Researchers Announce New Ornithopod Dinosaur

Posted on May 22, 2013

Researchers have announced the discovery of a new small plant-eating dinosaur. Albertadromeus syntarsus is described as a speedy runner. It was about 1.6 meters (5 feet) long and weighed about 16 kilograms (30 pounds). It lived in what is now southern Alberta in the Late Cretaceous, about 77 million years ago.

The dinosaur is described by palaeontologists from the University of Toronto, Royal Ontario Museum, Cleveland Museum of Natural History and University of Calgary in a research paper published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. An artist's illustration of what the small dinosaur may have looked like, by Julius T. Csotonyi, is pictured above.

The name Albertadromeus syntarsus means "Alberta runner with fused foot bones." The researchers say its fused lower leg bones would have made it both fast and agile. The researchers say less small dinosaur bones have been discovered on Earth because their bones were more delicate and are often destroyed before being fossilized.

Caleb Brown of the University of Toronto, lead author of the study, said in a statement, "We know from our previous research that there are preservational biases against the bones of these small dinosaurs. We are now starting to uncover this hidden diversity, and although skeletons of these small ornithopods are both rare and fragmentary, our study shows that these dinosaurs were more abundant in their ecosystems than previously thought."

Michael Ryan of The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, says, "Albertadromeus may have been close to the bottom of the dinosaur food chain but without dinosaurs like it, we would not have giants like T. rex. Our understanding of the structure of dinosaur ecosystems is dependent on the fossils that have been preserved. Fragmentary, but important, specimens like that of Albertadromeus suggest that we are only beginning to understand the shape of dinosaur diversity and the structure of their communities."

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