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Other groups of animals were restricted in size and niches; mammals, for example, rarely exceeded the size of a domestic cat, and were generally rodent-sized carnivores of small prey.Dinosaurs have always been an extremely varied group of animals; according to a 2006 study, over 500 non-avian dinosaur genera have been identified with certainty so far, and the total number of genera preserved in the fossil record has been estimated at around 1850, nearly 75% of which remain to be discovered.Most research conducted since the 1970s, however, has indicated that all dinosaurs were active animals with elevated metabolisms and numerous adaptations for social interaction. Evidence suggests that egg laying and nest building are additional traits shared by all dinosaurs.While dinosaurs were ancestrally bipedal, many extinct groups included quadrupedal species, and some were able to shift between these stances.Cranial modifications like horns and crests are common dinosaurian traits, and some extinct species had bony armor.
While the dinosaurs' modern-day surviving avian lineage (birds) are generally small due to the constraints of flight, many prehistoric dinosaurs (non-avian and avian) were large-bodied—the largest sauropod dinosaurs are estimated to have reached lengths of 39.7 meters (130 feet) and were the largest land animals of all time.
While recent discoveries have made it more difficult to present a universally agreed-upon list of dinosaurs' distinguishing features, nearly all dinosaurs discovered so far share certain modifications to the ancestral archosaurian skeleton, or are clear descendants of older dinosaurs showing these modifications.
Although some later groups of dinosaurs featured further modified versions of these traits, they are considered typical for Dinosauria; the earliest dinosaurs had them and passed them on to their descendants.
Since the first dinosaur fossils were recognized in the early 19th century, mounted fossil dinosaur skeletons have been major attractions at museums around the world, and dinosaurs have become an enduring part of world culture.
The large sizes of some dinosaur groups, as well as their seemingly monstrous and fantastic nature, have ensured dinosaurs' regular appearance in best-selling books and films, such as Jurassic Park.
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Many prehistoric animal groups are popularly conceived of as dinosaurs, such as ichthyosaurs, mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, pterosaurs, and pelycosaurs (especially Dimetrodon), but are not classified scientifically as dinosaurs, and none had the erect hind limb posture characteristic of true dinosaurs.