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Dryosaurus

DRY - oh - SAW - rus

Ornithopoda/Dryosauridae
Copyright 2007

Field Notes

Name Means: "Oak lizard"
Length: 10-13 feet (3-4 m)
Diet: Herbivore (Plant-Eater)
Time: Late Jurassic
Location: Europe (England, Romania); Africa (Tanzania); North America (Colorado, Utah, Wyoming)

Ornithopods of the Jurassic were small to medium-sized herbivorous dinosaurs that relied on their agility and speed, rather than size, armor, or weapons to defend themselves against predators. Dryosaurus, was a common and widespread ornithopod of the late Jurassic, and was fairly typical of this group.

The Yale University paleontologist and fossil-hunter Othniel Charles Marsh named Dryosaurus in 1894. Thanks to extensive finds of adult, juvenile, and baby specimens, it is one of the best understood of all dinosaurs. It stood, and ran, on its long hind legs, its body counterbalanced by its long tail. The anatomy of Dryosaurus's feet and legs shows that this dinosaur was an adept runner. According to some estimates, it could reach speeds of more than 25 miles per hour (40 km/h)-fast enough to outrun most predators.

Dryosaurus was not only quick across the ground, it was a fast grower too. Analyses of the bone tissue of baby, juvenile, and adult Dryosaurus reveal that it grew continuously. There is no sign that growth slowed down during a cold winter or a harsh dry season as it does, for example, with many present-day reptiles. Many researchers believe that only warm-blooded animals can grow continuously, so the growth pattern of Dryosaurus has fueled speculation that dinosaurs, or at least the small ones, were warm-blooded. Whatever the metabolic rate of Dryosaurus, its babies did not take long to grow to adult size.

As with many ornithopods, the fast growth rate was facilitated by an efficient battery of cheek teeth, which were thickly enameled and could grind up plant matter almost without pausing. Before grinding up this plant material, Dryosaurus cropped it with a sharp, horny beak-it had no teeth at the front of its mouth.

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