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Ornithopod Dinosaur Pictures and Profiles

Ornithopod Dinosaur Pictures and Profiles



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Meet the Small, Plant-Eating Dinosaurs of the Mesozoic Era

Wikimedia Commons

Ornithopods-small- to medium-sized, bipedal, plant-eating dinosaurs-were some of the most common vertebrate animals of the later Mesozoic Era. On the following slides, you'll find pictures and detailed profiles of over 70 ornithopod dinosaurs, ranging from A (Abrictosaurus) to Z (Zalmoxes).

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Abrictosaurus

Wikimedia Commons

Name: Abrictosaurus (Greek for "waking lizard"); pronounced AH-brick-toe-SORE-us

Habitat: Woodlands of southern Africa

Historical Period: Early Jurassic (200 million years ago)

Size and Weight: About four feet long and 100 pounds

Diet: Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics: Small size; a combination of beak and teeth

As with many dinosaurs, Abrictosaurus is known from limited remains, the incomplete fossils of two individuals. This dinosaur's distinctive teeth mark it as a close relative of Heterodontosaurus, and like many reptiles of the early Jurassic period, it was fairly small, adults reaching sizes of only 100 pounds or so--and it may have existed at the time of the ancient split between ornithischian and saurischian dinosaurs. Based on the presence of primitive tusks in one specimen of Abrictosaurus, it's believed this species may have been sexually dimorphic, with males differing from females.

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Agilisaurus

Joao Boto

Name: Agilisaurus (Greek for "agile lizard"); pronounced AH-jih-lih-SORE-us

Habitat: Woodlands of eastern Asia

Historical Period: Middle Jurassic (170-160 million years ago)

Size and Weight: About four feet long and 75-100 pounds

Diet: Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics: Small size; lightweight build; stiff tail

Ironically enough, the near-complete skeleton of Agilisaurus was discovered during the construction of a dinosaur museum adjacent to China's famous Dashanpu fossil beds. Judging by its slender build, long hind legs and stiff tail, Agilisaurus was one of the earliest ornithopod dinosaurs, though its exact place on the ornithopod family tree remains a matter of dispute: it may have been more closely related to either Heteredontosaurus or Fabrosaurus, or it may even have occupied an intermediate position between true ornithopods and the earliest marginocephalians (a family of herbivorous dinosaurs that comprises both pachycephalosaurs and ceratopsians).

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Albertadromeus

Julius Csotonyi

Name: Albertadromeus (Greek for "Alberta runner"); pronounced al-BERT-ah-DRO-may-us

Habitat: Plains of North America

Historical Period: Late Cretaceous (80-75 million years ago)

Size and Weight: About five feet long and 25-30 pounds

Diet: Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics: Small size; long hind legs

The smallest ornithopod yet to be discovered in Canada's Alberta province, Albertadromeus only measured about five feet from its head to its slender tail and weighed as much as a good-sized turkey--which made it a true runt of its late Cretaceous ecosystem. In fact, to hear its discoverers describe it, Albertadromeus basically played the role of tasty hors d'oeuvre for much larger North American predators like the similarly named Albertosaurus. Presumably, this speedy, bipedal plant-eater was able to at least give its pursuers a good workout before being swallowed whole like a Cretaceous dumpling.

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Altirhinus

Wikimedia Commons

Name: Altirhinus (Greek for "high nose"); pronounced AL-tih-RYE-nuss

Habitat: Woodlands of Central Asia

Historical Period: Middle Cretaceous (125-100 million years ago)

Size and Weight: About 26 feet long and 2-3 tons

Diet: Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics: Long, stiff tail; strange crest on the snout

At some point during the middle Cretaceous period, the later ornithopods evolved into the early hadrosaurs, or duck-billed dinosaurs (technically, hadrosaurs are classified under the ornithopod umbrella). Altirhinus is often pointed to as a transitional form between these two closely related dinosaur families, mostly because of the very hadrosaur-like bump on its nose, which resembles an early version of the elaborate crests of later duck-billed dinosaurs like Parasaurolophus. If you ignore this growth, though, Altirhinus also looked a lot like Iguanodon, which is why most experts classify it as an iguanodont ornithopod rather than a true hadrosaur.

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Anabisetia

Anabisetia. Eduardo Camarga

Name: Anabisetia (after the archaeologist Ana Biset); pronounced AH-an-biss-ET-ee-ah

Habitat: Woodlands of South America

Historical Period: Late Cretaceous (95 million years ago)

Size and Weight: About 6-7 feet long and 40-50 pounds

Diet: Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics: Small size; bipedal posture

For reasons that remain mysterious, very few ornithopods-the family of small, bipedal, plant-eating dinosaurs-have been discovered in South America. Anabisetia (named after the archaeologist Ana Biset) is the best-attested of this select group, with a complete skeleton, lacking only the head, reconstructed from four separate fossil specimens. Anabisetia was closely related to its fellow South American ornithopod, Gasparinisaura, and probably to the more obscure Notohypsilophodon as well. Judging by the profusion of large, carnivorous theropods that prowled late Cretaceous South America, Anabisetia must have been a very fast (and very nervous) dinosaur.

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Atlascopcosaurus

Jura Park

Name: Atlascopcosaurus (Greek for "Atlas Copco lizard"); pronounced AT-lass-COP-coe-SORE-us

Habitat: Woodlands of Australia

Historical Period: Early-Middle Cretaceous (120-100 million years ago)

Size and Weight: About 10 feet long and 300 pounds

Diet: Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics: Small size; long, stiff tail

One of the few dinosaurs to be named after a corporation (Atlas Copco, a Swedish manufacturer of mining equipment, which paleontologists find very useful in their field work), Atlascopcosaurus was a small ornithopod of the Cretaceous period that bore a marked resemblance to Hypsilophodon. This Australian dinosaur was discovered and described by the husband-and-wife team of Tim and Patricia Vickers-Rich, who diagnosed Atlascopcosaurus on the basis of widely scattered fossil remains, almost 100 separate bone fragments consisting mostly of jaws and teeth.

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Camptosaurus

Julio Lacerda

Name: Camptosaurus (Greek for "bent lizard"); pronounced CAMP-toe-SORE-us

Habitat: Woodlands of North America

Historical Period: Late Jurassic (155-145 million years ago)

Size and Weight: About 20 feet long and 1-2 tons

Diet: Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics: Four toes on back feet; long, narrow snout with hundreds of teeth

The golden age of dinosaur discovery, which spanned the mid-to-late nineteenth century, was also the golden age of dinosaur confusion. Because Camptosaurus was one of the earliest ornithopods ever to be discovered, it suffered the fate of having more species pushed under its umbrella than it could comfortably handle. For this reason, it's now believed that only one identified fossil specimen was a true Camptosaurus; the others may well have been species of Iguanodon (which lived much later, during the Cretaceous period).

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Cumnoria

Wikimedia Commons

Name: Cumnoria (after Cumnor Hirst, a hill in England); pronounced kum-NOOR-ee-ah

Habitat: Woodlands of western Europe

Historical Period: Late Jurassic (155 million years ago)

Size and Weight: About 20 feet long and one ton

Diet: Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics: Stiff tail; bulky torso; quadrupedal posture

An entire book can be written about the dinosaurs that were mistakenly classified as species of Iguanodon in the late 19th century. Cumnoria is a good example: when this ornithopod's "type fossil" was unearthed from England's Kimmeridge Clay Formation, it was assigned as an Iguanodon species by an Oxford paleontologist, in 1879 (at a time when the full extent of ornithopod diversity was not yet known). A few years later, Harry Seeley erected the new genus Cumnoria (after the hill where the bones were discovered), but he was overturned shortly thereafter by yet another paleontologist, who lumped Cumnoria in with Camptosaurus. The matter was finally settled over a century later, in 1998, when Cumnoria was once again granted its own genus after a reexamination of its remains.

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Darwinsaurus

Nobu Tamura

Name: Darwinsaurus (Greek for "Darwin's lizard"); pronounced DAR-win-SORE-us

Habitat: Woodlands of western Europe

Historical Period: Early Cretaceous (140 million years ago)

Size and Weight: About 20 feet long and 2-3 tons

Diet: Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics: Small head; bulky torso; occasional bipedal posture

Darwinsaurus has come a long way since its fossil was described by the famous naturalist Richard Owen in 1842, following its discovery on the English coast. In 1889, this plant-eating dinosaur was assigned as a species of Iguanodon (not an uncommon fate for the newly discovered ornithopods of that time), and over a century later, in 2010, it was reassigned to the even more obscure genus Hypselospinus. Finally, in 2012, the paleontologist and illustrator Gregory Paul decided that this dinosaur's type fossil was distinctive enough to merit its own genus and species, Darwinsaurus evolutionis, though not all of his fellow experts are convinced.

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Delapparentia

Nobu Tamura

Name: Delapparentia ("de Lapparent's lizard"); pronounced DAY-lap-ah-REN-tee-ah

Habitat: Woodlands of western Europe

Historical Period: Early Cretaceous (130-125 million years ago)

Size and Weight: About 27 feet long and 4-5 tons

Diet: Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics: Large size; heavy trunk

A close relative of Iguanodon-in fact, when this dinosaur's remains were discovered in Spain in 1958, they were initially assigned to Iguanodon bernissartensis-Delapparentia was even bigger than its more famous relative, about 27 feet from head to tail and weighing upwards of four or five tons. Delapparentia was only assigned its own genus in 2011, its name, oddly enough, honoring the paleontologist who misidentified the type fossil, Albert-Felix de Lapparent. Its twisted taxonomy aside, Delapparentia was a typical ornithopod of the early Cretaceous period, an ungainly looking plant-eater that may have been capable of running on its hind legs when startled by predators.

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Dollodon

Wikimedia Commons

Name: Dollodon (Greek for "Dollo's tooth"); pronounced DOLL-oh-don

Habitat: Woodlands of western Europe

Historical Period: Early Cretaceous (130-125 million years ago)

Size and Weight: About 20 feet long and one ton

Diet: Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics: Long, thick body; small head

The euphonious-sounding Dollodon-named after the Belgian paleontologist Louis Dollo, and not because it looked like a child's doll-is another of those dinosaurs that had the misfortune to be lumped in as a species of Iguanodon in the late 19th century. Further examination of this ornithopod's remains resulted in its being assigned to its own genus; with its long, thick body and small, narrow head, there's no mistaking Dollodon's kinship to Iguanodon, but its relatively long arms and distinctively rounded beak peg it as its own dinosaur.

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Drinker

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Name: Drinker (after the American paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope)

Habitat: Swamps of North Africa

Historical Period: Late Jurassic (155 to 145 million years ago)

Size and Weight: About six feet long and 25-50 pounds

Diet: Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics: Small size; flexible tail; complex tooth structure

In the late 19th century, the American fossil hunters Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel C. Marsh were mortal enemies, constantly trying to one-up (and even sabotage) one another on their numerous paleontological digs. That's why it's ironic that the small, two-legged ornithopod Drinker (named after Cope) may be exactly the same animal as the small, two-legged ornithopod Othnielia (named after Marsh); the differences between these dinosaurs are so minimal that they may one day be collapsed into the same genus.

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Dryosaurus

Jura Park

Name: Dryosaurus (Greek for "oak lizard"); pronounced DRY-oh-SORE-us

Habitat: Woodlands of Africa and North America

Historical Period: Late Jurassic (155-145 million years ago)

Size and Weight: About 10 feet long and 200 pounds

Diet: Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics: Long neck; five-fingered hands; stiff tail

In most ways, Dryosaurus (its name, "oak lizard," refers to the oak-leaf-like shape of some of its teeth) was a plain-vanilla ornithopod, typical in its small size, bipedal posture, stiff tail, and five-fingered hands. Like most ornithopods, Dryosaurus probably lived in herds, and this dinosaur may have raised its young at least halfway (that is, at least for a year or two after they hatched). Dryosaurus also had especially large eyes, which raises the possibility that it was a smidgen more intelligent than other herbivores of the late Jurassic period.

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Dysalotosaurus

Wikimedia Commons

Name: Dysalotosaurus (Greek for "uncatchable lizard"); pronounced DISS-ah-LOW-toe-SORE-us

Habitat: Woodlands of Africa

Historical Period: Late Jurassic (150 million years ago)

Size and Weight: About 15 feet long and 1,000-2,000 pounds

Diet: Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics: Long tail; bipedal stance; low-slung posture

Considering how obscure it is, Dysalotosaurus has a lot to teach us about dinosaur growth stages. Various specimens of this medium-sized herbivore have been discovered in Africa, enough for paleontologists to conclude that a) Dysalotosaurus reached maturity in a relatively quick 10 years, b) this dinosaur was subject to viral infections of its skeleton, similar to Padget's disease, and c) the brain of Dysalotosaurus went through major structural changes between early childhood and maturity, though its auditory centers were well-developed early on. Otherwise, though, Dysalotosaurus was a plain-vanilla plant eater, indistinguishable from the other ornithopods of its time and place.

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Echinodon

Nobu Tamura

Name: Echinodon (Greek for "hedgehog tooth"); pronounced eh-KIN-oh-don

Habitat: Woodlands of western Europe

Historical Period: Early Cretaceous (140 million years ago)

Size and Weight: About two feet long and 5-10 pounds

Diet: Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics: Small size; paired canine teeth

Ornithopods-the family of mostly small, mostly bipedal, and completely unfeathered herbivorous dinosaurs-are the last creatures you would expect to sport mammal-like canines in their jaws, the strange feature that makes Echinodon such an unusual fossil find. Like other ornithopods, Echinodon was a confirmed plant-eater, so this dental equipment is a bit of a mystery-but perhaps a bit less so once you realize this tiny dinosaur was related to the equally strangely toothed Heterodontosaurus (the "different toothed lizard"), and possibly to Fabrosaurus as well.

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Elrhazosaurus

Nobu Tamura

Name: Elrhazosaurus (Greek for "Elrhaz lizard"); pronounced ell-RAZZ-oh-SORE-us

Habitat: Woodlands of Africa

Historical Period: Early Cretaceous (130-125 million years ago)

Size and Weight: About four feet long and 20-25 pounds

Diet: Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics: Small size; bipedal posture

Dinosaur fossils not only have a lot to tell us about local ecosystems but also about the distribution of the world's continents tens of millions of years ago, during the Mesozoic Era. Until recently, the early Cretaceous Elrhazosaurus-the bones of which were discovered in central Africa-was considered to be a species of a similar dinosaur, Valdosaurus, hinting at a land connection between these two continents. The assignment of Elrhazosaurus to its own genus has muddied the waters somewhat, though there's no disputing the kinship between these two bipedal, plant-eating, toddler-sized ornithopods.

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Fabrosaurus

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Name: Fabrosaurus (Greek for "Fabre's lizard"); pronounced FAB-roe-SORE-us

Habitat: Woodlands of Africa

Historical Period: Early Jurassic (200-190 million years ago)

Size and Weight: About three feet long and 10-20 pounds

Diet: Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics: Small size; bipedal posture

Fabrosaurus-named after the French geologist Jean Fabre-occupies a murky place in the annals of dinosaur history. This tiny, two-legged, plant-eating ornithopod was "diagnosed" based on a single incomplete skull, and many paleontologists believe that it was actually a species (or specimen) of another herbivorous dinosaur from early Jurassic Africa, Lesothosaurus. Fabrosaurus (if it really existed as such) may also have been ancestral to a slightly later ornithopod of eastern Asia, Xiaosaurus. Any more conclusive determination of its status will have to await future fossil discoveries.

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Fukuisaurus

Name: Fukuisaurus (Greek for "Fukui lizard"); pronounced FOO-kwee-SORE-us

Habitat: Woodlands of Asia

Historical Period: Early Cretaceous (110 million years ago)

Size and Weight: About 15 feet long and 750-1,000 pounds

Diet: Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics: Long, thick body; narrow head

Not to be confused with Fukuiraptor-a moderately sized theropod discovered in the same region of Japan-Fukuisaurus was a moderately sized ornithopod that probably resembled (and was closely related to) the much better-known Iguanodon from Eurasia and North America. Since they lived at roughly the same time, the early to middle Cretaceous period, it's possible that Fukuisaurus figured on Fukuiraptor's lunch menu, but as yet there's no direct evidence for this--and because ornithopods are so rare on the ground in Japan, it's difficult to establish Fukuisaurus' exact evolutionary provenance.

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Gasparinisaura

Wikimedia Commons

Name: Gasparinisaura (Greek for "Gasparini's lizard"); pronounced GAS-par-EE-knee-SORE-ah

Habitat: Woodlands of South America

Historical Period: Late Cretaceous (90-85 million years ago)

Size and Weight: About three feet long and 50 pounds

Diet: Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics: Small size; short, blunt head

About the size and weight of a typical second-grader, Gasparinisaura is important because it's one of the few ornithopod dinosaurs known to have lived in South America during the late Cretaceous period. Judging by the discovery of numerous fossil remains in the same area, this small plant-eater probably lived in herds, which helped protect it from the larger predators in its ecosystem (as did its ability to run away very quickly when threatened). As you may have noticed, Gasparinisaura is one of the few dinosaurs to be named after the female, rather than the male, of the species, an honor it shares with Maiasaura and Leaellynasaura.

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Gideonmantellia

Nobu Tamura

Name: Gideonmantellia (after naturalist Gideon Mantell); pronounced GIH-dee-on-man-TELL-ee-ah

Habitat: Woodlands of western Europe

Historical Period: Early Cretaceous (130-125 million years ago)

Size and Weight: Unknown

Diet: Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics: Slender build; bipedal posture

When the name Gideonmantellia was coined in 2006, the 19th-century naturalist Gideon Mantell became one of the few people to have not one, not two, but three dinosaurs named after him, the others being Mantellisaurus and the somewhat more dubious Mantellodon. Confusingly, Gideonmantellia and Mantellisaurus lived at about the same time (the early Cretaceous period) and in the same ecosystem (the woodlands of western