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Struthiomimus

STROO - thee - oh - MY - mus

Theropoda/Ornithomimidae
Copyright 2007

Field Notes

Name Means: "Ostrich mimic"
Length: 13 feet (4 m)
Diet: Carnivore (Meat-Eater)
Time: Late Cretaceous
Location: Alberta, Canada

Picture a plucked ostrich with a long tail stretching stiffly out behind and a pair of human-sized arms with hands with three claws attached to them, and you have a mental image of Struthiomimus. This long-necked, long-legged theropod is, along with the Mongolian Gallimimus, the most well known member of the ornithomimid, or "bird mimic," dinosaurs.

Struthiomimus was roughly the same size as a modern ostrich and could probably reach a similar top speed of about 50 miles per hour (80 km/h) on flat, open ground. With its small and very lightly built skull, toothless beak, and very large eyes, it was strikingly similar to today's flightless birds. The three large, clawed, forward-facing toes on each of its feet were typical of theropod feet, but they were also very birdlike. Ornithomimids lacked true feathers and may have had naked skin. However, some juvenile specimens display a partial covering of downlike filaments similar to those discovered on other birdlike dinosaurs.

The lightly built head and toothless beak imply that Struthiomimus could not have killed or eaten large animals, but it would certainly have been able to pursue and swallow small reptiles and large insects. With the long, hooklike claws on its hands it could either have dug small animal prey out of shallow burrows or pulled succulent leaves and primitive fruits down from low trees. By stretching its neck, it could have reached reasonably high into tree branches. Gastroliths (gizzard stones) that have been found at the front of the rib cage of Struthiomimus skeletons indicate that plant material was an important component of its diet. This unusual theropod was, therefore, either omnivorous or entirely herbivorous.

First described in 1902, Struthiomimus was long known only from a single complete skeleton and several partial skeletons. A number of complete skeletons have recently come to light.

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