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Friday, July 6, 2007

Thescelosaurus

Thescelosaurus neglectus drawing.
Thescelosaurus (meaning 'wondrous lizard') was a genus of small ornithopoddinosaur that appeared at the very end of the Late Cretaceous period in North America and was a member of the last dinosaurian fauna before the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event around 65.5 million years ago. The preservation and completeness of many of its specimens indicate that it may have preferred to live near stream channels.

This bipedal ornithopod is known from several partial skeletons and skulls that indicate it grew to between 2.5 and 4.0 meters (8.2 to 13.1 feet) in length on average. It had sturdy hind limbs, small wide hands, a head with an elongate pointed snout, and possibly small armor scutes along the midline of the back. This genus of dinosaur is regarded as a specialized hypsilophodont and a herbivore. Several species have been suggested for this genus, but only one, T. neglectus, is currently recognized; the others have been given their own genera, or are believed to be the same as T. neglectus.

The genus attracted media attention in 2000, when a specimen unearthed in 1993 in South Dakota was interpreted as including a fossilized heart. There was much discussion over whether the remains were actually of a heart. Many scientists now doubt the identification of the object and the implications of such an identification.

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