Herrerasaurus ischigualastensis

  • Pronounced:  huh - Rare - uh - Sore - us

  • Diet:  Carnivore (Meat-Eater)

  • Name Means:  "Herrera's Lizard"

  • Length:  10 feet (3 m)

  • Height:  4 feet (2.3 m)

  • Weight:  80 pounds (38 kilos)

  • Time:  Late Triassic - 225 MYA

Fossil remains for this Dinosaur have been found in Northern Argentina

Discovered in 1963, Herrerasaurus is one of the oldest dinosaurs ever found. It is close to 230 million years old! It is one of three dinosaurs found in South America that represent the earliest form of meat-eating dinosaurs. In fact, Herrerasaurus may be the oldest of the three. It was a fast, ferocious hunter and it set the stage for large predatory dinosaurs to become the most dominant animals on earth for more than 150 million years.

Unlike later dinosaurs, Herrerasaurus had a wide variety of non-dinosaur creatures from which to chose for its menu. In the Triassic there were many types of creatures still roaming the land that would later disappear in an extinction event at the end of the Triassic, which the dinosaurs survived. One of the main types of creatures upon which Herrerasaurus would have fed were the mammal-like reptiles. For many millions of years the mammal-like reptiles were the dominant land creatures until dinosaurs appeared on the scene. They were slower and less adaptable than the dinosaurs and could not survive the competition. Herrerasaurus would have also eaten lizards, amphibians and possibly some of the large insects that lived in the Triassic.

Herrerasaurus, being an early dinosaur, seems to have had some characteristics that confuse scientists trying to find its place in dinosaur evolution. It shows traits that show up in much later Jurassic dinosaurs and traits that are found in different classifications of dinosaurs, making it difficult to fit it into a specific family tree. Its teeth are more conical in shape than later or contemporary dinosaurs, and they have serrations like most of the later carnivorous dinosaurs. It also appears that the Herrerasaurus jaw was somewhat flexible in order to fit more firmly around its prey and prevent it from escaping. Its arms show proportions more similar to later predatory dinosaurs in that they were much shorter than its hind limbs and clearly designed for prey capture.

It is estimated that Herrerasaurus could have reached lengths of up to 15 feet (4.5 m), making it as large as dinosaurs that did not come along until well into the Jurassic.

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