Monday, November 2, 2015

Lurdusaurus: Beast of the Week

This week, as result of a request, we will be checking out Lurdusaurus arenatusLurdusaurus was a plant-eating dinosaur that lived in what is now Niger, Africa, during the Early Cretaceous Period, between 121 and 112 million years ago.  The genus name, Lurdusaurus, translates to "Heavy Lizard" because of its unusually robust skeleton.

Pair of Lurdosaurus life reconstruction by Christopher DiPiazza.

Lurdusaurus was closely related to the more famous dinosaur, Iguanodon, and shared a number of telltale characteristics with it, such as the broad beak and thumb spike.  The thumb spike on Lurdusaurus was huge and wide, and may have been a weapon against members of its own species when fighting for dominance, or perhaps for defending against potential predators, when necessary.  Lurdusaurus, however was much more heavily-built than its relatives, possessing a very much barrel-shaped body.  Its legs were particularly short, especially below the knee, for an ornithopod, and likely was most comfortable on all fours, although it probably could still rear up on its hind legs if it needed to.  Lurdusaurus also had an long neck for an ornithopod.

Front limb bones form Lurdosaurus on display at the Belgian institute of Natural Sciences.  Note how thick they are.

Because of its unusual body plan, it is believed that Lurdusaurus must have been adapted for a slightly different lifestyle than most other ornithopods.  The most popular idea is that Lurdusaurus was spending a lot of its time in the water, where its immense bulk would be more easily supported and it probably would have even been able to move more quickly with its short legs, similarly to how modern hippos do.  It may have used its long neck to reach underwater plants to eat, or to allow it to breathe at the surface when in deeper water.

The idea of Lurdusaurus having been comfortable in the water makes more sense when its environment is taken into account.  According to what can be told about the rocks its bones were found in, which contained an abundance of fish and crocodile fossils, the environment during the Cretaceous there would have been dominated by freshwater marshes, lakes and rivers.

That is all for this week!  As always feel free to comment below or on our facebook page.

References

Taquet, P.; Russell, D. A. (1999). "A massively-constructed iguanodont from Gadoufaoua, Lower Cretaceous of Niger". Annales de Pal√©ontologie 85 (1): 85–96.

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