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Segnosaurus

SEG - noh - SAW - rus

Segnosauria/Therizinosauridae
Copyright 2007

Field Notes

Name Means: "Slow lizard"
Length: 19 feet 6 inches (6 m)
Diet: Carnivore (Meat-Eater)
Time: Late Cretaceous
Location: Mongolia

Few dinosaurs have caused as much speculation and debate among paleontologists as Segnosaurus. It has taken a long time to work out exactly what kind of dinosaur it was. Segnosaurus had a highly unusual collection of features that resembled bits of many other dinosaurs and dinosaur groups, combined with some uncommon characteristics only found in Segnosaurus and its close relatives, the segnosaurs.

The front of the snout of Segnosaurus was toothless and may have supported a beak, as in some ornithischian dinosaurs. Segnosaurus also had a hip arrangement similar to that of the ornithischians. The current consensus is that Segnosaurus and its close relatives Erlikosaurus, Nanshiungosaurus, and Enigmosaurus form a strange group of theropod dinosaurs. Features they share include a three-fingered hand; a four-toed foot; toes and fingers with curved claws; and a high, narrow skull. Curiously, the jaw curved downward and had rows of small pointed teeth along each side. This feature is also seen in the other segnosaurs.

Exactly what use this strange combination of features was to Segnosaurus is widely debated. It has been suggested that it was a plant-eater descended from a meat-eating ancestor or, perhaps, a specialist termite hunter that used its huge claws to rip open termite nests. Alternatively, it may have been a specialist fish-hunting dinosaur, hooking fish out of the water with its claws.

Segnosaurus is a relatively new dinosaur, described in 1979, and known only from fragments and isolated bones. This makes it difficult to understand what it was really like. Mongolia and China have produced many unusual theropods, such as Segnosaurus, from late Cretaceous deposits. These groups are not found anywhere else, indicating that what is now central Asia was isolated from the rest of the world by mountains and seas for most of the later Mesozoic era.

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