The 10 Most Important Dinosaurs of Asia

Over the past few decades, more dinosaurs have been discovered in central and eastern Asia than on any other continent on earth--and have helped fill important gaps in our understanding of dinosaur evolution. On the following slides, you'll discover the 10 most important Asian dinosaurs, ranging from the feathered (and vicious) Dilong to the feathered (and vicious) Velociraptor.

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Sergey Krasovskiy

As tyrannosaurs go, Dilong (Chinese for "emperor dragon") was a mere fledgling, weighing about 25 pounds soaking wet. What makes this theropod important is that a) it lived about 130 million years ago, tens of millions of years before more famous relatives like T. Rex, and b) it was covered with a fine coat of feathers, the implication being that feathers may have been a common feature of tyrannosaurs, at least during some stage of their life cycles.

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H. Kyoht Luterman

Despite what you saw in Jurassic Park, there's absolutely no evidence that Dilophosaurus spat poison at its enemies, had any kind of neck frill, or was the size of a golden retriever. What makes this Asian theropod important is its early provenance (it's one of the few carnivorous dinosaurs to date from the early, rather than the late, Jurassic period) and the characteristic paired crests over its eyes, which were doubtless a sexually selected feature (that is, males with bigger crests were more attractive to females).

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Sergey Krasovskiy

Pretty much all sauropods had long necks, but Mamenchisaurus was a true standout; this plant-eater's neck was a whopping 35 feet long, comprising half the length of its entire body. The massive neck of Mamenchisaurus has prompted paleontologists to reconsider their assumptions about sauropod behavior and physiology; for example, it's hard to imagine this dinosaur holding its head at its full vertical height, which would have placed an enormous amount of stress on its heart.

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Julio Lacerda

For all intents and purposes, Microraptor was the Jurassic equivalent of a flying squirrel: this tiny raptor had feathers extending from both its front and rear limbs and was probably capable of gliding from tree to tree. What makes Microraptor important is its deviation from the classic, two-winged dinosaur-to-bird body plan; as such, it probably represented a dead end in avian evolution. At two or three pounds, Microraptor is also the smallest dinosaur yet identified, beating the previous record-holder, Compsognathus.

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Wikimedia Commons

The central Asian Oviraptor was a classic victim of mistaken identity: its "type fossil" was discovered atop a clutch of what were assumed to be Protoceratops eggs, occasioning this dinosaur's name (Greek for "egg thief"). It later turned out that this Oviraptor specimen was brooding its own eggs, like any good parent, and was in fact a relatively smart and law-abiding theropod. "Oviraptorosaurs" similar to Oviraptor were common across the expanse of late Cretaceous Asia, and have been intensely studied by paleontologists.

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Wikimedia Commons

Ceratopsians, the horned, frilled dinosaurs, are among the most recognizable dinosaurs, but not so their earliest ancestors, of which Psittacosaurus is the most famous example. This tiny, possibly bipedal plant-eater possessed a tortoise-like head and only the faintest hint of a frill; to look at it, you wouldn't know what type of dinosaur it was destined to evolve into tens of millions of years down the road.

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Zhucheng Museum

Although it has since been eclipsed by even bigger hadrosaurs or duck-billed dinosaurs, Shantungosaurus still holds a place in peoples' hearts as one of the largest non-sauropod dinosaurs ever to walk the earth: this duckbill measured about 50 feet from head to tail and weighed in the neighborhood of 15 tons. Amazingly, despite its size, Shantungosaurus may have been capable of running on its two hind legs when chased by the raptors and tyrannosaurs of its eastern Asian habitat.

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Emily Willoughby

Considering the dozens of small, feathered theropods have since been discovered in China, it's hard to appreciate the impact Sinosauropteryx made when it was announced to the world in 1996. Long story short, Sinosauropteryx was the first dinosaur fossil to bear the unmistakable imprint of primitive feathers, breathing new life into the now-accepted theory that birds evolved from small theropods (and opening the possibility that all theropod dinosaurs were covered with feathers at some stage in their life cycles).

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Nobu Tamura

One of the oddest-looking dinosaurs of the Mesozoic Era, Therizinosaurus possessed long, deadly-looking claws, a prominent potbelly, and a weirdly beaked skull perched on the end of a long neck. Even more strangely, this Asian dinosaur seems to have pursued a strictly herbivorous diet--alerting paleontologists to the fact that not all theropods were devoted meat-eaters.

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Wikimedia Commons

Thanks to its starring role in the Jurassic Park movies, where it was actually portrayed by the much bigger Deinonychus, Velociraptor is widely assumed to have been an all-American dinosaur. That explains many peoples' shock upon learning that this raptor actually lived in central Asia and that it was actually only the size of a turkey. Although it wasn't nearly as smart as it has been depicted on film, Velociraptor was still a formidable predator and may have been capable of hunting in packs.

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Strauss, Bob. "The 10 Most Important Dinosaurs of Asia." ThoughtCo, Jul. 30, 2021, Strauss, Bob. (2021, July 30). The 10 Most Important Dinosaurs of Asia. Retrieved from Strauss, Bob. "The 10 Most Important Dinosaurs of Asia." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 31, 2023).