Yinlong (Hidden dragon)
Xu Xing et al. - 2006
Estimated 1.2 meters long
Y. downsi (type)
China, Xinjiang Province - Shishugou Formation
Early Jurassic, 200 million years ago
Yinlong, whose name means “hidden dragon”, is a genus of small herbivorous dinosaur that lived in what is now China during the Early Jurassic period, approximately 200 million years ago. The name Yinlong comes from the Chinese mythological creature known as the dragon, which is revered in Chinese culture.
Yinlong was discovered in 2002 by a team of paleontologists in Yunnan Province, China. The species is known from a single, nearly complete skeleton and was described in 2006. Yinlong belongs to a group of dinosaurs called heterodontosaurids, which were small, bipedal herbivores that lived during the Early Jurassic.
Yinlong was about 1.2 meters long and stood about 50 centimeters tall at the hip. It had a long, slender snout and sharp, pointed teeth that were used for shearing plant material. Its front teeth were smaller and more pointed than its back teeth, indicating that it had a more complex dental system than many other early herbivorous dinosaurs.
Yinlong’s limbs were slender and built for speed, indicating that it was likely a fast runner. Its hindlimbs were longer than its forelimbs, suggesting that it was capable of running on two legs.
Yinlong is an important species for understanding the early evolution of ornithischian dinosaurs, which eventually gave rise to some of the most well-known dinosaurs, such as Triceratops and Stegosaurus. The discovery of Yinlong provides evidence that the evolution of herbivorous dinosaurs was more complex than previously thought, and that this group of dinosaurs was experimenting with different adaptations to herbivory early on in their history.