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THESCELOSAURUS

a plant-eating thescelosaurid cerapodan dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous of Mongolia.
Thescelosaurus
Pronunciation: THES-kel-o-SOR-us
Meaning: Wonderful lizard
Author/s: Gilmore (1913)
Synonyms: Bugenasaura
First Discovery: Wyoming, USA
Chart Position: 78

Thescelosaurus neglectus

Dinosaurs in general weren't that bright, some of the smaller ornithopod branch spent much of their time hiding in burrows, and a specimen of Thescelosaurus called "Willow" that caused a media frenzy when scientists thought it contained a preserved heart, probably didn't. With that in mind, and Christmas not far away, we couldn't help thinking of the dim Scarecrow, cowardly Lion and heartless Tin Man, and came up with a snappy "Wonderful lizard of Oz" lead-in for this page. Then it dawned on us that Thescelosaurus—meaning wonderful lizard—was a resident of Wyoming, Saskatchewan and Montana, and had never been anywhere near Australia, not even on holiday. We're not as clever as we thought we weren't. How embarrassing.

The thighs of Thescelosaurus were longer than its shins, its hind limbs were robust with four hoof-ended toes on each foot, and it was heavily built with a broad rib cage and wide back. It may have browsed on all fours given its relatively long arms and wide, five-fingered hands, and it was equipped to deal with all manner of low-lying vegetation. Small pointed teeth (for piercing) and leaf-shaped teeth (for crushing), were housed in a snout that was tipped with a long narrow beak (for nipping), and a combination of ridges on its upper and lower jaws and the position of its teeth suggest the presence of muscular cheeks (for chewing). This "heterodont dentition" (different kinds of teeth, for various tasks, in the same mouth) suggests that Thescelosaurus was omnivorous rather than a herbivorous. Humans are heterodonts too, even the ones who embrace vegetarianism like a fashion accessory.

Thescelosaurus was more robust than other early "hypsilophodont-grade" ornithopods and had shorter legs. But a lower centre of gravity and semi-stiffened tail from the mid-point to the tip would have given it a distinct balance advantage during quick transitions and changes of direction, so it was probably an elusive little sucker. Like most thescelosaurids, the skull of Thescelosaurus was fortified, in this case with a series of long bony rods above its eyes that gave it unusually thick eyebrows, though the reason for such a feature is unknown.
(Neglected Wonderful lizard)Etymology
Thescelosaurus is derived from the Greek "theskelos" (wonderful, surprising) and "sauros" (lizard), and the species epithet, neglectus, means "neglected" in Latin. The story goes; after its 1891 discovery Thescelosaurus was shipped back to the Smithsonian but the crate remained unopened and its contents were neglected for the next 22 years. What suprise Charles W. Gilmore felt when he opened the crate in 1913 and found the wonderful remains of a previously unknown saurian inside.
Discovery
The first Thescelosaurus fossils were discovered by John Bell Hatcher and William H. Utterback at Dogie Creek in the Lance Formation of Niobrara County, Wyoming, in July of 1891.
The holotype (USNM 7757) is a skeleton, complete apart from the head and neck.
Estimations
Timeline:
Era: Mesozoic
Epoch: Late Cretaceous
Stage: Maastrichtian
Age range: 67-66 mya
Stats:
Est. max. length: 4 meters
Est. max. hip height: 1 meters
Est. max. weight: 100 Kg
Diet: Herbivore
Family Tree:
Dinosauria
Ornithischia
Cerapoda
Ornithopoda
Thescelosauridae
Thescelosaurus
neglectus
Other Species
Thescelosaurus warreni (ROM 804—a partial skeleton buried on its left side) was discovered in the Horseshoe Canyon Formation of Alberta, Canada, and named by William Parks in 1926. Longer shin than thigh and longer toes were among the features that earned this critter a move from Thescelosaurus to its own genus. Parks was honored by Charles Mortram Sternberg when he named it Parksosaurus warreni in 1937.
Thescelosaurus edmontonensis (NMC No. 8537—a nearly complete skeleton with partial skull and partial forelimbs) was discovered northwest of Rumsey in Canada's Scollard Formation and named in 1940 by Charles M. Sternberg who thought it had a distinct ankle. It did have a distinct ankle... because it was broken, and while some experts believe its thick, heavily built bones represent a rather robust version or different gender of Thescelosaurus neglectus most agree that it doesn't even represent Thescelosaurus.
Bugenasaura infernalis (SDSM 7210—a partial skull, two partial vertebrae, and two finger bones) was discovered in the Hell Creek Formation of Harding County, South Dakota, USA. These remains, featuring a flared-out beak and large cheek attachment points, spent many a year as "an unidentified species of Thescelosaurus" until Peter Galton used them to anchor Bugenasaura infernalis—Hell's large-cheeked lizard, referring to Hell Creek, in 1999. A decade later Clint Boyd canned Bugenasaura altogether and moved these particular remains back to Thescelosaurus, albeit as a dubious specimen.
Thescelosaurus garbanii (LACM 33542—a set of limb elements), the largest species of Thescelosaurus, was discovered in the Hell Creek Formation of Garfield County, Montana by amateur paleontologist Harley Garbani, hence the name.
It was described in 1976 by William J. Morris, who thought it also had a distinct ankle (like Thescelosaurus edmontonensis), though he suffixed the name with a "?" because he wasn't convinced it actually belonged to Thescelosaurus. These remains were renamed Bugenasaura garbanni, the second species of Bugenasaura, by Peter Galton in 1999, but Clint Boyd moved them back to Thescelosaurus garbanni in 2009.
Thescelosaurus assiniboiensis (RSM P.1225.1—a small and almost complete skeleton, more similar to Parksosaurus than both other Thescelosaurus species) was discovered in the Frenchman Formation of Saskatchewan by Albert E. Swanston while working for the then-Saskatchewan Museum of Natural History in 1968.
These remains had been kicking around for years under the banner "unnamed Thescelosaurus" but became the first new dinosaur species from Saskatchewan since 1926 when Caleb Brown, Clint Boyd and Anthony Russell officially named it in December 2011. Thescelosaurus assiniboiensis, named after Saskatchewan's historic district of Assiniboia, lived alongside Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops horridus at the very end of the age of dinosaurs.
References
• Gilmore, Charles W. (May 1913) "A new dinosaur from the Lance Formation of Wyoming".
• Gilmore, Charles W. (1915) "Osteology of Thescelosaurus, an orthopodus dinosaur from the Lance Formation of Wyoming".
• Parks, William A (1926) "Thescelosaurus warreni, a new species of orthopodous dinosaur from the Edmonton Formation of Alberta".
• Charles M. Sternberg (1940) "Thescelosaurus edmontonensis, n. sp., and the classification of the Hypsilophodontidae".
• Morris, William J. (1976) "Hypsilophodont dinosaurs: a new species and comments on their systematics".
• Galton, Peter M. (1999) "Cranial anatomy of the hypsilophodont dinosaur Bugenasaura infernalis (Ornithischia: Ornithopoda) from the Upper Cretaceous of North America".
• C.A. Boyd, C.M. Brown, R.D. Scheetz and J.A. Clarke (2009) "Taxonomic revision of the basal neornithischian taxa Thescelosaurus and Bugenasaura".
• Hans-Dieter Sues and David B. Norman (1990) "Hypsilophodontidae, Tenontosaurus, Dryosauridae" in The Dinosauria: First Edition.
• David B. Norman, Hans-Dieter Sues, Larry M. Witmer and Rodolfo A. Coria (2004) "Basal Ornithopoda" in The Dinosauria: Second Edition.
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To cite this page:
Atkinson, L. "THESCELOSAURUS :: from DinoChecker's dinosaur archive".
›. Web access: 26th Mar 2017.
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