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Eoraptor

EE - oh - RAP - tuh

Saurischia/Theropoda
Copyright 2007

Field Notes

Name Means: "Dawn thief"
Length: 3 feet 3 inches (1 m)
Diet: Carnivore (Meat-Eater)
Time: Late Triassic
Location: North-western Argentina

Perhaps the most primitive of all known dinosaurs, Eoraptor was found in late Triassic deposits-in the harsh badlands of the Ischigualasto Basin in north-western Argentina-in 1993. It was discovered by Paul Sereno, Fernando Novas, and their colleagues in the same set of deposits as Herrerasaurus, another relatively primitive dinosaur. Eoraptor was discovered almost accidently-one member of the team was on the verge of discarding a rock before noticing that it contained teeth. A closer examination revealed that this rock contained a complete skull. This led to further examination of the site and the unearthing of a complete skeleton of Eoraptor, a hitherto unknown dinosaur almost 230 million years old.

From the evidence of this skeleton, we can be fairly confident that Eoraptor was a bipedal predator and a very primitive relative of the theropods. It ran mainly on its hindlimbs but may have walked on all fours from time to time. Although it had five fingers on its hand, the fifth finger was very small. Like other theropods, Eoraptor had thin-walled, hollow bones in its arms and legs and stood on feet dominated by the three middle toes. However, unlike in other theropods, the first toe may have helped to support Eoraptor when it was walking.

Eoraptor's serrated teeth indicate that it was a meat-eater and the grasping hands on the end of the forelimbs suggest that it was capable of handling prey almost as large as itself. Although we cannot accurately reconstruct this animal's predatory behavior, it seems to have been a very active, fast-moving hunter that preyed upon a range of lizard-sized animals, including some warm-blooded ancestors of today's mammals.

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