blade-like claws on its hands, teeth designed to “grip and rip,” and the large – 24cm long – deadly, retractable sickle claws on each foot, ideal for cutting prey. Utahraptor was the much larger brother of the Velociraptor – and its claw was much bigger, too.
Dinosaur Award Winner: The Most Common Dinosaur
LIVED: 83.5 to 66 MYA in North America
LENGTH: 8 to 9 m
WEIGHT: 5 to 9 tonnes
The most common fossils are bones and teeth, but fossils of footprints and skin impressions exist as well. Triceratops are among the most commonly found dinosaur fossils, thanks to their large bones, especially their distinctive skull, which fossilise well.
Dinosaur Award winner: The Edward Scissorhands Award
LIVED: 70 MYA in Mongolia
DIET: Leaves (conifers, sycamores, palms)
LENGTH: 9 to 10 m
CLAW LENGTH: More than 50 cm
Have you seen the 1990 Tim Burton film starring Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder after which this award is named?
The three gigantic claw bones on each hand earn Therizinosaurus, the herbivorous “scythe lizard”, the Edward Scissorhands Award. These claws are the longest of any land animal, reaching more than 50 cm in length. The claws were stiff and long and curved at the end.
Though intimidating, Therizinosaurus’ claws were fragile. They were more attuned to pulling vegetation than for attack or defence.
Dinosaur Award winner: The Best Mama Award
LIVED: 86.3 to 70.6 MYA in North America (esp. Montana)
LENGTH: Approx. 9 m
WEIGHT: Approx. 4 tonnes
How could we not give the Best Mama Award to the dinosaur whose name means “good mother lizard”?
In 1978, the first Maiasaura fossils were found in western Montana, together with 14 dinosaur nests, eggs and baby dinosaurs – all Maiasaura. The find was the first evidence that dinosaurs fed and cared for their young.
To date, more than 200 specimens have been found at what has become known as Egg Mountain.
Dinosaur Award winner: The Best Dancer
WINNER: Wulong (“Dancing Dragon” in Chinese)
LIVED: 120 MYA in China
SIZE: Larger than a crow but smaller than a raven
Its sprightly pose and the nimble habits this infers led researchers to name Wulong the “dancing dragon”. So far, only the remains of a juvenile have been found. They were discovered by a farmer in the Liaoning Province in China.
The tiny Cretaceous dinosaur is similar to the Sinornithosaurus. It had a bony tail double its body length, a relatively large skull full of small, sharp teeth, feathers on its limbs, and two long plumes on the end of its tail.
Dinosaur Award winner: The best-preserved dinosaur
LIVED: 112 to 110 MYA in North America
DIET: Herbivorous (especially ferns, which were found in the stomach of the fossil)
LENGTH: 5.5 m
WEIGHT: 1.3 tonnes
While fossilised dinosaur bones are a reasonably common, fossilised dinosaur skin is rare.
This makes the 2011 discovery of a near-complete Borealopelta so special. This super fossil preserved some of its spikes, armour, stomach contents and most importantly, the skin on its face.
The fossilised nodosaur was found in an open-pit mine in Alberta, Canada in what was once a deep ocean. Scientists hypothesise that the animal died near a river and was carried out to sea in floods, eventually sinking to the ocean floor. Its thick armour may have kept even the remains safe from predators.
The condition of the fossil allowed palaeontologists to carry out some unique investigations. For example, the 172 boney nodules on its back may have had different pigments and were for attracting mates and not defensive. Borealopelta may also have used countershading for camouflage.
Stomach contents also show it was a picky eater.
Check out the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, Canada for more information about the Borealopelta.
Dinosaur Award winner: The King Award
WINNER: Cryolophosaurus, AKA the Elvis dinosaur
LIVED: 186 to 182 MYA in Antarctica
LENGTH: 6 to 7 m
WEIGHT: 350 to 465 kg
RUNNER-UP: Tyrannosaurus (on account of the name)
It would have been too easy to award T-Rex this one.
Cryolophosaurus, the first dinosaur I know of from Antarctica, had a high, narrow skull. Above its eyes, it had a nasal crest, which was perpendicular to the skull and then fanned out. The resemblance of this crest to the King of Rock and Roll’s hairstyle earned Cryolophosaurus the nickname “Elvisaurus”, and this King Award.
Dinosaur Award winner: The Riddikulus Award
LIVED: 126 to 124 MYA in China
LENGTH: 80 cm to 1 metre
WEIGHT: 2 to 4.6 kg
Harry Potter may have used a Riddikulus spell to make boggarts change their shape. Incisivosaurus was ridiculous enough without a spell.
The omnivorous incisor lizard was less than a metre long. It had prominent, rodent-like front teeth, the face of a raptor, the body of an ostrich, feathers, the feet of a chicken, and a very strong bite force. It was truly bizarre and earned this Riddikulus Award. Incisivosaurus lived in what is now China during the Cretaceous period.
Protarchaeopteryx might be a synonym for Incisivosaurus.
Dinosaur Award winner: The Punk Award
LIVED: 201 to 190 MYA in South Africa
LENGTH: 60 cm, about the size of a small house cat
A tiny, defiant dinosaur (its defies classification), covered quills like a mohawk: the perfect winner for the Punk Award!
Pergomastax was just 60 cm long and is described as a cross between a parrot and a porcupine. This Early Jurassic oddity had a beak and teeth which sharpened themselves against each other. Pergomastax was found in 1966 in South Africa but was not named until 2012.
Want more dinosaur awards?
Here’s our suggestions on where to start your research.
The Dinosaur Awards actually inspired this post. It’s a great way to learn about some very unique prehistoric characters and the pictures are fun too. Our LDA loves picking a few to learn about each time we read.
This Super Dinosaur Encyclopedia is little like the Guiness Book for dinosaurs. Check out the biggest, fastest and coolest prehistoric creatures.
This new book has been hailed as “a field guide come to life” by expert palaeontologists. We’ve just ordered this Secrets of Dinosaurs and are keen to read it.
Most dinosaur fans go through a “thirst for knowledge” phase. When your little dinosaur fan starts bombarding YOU with questions,
- “Which dinosaur was the biggest?” (Argentinosaurus)
- “Which dinosaur was the fastest?,” (surprisingly, Troodon), and
- “Which dinosaur was the scariest?,” (Utahraptor in our opinion)
you’ll have the answers you need. And you are welcome to make up your own Dinosaur Awards – you can even have an awards show if you like.