Albertadromeus: The Swift Runner of Alberta from the Late Cretaceous Era

Imagine a time when colossal creatures roamed the Earth, a time so far removed from our own that it almost feels like a different planet. This was the era of the dinosaurs, a period of history that continues to captivate us today. Among these ancient giants there was a swift runner–a creature that darted through the undergrowth of the Late Cretaceous period. This creature was none other than the Albertadromeus, a small-bodied, bipedal dinosaur known for its speed and agility.

The Albertadromeus, whose name literally translates to “runner from Alberta,” hails from the Canadian province of Alberta. Its name comes from its swift nature, a characteristic that set it apart from many of its contemporaries. This fascinating creature is a member of the Ornithopod group, specifically the Thescelosaurid family, and it roamed the Earth some 83.6 to 72.1 million years ago.

Key Facts

Key FactDetail
Albertadromeus pronunciational-bert-ah-dro-may-us
Meaning of NameRunner from Alberta
GroupOrnithopod
Type SpeciesAlbertadromeus syntarsus
DietHerbivore
When it Lived83.6 to 72.1 MYA
PeriodLate Cretaceous
EpochCampanian
Length5.0 ft
Height1.6 ft
Weight0.2 tons
MobilityBipedal
First Discovery2009 by David Evans and Michael Ryan
Location of First FindAlberta, Canada
First Described by2013 by Caleb Marshall Brown, David Evans, Michael  Ryan and Anthony P. Russell
HolotypeTMP 2009.037.0044

Albertadromeus Origins: Taxonomy, Timeline, and Discovery

The Albertadromeus has a name that evokes images of swift movement. This name derives from the Canadian province of Alberta and the Greek word ‘dromeus’, meaning ‘runner’. This nomenclature is a nod to its inferred cursorial nature, hinting at its ability to swiftly navigate its environment.

Black and white sketch of Albertadromeus, a small, bipedal dinosaur with a long tail. The illustration shows the dinosaur in a side profile, highlighting its slender build and elongated limbs.
image by Levi bernardo is license under CC BY-SA 3.0

Belonging to the Ornithopod group, the Albertadromeus is a member of the Thescelosaurid family. This classification places it among a group of herbivorous dinosaurs known for their bird-like stance and agility. The type species of this genus is Albertadromeus syntarsus. 

The Albertadromeus lived during the Late Cretaceous period, specifically during the Campanian epoch. This places its existence between 83.6 and 72.1 million years ago during a time when dinosaurs were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates.

The first discovery of the Albertadromeus was made in 2009 in Alberta, Canada. This significant find was made by Canadian paleontologists Dr. David Evans and Dr. Michael Ryan. It was first described by another set of Canadian paleontologists, Caleb Marshall Brown, David C. Evans, Michael J. Ryan, and Anthony P. Russell, in 2013.

Fossil Evidence

The initial discovery of the Albertadromeus was made in Alberta, Canada, in 2009. The fossils found were quite limited, consisting of two dorsal vertebrae, a caudal vertebra, cervical ribs, ossified tendons, the left tibia and fibula, an incomplete right fibula, and a fragmentary metatarsal and ungual. Despite the scarcity of the fossils, they provided enough morphological detail to allow for diagnosis at the species level. The elongate tibia of the Albertadromeus, in particular, has been strongly correlated with cursorial habits, suggesting that this dinosaur was indeed a swift runner.

Albertadromeus Size and Description

The Albertadromeus, despite its small size, was a creature of remarkable adaptability. Let’s take a look at how its physical characteristics and locomotion set it apart from many of its contemporaries.

Short description of Albertadromeus

The Albertadromeus was a small-bodied, bipedal dinosaur. Based on the elongated tibia, the Albertadromeus is inferred to have been a cursorially-adapted neornithischian, meaning it was built to run. Its physical characteristics, including its body shape, head, neck, vertebrae, limbs, tail, and skin, are largely unknown due to the limited fossil evidence. However, the fossils that have been found suggest a creature built for remarkable agility and speed.

Size and Weight of Type Species

As for the size and weight of the Albertadromeus, there is limited information available due to the scarcity of fossils. Based on the fossils that have been found, it can be assumed that the Albertadromeus was a small-bodied dinosaur. The current estimates of size are 5 feet in length and 1.6 feet in height, with a weight of 0.2 tons, though these are largely speculative and subject to change with the discovery of more fossils.

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The Dinosaur in Detail

With its small size, the Albertadromeus was a creature of remarkable agility. Its physical characteristics and locomotion set it apart from many of its contemporaries. The elongate tibia of the Albertadromeus, in particular, has been strongly correlated with cursorial habits, suggesting that this dinosaur was indeed a quick and nimble runner. This unique feature reflects the Albertadromeus’s adaptability and survival instincts, allowing it to navigate its environment with speed and agility.

The Albertadromeus also had a unique feature in its distal fibula. This bone was reduced to a thin sheet of bone that was fused to the anterior surface of the tibia for the distal one-third of its length. This feature, shared with heterodontosaurids, is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Albertadromeus.

Despite the limited number of fossils found, the Albertadromeus has contributed significantly to our understanding of small-bodied, bipedal dinosaurs. Its unique features and inferred cursorial nature shed light on the diversity and adaptability of dinosaurs during the Late Cretaceous period.

The Albertadromeus in its Natural Habitat and Environment

The Albertadromeus inhabited the region that is now known as Alberta, Canada during the Late Cretaceous period. At the time, this part of the world was known as Laramidia–a paleocontinent that was comprised of the western part of present-day North America. The environment during this time was likely a coastal plain with a diverse range of vegetation to support a herbivorous diet.

As an herbivore, the Albertadromeus would have fed on the vegetation available in its environment. Its bipedal locomotion suggests that it could have reached higher vegetation–an adaptation that would have expanded its range of food sources. The Albertadromeus’s swift nature would have also allowed it to evade predators, contributing to its survival in a diverse ecosystem.

The social behavior of the Albertadromeus is largely unknown due to its limited fossil evidence. Its swift nature suggests that it could have been a solitary creature that relied on its speed for survival rather than the safety of a herd. However, this is purely speculative and more fossil evidence would be needed to confirm this.

Interesting Points about Albertadromeus

  • The Albertadromeus is known from a single specimen, making it a rare find in the world of paleontology.
  • Despite the limited fossil evidence, the Albertadromeus has provided valuable insights into the diversity and adaptability of small-bodied, bipedal dinosaurs.
  • The elongate tibia of the Albertadromeus suggests that it was a swift runner, a unique feature among many dinosaurs of the Late Cretaceous period.
  • The Albertadromeus’s name, which translates to “runner from Alberta,” is a testament to its swift nature and the region where it was first discovered.
  • The distal fibula of the Albertadromeus was reduced to a thin sheet of bone that was fused to the anterior surface of the tibia for the distal one-third of its length. This unique feature is shared with heterodontosaurids.

Contemporary Dinosaurs

In the grand theater of Laramidian dinosaurs, the Albertadromeus was a creature of amazing agility that shared its world with a fascinating ensemble of contemporaries. These fellow dinosaurs often overshadowed Albertadromeus in size, providing a contrast that shows off its unique manner of living. 

Imagine, if you will, a world where the nimble Albertadromeus roamed alongside the majestic Parasaurolophus–an herbivorous creature considerably larger in stature. This size difference could have led to a fascinating dynamic, with the Albertadromeus possibly using its smaller size and agility to navigate the landscape more efficiently while the Parasaurolophus used its size as a deterrent to potential predators.

The Triceratops and Ankylosaurus, both larger than the Albertadromeus, also shared this landscape. These herbivores, however, were equipped with impressive defensive structures and would have presented a stark contrast to the relatively defenseless Albertadromeus. 

The Tyrannosaurus played its own undeniable part in this prehistoric tableau. The presence of this potential predator would have significantly influenced the behavior and survival strategies of the Ankylosaurus. Being so much smaller, it likely used its speed and agility to evade these larger predators. However, in the grand scheme of survival, each of these creatures–including our nimble Albertadromeus–found their niche. Both as predator and prey, they played a role in this dynamic and diverse prehistoric world.

Featured Image Credit: Levi bernardo, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sources

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236878154_New_Data_on_the_Diversity_and_Abundance_of_Small-Bodied_Ornithopods_Dinosauria_Ornithischia_from_the_Belly_River_Group_Campanian_of_Alberta

https://www.nature.com/articles/332256a0

https://zslpublications.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-7998.1985.tb04915.x

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albertadromeus

The information in this article is based on various sources, drawing on scientific research, fossil evidence, and expert analysis. We aim to provide a comprehensive and accurate overview of the dinosaurs. However, please be aware that our understanding of dinosaurs and their world is constantly evolving as new discoveries are made.”

Article last fact checked: Joey Arboleda,06-09-2023