Lesothosaurus

lesothosaurus
Lesothosaurus (Getty Images).

Name:

Lesothosaurus (Greek for "Lesotho lizard"); pronounced leh-SO-tho-SORE-us

Habitat:

Plains and woodlands of Africa

Historical Period:

Early Jurassic (200-190 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About six feet long and 10-20 pounds

Diet:

Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; large eyes; bipedal posture; inability to chew

 

About Lesothosaurus

Lesothosaurus dates from a murky time in geologic history--the early Jurassic period--when the first dinosaurs had just split into the two main dinosaur groups, saurischian ("lizard-hipped") and ornithischian ("bird-hipped") dinosaurs.

Some paleontologists insist that the small, bipedal, plant-eating Lesothosaurus was a very early ornithopod dinosaur (which would place it firmly in the ornithischian camp), while others maintain that it predated this important split; yet a third camp proposes that Lesothaurus was a basal thyreophoran, the family of armored dinosaurs that includes stegosaurs and ankylosaurs.

One thing we do know about Lesothosaurus is that it was a confirmed vegetarian; this dinosaur's narrow snout had a beak-like appearance on the end, equipped with about a dozen sharp teeth in front and many more leaf-like, grinding teeth in the back. Like all early dinosaurs, Lesothosaurus was unable to chew its food, and its long hind legs indicate that it was very fast, especially when being pursued by larger predators.

However it winds up being classified, Lesothosaurus isn't the only ancestral dinosaur of the early Jurassic period that has continued to puzzle paleontologists.

Lesothosaurus may or may not have been the same creature as Fabrosaurus (the remains of which were discovered much earlier, thus giving the name "Fabrosaurus" precedence if the two genera wind up being merged, or "synonymized"), and it may also have been ancestral to the equally obscure Xiaosaurus, yet another tiny, basal ornithopod native to Asia.

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Strauss, Bob. "Lesothosaurus." ThoughtCo, Jan. 24, 2017, thoughtco.com/lesothosaurus-1092747. Strauss, Bob. (2017, January 24). Lesothosaurus. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/lesothosaurus-1092747 Strauss, Bob. "Lesothosaurus." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/lesothosaurus-1092747 (accessed January 24, 2018).