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ZoomDinosaurs.com
ALL ABOUT DINOSAURS!
What is a Dinosaur? Dino Info Pages Dinosaur Coloring Print-outs Name That Dino Biggest, Smallest, Oldest,... Evolution of Dinosaurs Dinos and Birds Dino Myths

MUSSAURUS
"Mouse Lizard"

Mussaurus ANATOMY
Mussaurus (pronounced moo-SAWR-us) was a small, early, plant-eating dinosaur. No adult Mussaurus fossils have been unearthed. Only large-eyed hatchling (baby) Mussaurus have been found. They were only 9-16 inches long (18-37 cm); these are the smallest dinosaur skeletons yet found. The entire young dinosaur could fit in a person's hand. This prosauropod dinosaur was perhaps up to 10 feet long (3 m) as an adult, weighing roughly 260 pounds (120 kg). It had a long neck, long tail, a small head with a long snout, and large, five-fingered hands with a large thumb claw (and smaller claws on the other fingers). Its back legs were larger than its front legs.

Fossilized eggs have also been found; they are only about 1 inch long (2.5 cm). Coloradisaurus may be the adult version of Mussaurus.

WHEN MUSSAURUS LIVED
Mussaurus lived about 215 million years ago, during the late Triassic period. Among its contemporaries in the late Triassic in South America were Eoraptor, Riojasaurus, Coloradisaurus (which may be the same as Mussaurus), Frenguellisaurus, Herrerasaurus, Ischisaurus, Pisanosaurus, and Staurikosaurus .

ENVIRONMENT
Mussaurus lived in a dry, almost desert-like environment in what is now southern Argentina, South America.

CLASSIFICATION
Mussaurus was a Saurischian dinosaur, the order of lizard-hipped dinosaurs. It was a prosauropod or sauropodomorpha (long-necked, semi-quadrupedal herbivores that includes Massospondylus, Mussaurus, and Plateosaurus). The type species is M. patagonicus.

BEHAVIOR
Mussaurus may have congregated in herds, and may have migrated seasonally across the arid (dry) European landscape during the late Triassic period, but this not certain.

DIET AND TEETH
Mussaurus was an herbivore (a plant eater). It was probably able to rear up on its back legs in order to graze on tall vegetation, like conifers and cycads. Its sharp teeth let it tear these tough leaves from the plants. It may have swallowed tiny pebbles and small stones to help in the digestion of the tough leaves and other plant material that it ate. These gizzard stones (gastroliths) would help grind up the food in the stomach.

INTELLIGENCE
Musaurus was a sauropodomorpha, a primitive dinosuar whose intelligence (as measured by its relative brain to body weight, or EQ) was the lowest among the dinosaurs.

EQ


DEFENSE
Mussaurus had short claws on its front and rear limbs, and weak, leaf-shaped teeth. These paltry defenses were probably not very effective against large predators, which had much bigger claws, sharper, stronger teeth, and were more powerful overall. Its best defense was to run away.

MussaurusLOCOMOTION
Mussaurus walked on two muscular legs, but may have been able to run on all four legs also (its back legs were longer than its front legs).

DISCOVERY OF FOSSILS
Ten fragmentary juvenile fossils, 4 skulls, and eggs have been found in the El Tranquilo Formation, Santa Cruz, Argentina. Mussaurus was named by paleontologists José Bonaparte and Martin Vince in 1979.



Information Sheets About Dinosaurs
(and Other Prehistoric Creatures)

Just click on an animal's name to go to that information sheet. If the dinosaur you're interested in isn't here, check the Dinosaur Dictionary or the list of Dinosaur Genera. Names with an asterisk (*) were not dinosaurs.
How to write a great dinosaur report.

For dinosaur printouts, click here.

For brief dinosaur fact sheets, click here.





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