dinosaur museum

August 2020 Newsletter

FROM THE EDUCATION DESK

We had a great “Summer Fun Day” on July 11th and hopefully you all got to join us. It was outstanding weather and so nice to be able to have an outdoor event after so long! Everyone had a super time!

FYI: Elaphrosaurus bambergi

Elaphrosaurus bambergi , meaning lightweight lizard, was first discovered in Kindope, Tanzania by Werner Janensch and Edwin Hennig between 1909 and 1911.

It is a ceratosaurian theropod dinosaur from the Late Jurassic about 150 million years ago. Some scientists believe it was omnivorous and some believe it was herbivorous due to the close relationship with Limusaurus, an unusual beaked ceratosaurian which may have been either herbivorous or omnivorous. This beak could have been used to strip branches of their leaves.

The overall appearance of this dinosaur is that of a lightweight hunter that relied more upon speed rather than strength to take down prey. In 1988 it was noted that this dinosaur was too small to prey on the sauropods and stegosaurs present in its paleoenviroment. It likely hunted the small and fast ornithopod herbivores. It’s diet probably consisted of leaves, lizards and mammals. It was also more likely to be less flexible than other theropods. It was around 16-20 feet long, 4.8 ft. tall at the hip and about 450 to 800 lbs. in weight. The tibia is longer than the femur which is a good sign that it would have been a fast runner. It had a long neck that probably supported a smaller skull. Its long tail ended with a rare downward bend. The type specimen was nearly complete, but unfortunately it lacked a skull. It is housed in the collection of the Natural History Museum of Berlin, Germany. Remains similar to this fossil have been found in the Morrison Formation in the western United States. Bambergi honors industrialist Paul Bamberg who funded the expedition that found the dinosaur.

A single vertebra, discovered in 2015 by volunteer Jessica Parker, was found in a Cretaceous fossil bed known as Eric the Red West near Cape Otway in Victoria, Australia and has been identified as belonging to Elaphrosaur. It has been dated to the Early Cretaceous about 110 million years ago and was about two inches long. “Elaphrosaurs are really rare,” says Stephen Poropat, a paleontologist at Swinburne University of Technology. Poropat goes on to say, “The few known skulls that have been found of this dinosaur show that the young had teeth, but that the adults lost their teeth and replaced them with a horny beak. It is not known if this is true for the fossil found in Victoria as of yet. Their lack of teeth in adulthood suggests they might have gone through some dietary shift with age and might have been omnivores despite being theropods. This is the first record of the group in Australia, and only the second Cretaceous record worldwide.”

This dinosaur is unique for when it lived. Elaphrosaurus from Tanzania and Limusaurus from China date from the Late Jurassic but the Australian Elaphrosaur lived around 40 million years later during the Early Cretaceous.

At that time, Australia was located inside the Antarctic Circle and the fossil bed at Eric the Red West was home to a swiftly flowing river bordered by lush plants. There were conifer trees, ferns and flowering plants. The riverbed had also preserved bones from both meat and plant eating dinosaurs along with fish, turtles and remains of Elaphrosaurus, suggesting it was part of a diverse ecosystem.

Geri Lebold
Education Director

May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and the road downhill all the way to your door.

 

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