Gasparinisaura (Gasparini’s lizard)
Coria & Salgado – 1996
Estimated 1.5 meters long
G. cincosaltensis (type)
Late Cretaceous, 83-70 million years ago
Gasparinisaura, meaning “Gasparini's lizard,” is a genus of small ornithopod dinosaur that lived during the Late Cretaceous period, around 83 to 70 million years ago. Its fossils were first discovered in Argentina in 1992 and the genus was named and described by Argentine paleontologist Coria & Salgado – 1996.
Gasparinisaura was a small, bipedal herbivore, measuring approximately 1.5 meters (5 feet) in length and weighing around 20 to 25 kilograms (44 to 55 pounds). It had a slender body with a long, thin tail, and its legs were relatively long and built for speed and agility.
One of the most distinctive features of Gasparinisaura is its teeth. Unlike most other ornithopods, which had broad, flattened teeth for grinding tough plant material, Gasparinisaura had narrow, needle-like teeth that were well-suited for slicing through soft vegetation. This suggests that Gasparinisaura had a more specialized diet than other ornithopods, possibly feeding on soft leaves and other plant material that required more precision to consume.
Gasparinisaura was also notable for its large eyes, which suggest that it may have been active during both the day and night. Its long, slender legs and agile body may have helped it to avoid predators and navigate through dense vegetation in its habitat.
Based on the structure of its bones, paleontologists believe that Gasparinisaura was a fast runner and a skilled jumper, with the ability to change direction quickly and evade predators. Its slender, lightweight body may have also helped it to climb trees and seek refuge from predators when necessary.
Gasparinisaura is an important dinosaur for paleontologists because it provides valuable insights into the evolution of ornithopod dinosaurs during the Late Cretaceous period. Its specialized teeth and other unique features help to fill in gaps in our understanding of how ornithopods adapted to their environments and diversified over time.
In conclusion, Gasparinisaura is a fascinating dinosaur that helps us to better understand the diversity and adaptations of ornithopod dinosaurs during the Late Cretaceous period. Its specialized teeth, large eyes, and agile body set it apart from other ornithopods, and its fast running and jumping abilities likely helped it to thrive in its ancient ecosystem. As more fossils are discovered and studied, we are likely to learn even more about this enigmatic dinosaur and its place in the evolutionary history of ornithopods.