Gallimimus

Gallimimus
Firsfron at en.wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons

Name:

Gallimimus (Greek for "chicken mimic"); pronounced GAL-ih-MIME-us

Habitat:

 Plains of Asia

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (75-65 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 20 feet long and 500 pounds

Diet:

Unknown; possibly meat, plants and insects and even plankton

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Long tail and legs; slender neck; wide-set eyes; small, narrow beak

About Gallimimus

Despite its name (Greek for "chicken mimic"), it's possible to overstate how much the late Cretaceous Gallimimus actually resembled a chicken; unless you know many chickens that weigh 500 pounds and are capable of running 30 miles per hour, a better comparison might be to a beefy, low-to-the-ground, aerodynamic ostrich.

In most respects, Gallimimus was the prototypical ornithomimid ("bird mimic") dinosaur, albeit a bit larger and slower than many of its contemporaries, such as Dromiceiomimus and Ornithomimus, which lived in North America rather than central Asia.

Gallimimus has been featured prominently in Hollywood movies: it's the ostrich-like creature seen galloping away from a hungry Tyrannosaurus Rex in the original Jurassic Park, and it also makes smaller, cameo-type appearances in various Jurassic Park sequels. Considering how popular it is, though, Gallimimus is a relatively recent addition to the dinosaur bestiary. This theropod was discovered in the Gobi Desert in 1963, and is represented by numerous fossil remains, ranging from juveniles to full-grown adults; decades of close study have revealed a dinosaur possessing hollow, birdlike bones, well-muscled hind legs, a long and heavy tail, and (perhaps most surprisingly) two eyes set on opposite sides of its small, narrow head, meaning that Gallimimus lacked binocular vision.

There is still serious disagreement about the diet of Gallimimus. Most theropods of the late Cretaceous period subsisted on animal prey (other dinosaurs, small mammals, even birds venturing too close to land), but given its lack of stereoscopic vision Gallimimus may well have been omnivorous, and one paleontologist speculates that this dinosaur may even have been a filter feeder (that is, it dipped its long beak into lakes and rivers and snatched up wriggling zooplankton).

We do know that other comparably sized and built theropod dinosaurs, such as Therizinosaurus and Deinocheirus, were primarily vegetarians, so these theories can't easily be dismissed!