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a plant-eating orodromine ornithopod dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous of North America.
Pronunciation: ZEF-i-ro-SOR-us
Meaning: West-wind lizard
Author/s: Sues (1980)
Synonyms: None known
First Discovery: Montana, USA
Chart Position: 231

Zephyrosaurus schaffi

Zephyrosaurus shares many features with Orodromeus and Oryctodromeus, and while none of them are blessed with what you could call specialist digging tools paleontologists have united all three in Zephyrosauridae—a group of small, swift, herbivorous (or maybe omnivorous) critters that are affectionately known as "burrowers". Burrowing dinosaurs were long considered a Montana-exclusive club, because that was the only area that had yielded associated underground lairs. But Koreanosaurus from Boseong, Korea, which Lee Dae-Gil initially named in his 2008 thesis, gatecrashed the party after its official description in 2011 and brought some associated lairs of its own.

Compared to master muck-shovellers such as modern moles, the hands of zephyrosaurids are modestly-sized, and those of Zephyrosaurus are particularly small compared to its feet. Rabbits, however, have diddy hands, and they have no problems burrowing, and Zephyrosaurus had other features that would perhaps make it even more efficient. A little-boss-topped muzzle, an upper jaw strengthened by bone fusion, and cheeks adorned with a larger, more robust boss weren't tools for headbutting tunnels right into the ground, as much as we would like them to be. But it's not unreasonable to assume that Zephyrosaurus used its fortified noggin to loosen hard ground, snap troublesome roots and shift inconvenient rocks whilst burrowing; a bit like a Mesozoic rotavator, but with a beak-tipped snout that also housed canine teeth or "tusks".

Ornithopods are far from headline-grabbers at the best of times and Zephyrosaurus did nothing to buck this trend with its meagre remains. However, its popularity rose after the announcement of perhaps seven new individuals from Oklahoma, which still await description. And footprints found by Ray Stanford in Maryland sent its popularity into orbit, at least in ornithopod terms, though there is no way to prove that Zephyrosaurus actually owns them.
Zephyrosaurus is derived from "Zephyros" (Greek God of the West Wind) in reference to its discovery in the west of north America, and the Greek "sauros" (lizard).
The species epithet, schaffi, honors Charles R. Schaff who found the specimen.
The first fossils of Zephyrosaurus were discovered by Schaff in the Cloverly Formation of Carbon County, Montana, U.S.A. They were a bit ropey but new specimens are more complete and numerous which suggests pack behaviour. The holotype (MCZ 4392) consists of jaw fragments, the braincase and associated bones, several partial vertebrae, and rib fragments. Fossilized footprints discovered in the Patuxent Formation of Maryland and Virginia by Ray Stanford and named Hypsiloichnus marylandicus have been attributed a Zephyrosaurus-type dinosaur.
Era: Mesozoic
Epoch: Early Cretaceous
Stage: Aptian
Age range: 118-110 mya
Est. max. length: 1.8 meters
Est. max. hip height: 0.5 meters
Est. max. weight: 20 Kg
Diet: Herbivore
• Sues H-D (1980) "Anatomy and relationships of a new hypsilophodontid dinosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of North America". Palaeontographica Abteilung A Band A169 Lieferung 1-3, p.51-72.
• Weishampel DB and RE Heinrich (1992) "Systematics of Hypsilophodontidae and Basal Iguanodontia (Dinosauria: Ornithopoda)". Historical Biology, 6:3, 159-184.
• Norman DB, H-D Sues, LM Witmer and RA Coria (2004) "Basal Ornithopoda" in "The Dinosauria: Second Edition".
• Kutter MM (2003) "New material of Zephyrosaurus schaffi (Dinosauria:Ornithischia) from the Cloverly Formation (Aptian-Albian) of Montana". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 23 (3, Suppl.): 69A.
• Paul GS (2010) "The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs". /uk. (Page 276).
• Stanford R, R Weems and M Lockley (2004) "A new dinosaur ichnotaxon from the Lower Cretaceous Patuxent Formation of Maryland and Virginia". Ichnos 11 (3–4): 251–259.
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To cite this page:
Atkinson, L. "ZEPHYROSAURUS :: from DinoChecker's dinosaur archive".
›. Web access: 19th Oct 2017.