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lay - ELL - lye - nuh - SAW - ruh

Copyright 2007

Field Notes

Name Means: "Leaellyn's lizard"
Length: 3 feet (1 m)
Diet: Herbivore (Plant-Eater)
Time: Early Cretaceous
Location: Victoria, Australia

Since 1978, hundreds of dinosaur bones have been collected from early Cretaceous rocks at a site known as Dinosaur Cove in Victoria, Australia. There are very few complete skeletons in these rocks-the bones are from many different animals and they have been jumbled together-but studies have shown that most of the bones belonged to small dinosaurs that were closely related to Hypsilophodon. The first of these new "hypsilophodontids" to be named be science was Leaellynasaura. The material that has so far been found relating to Leaellynasaura is incomplete, but it does indicate that this was a small dinosaur, even in comparison with other hypsilophodontids.

The first Leaellynasaura bones are from an animal that would have weighed no more than about 2 pounds (0.9 k) and was almost certainly a juvenile. One specimen preserves an internal cast of the braincase. It shows that the optic lobes (the parts of the brain that process visual information from the eyes) were very large compared with those of other dinosaurs. As with other hypsilophodontids, the bone tissues show that Leaellynasaura grew continuously and quickly. Seasonal variations in temperature did not slow down its growth rates, and this has led some scientists to speculate that this dinosaur may have been warm-blooded.

During the early Cretaceous, Victoria was well within the Antarctic polar circle. This means that Leaellynasaura was living, and apparently thriving, at latitudes that no reptile lives at today. The fact that even juveniles had enlarged optic lobes suggests that this dinosaur had large eyes that helped it to see its way through the long, dark polar winters.

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2006 - 2011 Content by Gavin Robinson.