What’s tiny, cute, and lived 215 million years ago? The Mussaurus. At least scientists believed it was tiny and cute for a long time.
- The name Mussaurus means Mouse Lizard/Reptile. This dinosaur got this name because the first skeletons discovered were only 8 inches long.
- These skeletons were found near nests though so scientists wondered if they were actually looking at baby dinosaurs, not adults.
- In 2013, a paleontologist did further research and looked at new discoveries of adult skeletons, which were 10 feet long. His research proved the theory that the original Mussaurus dinosaurs were just babies. The name stuck, even though it’s no longer an accurate description.
- Mussaurus babies, like Massaspondylus babies, were born with large heads, big eye sockets, and short snouts. In other words, they were cute. Think of other animals that are born with these characteristics: puppies, kittens, ducks, and of course, humans.
- There’s a reason why many baby animals look like this. Their parents are more likely to care for them if they look cute and helpless. Scientists believe Mussaurus parents probably cared for their eggs and hatchlings.
- Mussaurus eggs were long, with thin shells. Their nests are among the oldest found.
- Mussaurus was a prosauropod, a plant-eating dinosaur living during the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic periods. Scientists think prosauropods were probably ancestors of sauropods, the giant, plant-eating, long necks.
- Some paleontologists think this dinosaur ate insects as well as plants.
Questions and Answers
Question: Mussaurus wasn’t as tiny as scientists originally believed. What is the smallest known dinosaur?
Answer: Currently, the smallest known dinosaur is the Anchiornis huxlei, the 18-inch birdlike dinosaur from China.
Read about the Mussaurus.