The 10 Cutest Dinosaurs

01
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Just How Adorable Were These Dinosaurs?

minmi
Minmi (Wikimedia Commons).

Not all dinosaurs were slobbering, buck-toothed meat-eaters or squat, barrel-chested plant eaters--a few were every bit as cute as a newborn puppy or kitten (though that, of course, has a lot to do with how these adorable dinosaurs have been rendered by modern paleo-artists). On the following slides, you'll discover 10 real-life dinosaurs cute enough to grace the cover of a Jurassic Hallmark card. (Are your teeth starting to hurt from all this sweetness? Then check out our list of the 10 ugliest dinosaurs).

02
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Chaoyangsaurus

chaoyangsaurus
Chaoyangsaurus (Nobu Tamura).

Believe it or not, the adorably tiny (only three feet long from head to tail and 20 or 30 pounds), tuft-tailed, two-legged Chaoyangsaurus was a distant ancestor of horned, frilled dinosaurs like Triceratops and Pentaceratops. Like many other "basal" ceratopsians of the late Jurassic and early Cretaceous periods, Chaoyangsaurus may have supplemented its leafy diet with nuts and seeds, and some paleontologists believe it was capable of swimming (which may explain that structure on the back of its tail).

03
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Europasaurus

europasaurus
Europasaurus (Wikimedia Commons).

The most petite sauropod yet identified, Europasaurus only weighed about 1,000 to 2,000 pounds, making it the true runt of the litter compared to 20- or 30-ton contemporaries like Brachiosaurus and Apatosaurus. Why was Europasaurus so small and, well, so adorable? The prevailing theory is that this plant-eating dinosaur was restricted to an island habitat in central Europe, and "evolved down" in size so as not to outstrip its scarce food supply--the carnivorous dinosaurs in the area were comparably small as well!

04
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Gigantoraptor

gigantoraptor
Gigantoraptor. Taena Doman

Gigantoraptor is one of those dinosaurs whose cuteness is directly proportional to the tastes of whatever artist happens to be illustrating it. Not technically a true raptor, Gigantoraptor may have been covered with long, tufted feathers (cute) or gnarly, abrasive bristles (not so cute). Gigantoraptor's cute quotient also depends on whether this two-ton Oviraptor relative contented itself with a vegetarian diet, or feasted on the occasional small mammal. Whatever the case, it was one of the biggest feathered dinosaurs of the Mesozoic Era!

05
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Leaellynasaura

leaellynasaura
Leaellynasaura (Australia National Dinosaur Museum).

As adorable as its name is hard to pronounce (much less spell), Leaellynasaura was a human-sized ornithopod of middle Cretaceous Australia. The most "awwww"-inducing aspect of this dinosaur was its large eyes, an adaptation to the darkness in which its habitat was plunged for much of the year. It also doesn't hurt that Leaellynasaura was named after an eight-year-old girl, the daughter of the Australian paleontologist Patricia Vickers-Rich.

06
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Limusaurus

limusaurus
Limusaurus (Nobu Tamura).

Limusaurus was to other meat-eating dinosaurs what the gentle Ferdinand was to other bulls. Judging by its long, tapered, toothless snout, this Asian dinosaur may have been a vegetarian, and probably wasn't invited to many football games by its bigger, scarier relatives like Yangchuanosaurus and Szhechuanosaurus. One imagines the meek, 75-pound Limusaurus off in a field somewhere, feeding on dandelions and ignoring the taunts of its theropod cousins.

07
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Mei

Mei
Mei (Wikimedia Commons).

Almost as tiny as its name, Mei (Chinese for "sound asleep") was a feathered theropod of early Cretaceous China closely related to the much bigger Troodon. What will tug at your heartstrings is that the single known fossil specimen of Mei was found curled up in a ball, its tail wrapped around its body and its head tucked underneath its arm. Apparently (and not so adorably), this sleeping hatchling was buried alive by a sudden sandstorm about 140 million years ago.

08
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Micropachycephalosaurus

micropachycephalosaurus
Micropachycephalosaurus (H. Kyoht Luterman).

From the shortest dinosaur name (Mei, previous slide) we come to the longest, with absolutely no diminution in cuteness. Micropachycephalosaurus translates from the Greek as "tiny thick-headed lizard," and that's exactly what this dinosaur was--a five-pound pachycephalosaur that roamed late Cretaceous Asia about 80 million years ago. It's hard to imagine two Micropachycephalosaurus males head-butting each other for dominance in the herd, but hey, wouldn't it be cute?

09
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Minmi

minmi
Minmi (Australian Museum).

No, its name isn't a reference to Mini-Me, Dr. Evil's tiny doppelganger in the Austin Powers movies. But it might as well be: as ankylosaurs go, Minmi was wee, "only" about ten feet long and 500 to 1,000 pounds. What makes this Australian dinosaur especially adorable is that it had a smaller brain, compared to its body size, than most of its armored breed. Since ankylosaurs weren't exactly the brainiest dinosaurs to begin with, that makes Minmi the Cretaceous equivalent of Baby Huey.

10
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Nothronychus

nothronychus
Nothronychus (Nobu Tamura).

Its close cousin, Therizinosaurus, gets all the press, but Nothronychus earns cuteness points for its genial, shaggy, Big Bird-like appearance (long, tapered front claws, narrow snout, and prominent pot belly) and its presumed herbivorous diet. Oddly enough, Nothronychus is also the first therizinosaur ever to be identified outside Asia; perhaps some bigger North American dinosaurs visiting Mongolia 80 million years ago took it home as a pet!

11
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Unaysaurus

unaysaurus
Unaysaurus (Joao Boto).

Probably the most obscure entry on this list, Unaysaurus was one of the first prosauropods, the bipedal, plant-eating dinosaurs distantly ancestral to the massive sauropods and titanosaurs that lived tens of millions of years later. Smaller than most of the prosauropods that followed it (only about eight feet long and 200 pounds), Unaysaurus was gentle and inoffensive enough to have its own TV show, if TVs existed during the late Triassic period.