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Muttaburrasaurus

MUT - uh - BUH - ruh - SAW - rus

Ornithopoda/Euornithopoda
Copyright 2007

Field Notes

Name Means: "Lizard from Muttaburra"
Length: 33 feet (10 m)
Diet: Herbivore (Plant-Eater)
Time: Early Cretaceous
Location: Northern Queensland, New South Wales, Australia

A large ornithopod that stood about 16 feet (5 m) high. Muttaburrasaurus is known from about 60 percent of its skeleton. A Mr. David Langdon found the skeleton in 1963 on Muttaburra Station in northern Queensland - hence this dinosaur's name. A second well-preserved skull, slightly older than the original specimen, was discovered on another property in north central Queensland. As well, a number of isolated bones and teeth of Muttaburrasaurus came to light on the Lightning Ridge opal field in northern New South Wales.

Muttaburrasaurus probably walked on all fours for most of the time. But it could also stand up on its hindlimbs to reach high into tree branches. Its most distinctive feature was a well-developed bump on the snout (called a "nasal bulla"), which it is thought may have housed an acoustic organ for calling to other dinosaurs. Muttaburrasaurus had large areas of jaw muscle attachments, which greatly enhanced its chewing ability. This feature, in conjunction with teeth that were suited to shearing rather than to grinding food, has led some to believe that Muttaburrasaurus may have eaten meat from time to time.

Early reconstructions of the Muttaburrasaurus were modeled after Iguanadon, with a thumb spike. Scientists now believe this dinosaur was not closely related to the iguanadontids, but that it belonged to a family of its own. It may have been a large relative of the hypsilophodontid dinosaurs, such as Atlascopcosaurus. These dinosaurs inhabited the polar forests of Victoria and New South Wales in the early Creataceous.

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