The Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals of Russia

Olorotitan, a dinosaur of Russia. Wikimedia Commons
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Which Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals Lived in Russia?

Estemmenosuchus, a prehistoric animal of Russia. Wikimedia Commons

Before and during the Mesozoic Era, the landscape of prehistoric Russia was dominated by two kinds of creatures: therapsids, or "mammal-like reptiles," during the late Permian period, and hadrosaurs, or duck-billed dinosaurs, during the late Cretaceous. On the following slides, you'll find an alphabetical list of the most notable dinosaurs and prehistoric animals ever to be discovered in Russia, including the countries that once comprised the Soviet Union.

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Aralosaurus (left), a dinosaur of Russia. Nobu Tamura

Very few dinosaurs have been discovered within the confines of Russia proper, so to fill out this list, we'll have to include the satellite republics of the little-lamented USSR. Discovered in Kazakhstan, on the banks of the Aral Sea, Aralosaurus was a three-ton hadrosaur, or duck-billed dinosaur, closely related to the American Lambeosaurus. This plant-eater was equipped with nearly a thousand teeth, the better to grind down the tough vegetation of its arid habitat.

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Biarmosuchus, a prehistoric animal of Russia. Wikimedia Commons

Just how many therapsids, or "mammal-like reptiles," have been discovered in the Perm region of Russia? Enough that an entire geologic period, the Permian, has been named after these ancient sediments, dating to over 250 million years ago. Biarmosuchus is one of the earliest therapsids yet identified, about the size of a Golden Retriever and (probably) endowed with a warm-blooded metabolism; its closest relative seems to have been the hard-to-pronounce Phthinosuchus.

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Estemennosuchus, a prehistoric animal of Russia. Dmitry Bogdanov

At least ten times as big as its fellow therapsid Biarmosuchus (see previous slide), Estemmenosuchus weighed about 500 pounds and likely resembled a modern-day warthog, albeit lacking fur and endowed with a considerably smaller brain. This "crowned crocodile" received its misleading name thanks to its prominent brow and cheek horns; paleontologists are still debating whether it was a carnivore, an herbivore, or an omnivore.

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Inostrancevia, a prehistoric animal of Russia. Dmitry Bogdanov

The third in our trio of late Permian Russian therapsids, after Biarmosuchus and Estemmenosuchus, Inostrancevia was discovered in the northern region of Archangelsk, bordering the White Sea. Its claim to fame is that it's the largest "gorgonopsid" therapsid yet identified, measuring about 10 feet long and weighing as much as half a ton. Inostrancevia was also equipped with unusually long canines, and thus resembled an ancient precursor of the Saber-Tooth Tiger.  

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Lambeosaurus, to which Kazaklambia was closely related. American Museum of Natural History

A close relative of Aralosaurus (see slide #2), Kazaklambia was discovered in Kazakhstan in 1968, and for years it was the most complete dinosaur fossil ever unearthed inside the Soviet Union. Unusually, considering how rabidly nationalistic the USSR was back in the '60's, it took until 2013 for Kazaklambia to be assigned to its own genus; until then, it had been classified first as a species of the obscure Procheneosaurus and then of the more well-known Corythosaurus.

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Kileskus, a dinosaur of Russia. Andrey Atuchin

Not a whole lot is known about Kileskus, a pint-sized (only about 300 pounds), middle Jurassic theropod distantly related to the much later Tyrannosaurus Rex. Technically, Kileskus is classified as a "tyrannosauroid" rather than a true tyrannosaur, and it was probably covered with feathers (as was the case with most theropods, at least during some stage of their life cycles). Its name, in case you were wondering, is indigenous Siberian for "lizard."

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Olorotitan, a dinosaur of Russia. Wikimedia Commons

Yet another duck-billed dinosaur of late Cretaceous Russia, Olorotitan, the "giant swan," was a relatively long-necked plant-eater endowed with a prominent crest on its noggin, and was closely related to the North American Corythosaurus. The Amur region, where Olorotitan was discovered, has also yielded the remains of the much smaller duckbill Kundurosaurus, which was itself related to the even more obscure Kerberosaurus (named after Cerberus from Greek myth).

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Titanophoneus, a prehistoric animal of Russia. Wikimedia Commons

The name Titanophoneus evokes the bluster of the cold war Soviet Union: this "titanic murderer" only weighed about 200 pounds, and it was outclassed by many of its felow therapsids of late Permian Russia (such as the previously described Estemmenosuchus and Inostrancevia). The most dangerous feature of Titanophoneus was its teeth: two dagger-like canines in front, with sharp incisors and flat molars in the back of its jaws for grinding up flesh.

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Zuniceratops, which Turanoceratops closely resembled. Nobu Tamura

Discovered in Uzbekistan in 2009, Turanoceratops appears to have been an intermediate form between the tiny, ancestral ceratopsians of early Cretaceous eastern Asia (such as Psittacosaurus) and the huge, horned dinosaurs of the late Cretaceous period, typified by the most famous ceratopsian of them all, Triceratops. Oddly enough, this plant-eater was closely related to the North American Zuniceratops, which also lived about 90 million years ago.

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Ulemosaurus (right), a prehistoric animal of Russia. Sergey Krasovskiy

You thought we were done with all those pesky therapsids of late Permian Russia, weren't you? Well, hold the boat for Ulemosaurus, a thick-skulled, half-ton, not especially bright reptile, the males of which probably head-butted one another for dominance in the herd. It may yet turn out that Ulemosaurus was a species of Moschops, a dinocephalian ("terrible-headed") therapsid that lived thousands of miles away, in southern Africa.

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Strauss, Bob. "The Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals of Russia." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Strauss, Bob. (2021, February 16). The Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals of Russia. Retrieved from Strauss, Bob. "The Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals of Russia." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 21, 2023).