Muttaburrasaurus (Australian Museum).


Muttaburrasaurus (Greek for "Muttaburra lizard"); pronounced MOO-tah-BUH-ruh-SORE-us


Woodlands of Australia

Historical Period:

Middle Cretaceous (110-100 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 30 feet long and three tons



Distinguishing Characteristics:

Streamlined torso; occasional bipedal posture; powerful jaws

About Muttaburrasaurus

It takes only one look at Muttaburrasaurus to see that this dinosaur was closely related to Iguanodon: both of these plant-eaters shared the slender, low-slung, stiff-tailed posture characteristic of the two-legged, herbivorous dinosaurs known as ornithopods. Thanks to the discovery of a near-complete skeleton in northeastern Australia, in 1963, paleontologists know more about the head of Muttaburrasaurus than that of any other iguanodont; this dinosaur was equipped with powerful jaws and teeth, adaptations to its tough vegetable diet, and its strange muzzle may have been used to create honking sounds (a trait common to the descendants of the ornithopods, the hadrosaurs, or duck-billed dinosaurs).

One odd fact about Muttaburrasaurus--and about iguanodonts in general--is that this 30-foot-long, three-ton dinosaur was capable of running on its hind legs when startled or pursued by predators, though it doubtless spent most of its day munching low-lying vegetation peacefully on all fours. As you might expect, the middle Cretaceous Muttaburrasaurus has an especially high profile in Australia, since (along with Minmi, a small ankylosaur) it's one of the few near-complete dinosaur skeletons to be unearthed Down Under; you can see its reconstructed skeleton at both the Queensland Museum in Brisbane and the National Dinosaur Museum in Canberra.