Monday, February 7, 2011

Thecodontosaurus (pronounced THEE-co-DON-toh-SAWR-us) was a very early dinosaur that lived during the late Triassic period, a time when the Earth was relatively warm and much of the land was dry and desert-like. This was around the time that the dinosaurs and mammals were just starting to appear. Some contemporaries of this early prosauropod included the meat-eating Saltopus, and the other prosauropods Pachysauriscus and Palaeosauriscus.

Anatomy: Thecodontosaurus was about 7 feet (2.1 m) long. It had a small head, large thumb claws, long legs, a relatively short neck, shorter arms than legs, and a long tail. It could probably walk on two or four legs, perhaps grazing and walking on all fours, but running on two legs. Thecodontosaurus had four toes on each foot and five fingers on each hand (including a thumb with a large, curved claw).

Diet: Thecodontosaurus was an herbivore (a plant-eater) but may have also eaten some meat (it's diet isn't certain - some early prosaurupods may have been omnivores - earing plants and meat). It had blunt teeth with serrated edges; they resembled the teeth of a monitor lizard, but were embedded in distinct sockets in the opposing jaw (Thecodontosaurus was named for its unusual teeth).

Fossils: Fossils of Thecodontosaurus have been found in England (near Bristol) and Wales, which were probably dry and desert-like when Thecodontosaurus lived.

Name: Thecodontosaurus (meaning "socket-toothed lizard") was named by Morris in 1843, but was first described by H. Riley and S. Stutchbury in 1836. The type species is T. antiquus (Morris, 1843).

Classification: Thecodontosaurus is classified as a saurischian (a "lizard-hipped" dinosaur), a sauropodomorpha (usually quadrupedal herbivores), a prosauropod (probably an early, dead-end branch of the sauropodamorphas), and an anchisaurid (the earliest-known prosauropods).

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