Mussaurus (Mouse lizard)
J. F. Bonaparte & M. Vince - 1979
Estimated 3 meters long
M. patagonicus (type)
Argentina, Santa Cruz Province - El Tranquilo Formation
Late Triassic and Early Jurassic Periods, 205-180 million years ago
Mussaurus (Mouse lizard) Facts
Mussaurus (meaning “mouse lizard”) is a genus of small herbivorous dinosaur that lived during the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic Periods, approximately 205 to 180 million years ago. It belongs to the family Mussauridae, which is part of the larger group of early sauropodomorphs, the ancestors of the giant long-necked sauropods.
Mussaurus is known from fossils found in Argentina and named by paleontologist José Bonaparte in 1979. The genus contains two species: Mussaurus patagonicus and Mussaurus janenschi. The latter is named after the German paleontologist Werner Janensch, who was influential in the study of sauropod dinosaurs.
Mussaurus was a small, agile dinosaur, measuring up to 3 meters (10 feet) in length and weighing up to 100 kilograms (220 pounds). It had a long neck and tail, and relatively long hindlimbs compared to its forelimbs. It is thought to have been a fast runner and a proficient climber. Its teeth were suited for grinding plant material, suggesting it was an herbivore.
One of the most interesting features of Mussaurus is that its fossils have been found in large clusters, suggesting that the hatchlings and juveniles lived together in groups. This is one of the earliest known examples of this behavior in dinosaurs. The presence of adult individuals in these clusters is still a matter of debate, with some scientists proposing that the adults may have abandoned their young after hatching.
The discovery of such groups of Mussaurus also offers a unique opportunity for paleontologists to study dinosaur growth and development. By examining the bones of individuals of different ages, researchers can learn more about how these animals grew, how their bodies changed over time, and how they adapted to their environment.