Elaphrosaurus: The Swift Runner of the Late Jurassic

Elaphrosaurus: The Swift Runner of the Late Jurassic

Welcome, fellow dinosaur enthusiasts! Today, we’re going to explore the world of a unique dinosaur that roamed our planet during the Late Jurassic period. Meet the Elaphrosaurus, a dinosaur whose name literally translates to “light-footed lizard”. This fascinating creature, with its unique characteristics and intriguing history, is sure to captivate your imagination.

Elaphrosaurus Key Facts

Elaphrosaurus pronunciationel-ah-froh-saw-ruhs
Meaning of nameLight-footed lizard
Type SpeciesElaphrosaurus bambergi
DietHerbivore or Omnivore
When it Lived55.7 to 93.5 MYA
PeriodLate Jurassic
EpochLate/Upper Kimmeridgian to Early/Lower Cenomanian
Length20 ft
Height5 ft at hip
Weight450 lbs
MobilityMoved on two legs
First Discovery1910 by Werner Janensch, I. Salim, H. Reck, and Parkinson
Location of first findTanzania, Africa
First Described by1920 by Werner Janensch
HolotypeHMN Gr.S. 38–44

Elaphrosaurus Origins: Taxonomy, Timeline, and Discovery

Elaphrosaurus was a fascinating dinosaur from the Late Jurassic. Discover its unique characteristics, fossil evidence, and role in its habitat.

Let’s start our journey by understanding the origins of the Elaphrosaurus. The name comes from the Greek words “elaphros“, meaning ‘light to bear’ or ‘light-footed’, and “sauros“, meaning ‘lizard’. This name is a nod to its presumed high running speed and suggests a swift and agile creature.

In terms of taxonomy, it belongs to the Theropoda group, specifically the Noasauridae family. The type species is Elaphrosaurus bambergi. It’s fascinating to see how these classifications help us understand the dinosaur’s lineage and its place in the grand scheme of prehistoric life.

It lived during the Late Jurassic period, specifically from the Late Kimmeridgian to the Early/Lower Cenomanian epoch. This places its existence during a time when the earth was teeming with a diverse array of dinosaur species.

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Discovery & Fossil Evidence

Let’s delve into the fascinating history of the Elaphrosaurus’s discovery and the fossil evidence that has been unearthed over the years. The initial discovery was made in 1910 in Tanzania, Africa. This significant find was the result of the diligent efforts of a team of paleontologists, including Werner Janensch, I. Salim, H. Reck, and Parkinson. Moreover, their work marked the first time this dinosaur was introduced to the scientific community.

Elaphrosaurus skeleton, Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin
Aktron, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In the years following this initial discovery, additional fossils have been found that further our understanding of this dinosaur. These subsequent discoveries have been made in various locations, including Morocco and the United States (Wyoming), and span both the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Each find contributes to a more comprehensive picture of its existence and distribution during this era.

The types of fossils found, their degree of preservation, and any notable specimens are all crucial pieces of the puzzle. While the specifics of these aspects may vary, each fossil provides invaluable insight into its physical characteristics, behavior, and environment. Through these discoveries we continue to learn more about this unique dinosaur and its place in prehistoric life.

Elaphrosaurus Size and Description

Before we delve into the specifics, let’s take a moment to appreciate the overall appearance of the Elaphrosaurus. This dinosaur, like many of its theropod relatives, was a bipedal creature that moved swiftly on its two hind legs.

Short description of Elaphrosaurus

This was a large theropod–a group of dinosaurs characterized by their hollow bones and three-toed limbs. Its body was likely streamlined, built for speed and agility. Its head was relatively small compared to its body with a long neck extending from it. The vertebrae were likely strong yet lightweight to support its swift movements. Its limbs were robust and designed for swift locomotion and its tail likely served as a counterbalance during high-speed pursuits.

Size and Weight of Type Species

Elaphrosaurus size
Jaime A. Headden, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This was a sizable creature. It measured approximately 20 feet in length and stood 5 feet tall, weighing around 450 lbs. Given its length and the general body structure of theropods, it’s reasonable to assume that it was a creature of considerable weight. However, as its name suggests, it was likely lighter than many of its contemporaries to allow for its reputed speed and agility.

The Dinosaur in Detail

This dinosaur is a testament to the marvels of evolution. Its light-footed nature set it apart from many other dinosaurs of its time. This unique feature likely played a crucial role in its survival by allowing it to swiftly navigate its environment and evade predators.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the Elaphrosaurus is its diet. Despite being a member of the theropod group, which is primarily composed of carnivorous dinosaurs, this dinosaur was likely an herbivore or an omnivore. If it did eat meat, it likely would have hunted smaller ornithopod herbivores. This dietary preference is a fascinating deviation from the norm and showcases the dinosaur’s adaptability.

These unique characteristics have been pieced together through the study of various fossil specimens. Each discovery has added a new piece to the puzzle, helping us understand this fascinating creature and its place in prehistoric life.

The Elaphrosaurus in its Natural Habitat and Environment

This dinosaur lived in a world vastly different from our own. During the Late Jurassic period, the earth was a lush, verdant place that was teeming with a diverse array of plant life. This rich vegetation likely served as the primary food source for the Elaphrosaurus, given its herbivorous or omnivorous diet.

As a bipedal creature, it was likely a swift and agile navigator of its environment. Its speed and agility would have been crucial for evading predators and navigating the diverse terrain of its habitat. Its senses, while not fully understood, likely played a crucial role in its survival and ability to find food.

It is possible that it had a significant impact on the vegetation of its habitat. It may have played a role in shaping the landscape around it, perhaps through its feeding habits or its movements through the environment. This dinosaur, like many others, was not just a part of its ecosystem but an active participant in shaping it.

Not much is known about its social behavior but it’s fascinating to speculate. Was the Elaphrosaurus a solitary creature, or did it move in herds? How did it interact with other species? These are questions that continue to intrigue paleontologists and dinosaur enthusiasts alike.

Interesting Points about Elaphrosaurus

  1. Despite being a theropod, a group primarily composed of carnivores, the Elaphrosaurus was an herbivore or omnivore.
  2. This was a swift and agile dinosaur, as suggested by its name, which means “light-footed lizard”.
  3. Fossils have been discovered in various locations, including Tanzania, Africa, Morocco, and the United States (Wyoming).
  4. It lived during the Late Jurassic period in a time when the earth was teeming with a diverse array of dinosaur species.
  5. The first discovery was made in 1910 and it was later described by Werner Janensch in 1920.

Contemporary Dinosaurs

In the vast expanse of prehistoric time, this unique creature found itself in the company of a diverse array of contemporaries. Among them were the Kentrosaurus, Diplodocus, Allosaurus, and Stegosaurus, each playing their own part in the intricate ballet of survival that unfolded in this ancient world.

The Kentrosaurus, smaller yet no less formidable, could have been a frequent sight for our Elaphrosaurus. Their potential interactions paint a vivid picture of the dynamics of this prehistoric ecosystem. The Elaphrosaurus might have seen the young or weak Kentrosaurus not as a competitor, but as a potential meal–leading to a tense relationship between the two.

The Diplodocus was a giant among dinosaurs, and the Allosaurus was a large and fearsome predator. They add another layer of complexity to this ancient world. The Elaphrosaurus, while not as large as the Diplodocus or as ferocious as the Allosaurus, would have had to navigate its existence around these titanic beings. The presence of these larger dinosaurs could have influenced the hunting patterns and behavior of the Elaphrosaurus by pushing it to adapt and evolve.

Lastly, the Stegosaurus and its iconic plates and spikes would have been a part of this diverse ensemble. The Elaphrosaurus might have had to contend with this well-armored herbivore for resources, adding another dimension to its survival strategy. This intricate interplay of species–each with their own roles and relationships–underscores the dynamic and ever-changing nature of life in the time of dinosaurs.

List Of All Dinosaurs

We have created a list of all dinosaurs we have covered here, sorted across the seven main groups of dinosaurs. We also include information about their type of diet, (omnivore, herbivore or carnivore) and the time they lived.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the name mean?

The name comes from the Greek words “elaphros“, meaning ‘light to bear’ or ‘light-footed’, and “sauros“, meaning ‘lizard’. This name is a nod to its presumed high running speed.

When did it live?

The Elaphrosaurus lived during the Late Jurassic period, specifically from the Late Kimmeridgian to the Early/Lower Cenomanian epoch. This places its existence between 155.7 and 93.5 million years ago.

Where were its fossils found?

The first fossils were discovered in Tanzania, Africa. Later finds have been made in Morocco and the United States (Wyoming).

What did it eat?

Despite being a member of the theropoda group, which is primarily composed of carnivorous dinosaurs, the Elaphrosaurus was likely an herbivore or omnivore.

How big was this dinosaur?

It was a sizable creature, measuring approximately 6.2 meters in length. However, its weight is not well-documented and estimates vary.

How did it move?

This was a bipedal creature, moving swiftly on its two hind legs.


Article last fact-checked: Joey Arboleda, 06-11-2023

Featured Image Credit: FunkMonk (Michael B. H.), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons