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Leaellynasaura (pronounced lee-EL-in-a-SAWR-a) was a fast-running, plant-eating dinosaur that lived in Australia during the middle Cretaceous Period, roughly 115-110 million years ago. Australia was within the Antarctic Circle during the Cretaceous period, and it had a very long, dark winter. Leaellynasaura had large eyes that would have helped it find food during the long, dark polar winters.

Diet: Leaellynasaura was an herbivore (it ate only plants); it had a tough beak and many self-sharpening cheek teeth. It may have eaten cycads, ferns, and conifers.

Anatomy: Leaellynasaura was a small hypsilophodontid, a bipedal plant-eater 6.5 to 10 feet (2-3 m) long. Leaellynasaura had a relatively large brain, a cheek pouch, strong jaws, and good eyesight. Leaellynasaura was a hypsilophodont (dinosaurs with high-ridged teeth) but differed from other hypsilophodontids in its upper hind leg bone structure (at its base it gets wider from back to front).

Name: Leaellynasaura was named in 1989 after Leaellyn, the daughter of Thomas A. Rich and Patricia Vickers, the namers of the dinosaur; saura is the feminine form of lizard in Greek.

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