Abydosaurus: An Early Cretaceous Herbivore

Sauropods have always existed in the public mind as the quintessential herbivorous dinosaur. Among these herbivorous giants roaming our planet during the Early Cretaceous was the Abydosaurus. Take a journey through millions of years to discover the unique features and fascinating history that make this dinosaur a compelling subject of study.

Key Facts

Meaning of nameAbydos lizard
Etymology of nameFrom Abydos, Egypt +‎ sauros (lizard/reptile)
Types SpeciesAbydosaurus mcintoshi
When it Lived99.6 to 93.5 MYA
Period & TimeEarly Cretaceous
EpochEarly/Lower Cenomanian
Length50.0 ft
Heightshoulder height 18.0 ft
Weight9.9 to 19.8 tons
MobilityMoved on all four
First Discovery2010 by Daniel Chure
Location of the first findUtah, USA
First described by2010 by Daniel Chure, Brooks Britt, John Whitlock and Jeffrey Wilson
HolotypeDINO 16488

Abydosaurus Origins: Taxonomy, Timeline, and Discovery

The Abydosaurus, whose name translates to ‘Abydos lizard,’ owes its moniker to the city of Abydos in Egypt. The city is known for its mythological significance as the place where the head and neck of the Egyptian god Osiris were said to be buried. This connection is particularly fitting as the Abydosaurus was first discovered through skull and neck fossils.

Belonging to the Sauropod group, the Abydosaurus is a member of the Brachiosaurid family. Its type species is Abydosaurus McIntosh. This classification places it among the long-necked, herbivorous dinosaurs that were prevalent throughout the Mesozoic Era.

Its timeline begins in the Early Cretaceous period, specifically the Early/Lower Cenomanian epoch. This places its existence between 99.6 and 93.5 million years ago, a time when the Earth was undergoing significant changes in climate and geography.

The Abydosaurus is a relatively recent discovery in the field of paleontology. Daniel Chure discovered the first fossils in Utah, USA, in 2010. Daniel Chure, Brooks Britt, John Whitlock, and Jeffrey Wilson subsequently described the dinosaur, serving as its official introduction to the scientific community.

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Fossil Evidence

The discovery of Abydosaurus was a significant event in paleontology. Despite its name based in Egypt, the first fossils were found in Utah, USA and included a nearly complete skull and lower jaws, along with the first four neck vertebrae. This was a rare find, as sauropod skulls are often not preserved due to their delicate structure.

In addition to the skull and neck vertebrae, the site yielded an abundance of other fossils. These included partial skulls from three additional individuals, a partial hip and associated tail vertebrae, a shoulder blade, an upper arm bone, and hand bones. These fossils were found in a sandstone bed at the base of the Mussentuchit Member of the Cedar Mountain Formation, near the old visitor center of the Dinosaur National Monument.

The discovery of these fossils has provided invaluable insights into this genus and other sauropods of the Late Cretaceous Period. The preservation of the fossils, particularly the skull and neck vertebrae, has allowed for a detailed study of the dinosaur’s physical characteristics and lifestyle.

Abydosaurus Size and Description

The Abydosaurus, like other members of the Sauropod group, was a large, long-necked dinosaur. Its physical characteristics and lifestyle have been pieced together through the study of its fossils in order to provide a fascinating glimpse into its existence during the Late Cretaceous period.

Short description of Abydosaurus

The Abydosaurus was a quadrupedal dinosaur, moving on all four limbs. Its body structure was typical of sauropods, with a long neck and tail and a relatively small head. The skull was uniquely preserved, revealing narrow teeth–a feature that sets it apart from earlier brachiosaurids, which had broader teeth. The dinosaur’s limbs were robust to support its large body and its tail likely served as a counterbalance to its long neck.

Size and Weight of Type Species

The exact size and weight of the Abydosaurus are not definitively known, as complete fossils have not been found. However, based on the fossils that have been discovered and comparisons with other sauropods, it can be inferred that this was a large dinosaur. Its size would have been comparable to other members of the Brachiosaurid family, with its long neck and tail contributing to its overall length. Estimated place its weight anywhere between 9.9 and 19.8 tons with a length of up to 50 feet and a shoulder height of around 18 feet.

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The Dinosaur in Detail

The Abydosaurus, like all creatures, was a product of its environment that adapted and evolved to survive in the Early Cretaceous period. Its unique features reflect its adaptability and survival instincts, providing its own interesting study of evolution.

One of the distinguishing features of the Abydosaurus is its narrow teeth. This is a departure from earlier brachiosaurids, which had broader teeth. In contrast, this dinosaur’s narrow teeth suggest a change in diet or feeding strategy, possibly in response to changes in the environment or available vegetation.

The Abydosaurus is also one of the few sauropods known from skull material. The preservation of its skull has provided invaluable insights into its physical characteristics and lifestyle. The skull reveals relatively small external nares (nostrils), and subtle features of the nasal and maxillary bones, setting it apart from other sauropods.

The Abydosaurus in its Natural Habitat and Environment

The Abydosaurus lived during the Early Cretaceous period, a time of significant changes in climate and geography. At this time, the breakup of Pangaea was leading towards the modern configuration of continents but North America was not quite as it is in the present day. Our dinosaur would have been found on the western half of the continent, known as Laramidia. The environment it inhabited would have been diverse, with a range of vegetation to support its herbivorous diet.

As an herbivore, the Abydosaurus would have fed on a variety of plants. Its long neck would have allowed it to reach vegetation at various heights, from low-lying shrubs to taller trees. The narrow teeth suggest a preference for certain types of vegetation, possibly those that are tougher or more fibrous.

Like other sauropods, the Abydosaurus was a quadruped that moved on all four limbs. This would have provided much-needed stability to support its large body as it navigated its environment. Its long tail would have served as a counterbalance, aiding in locomotion and possibly serving as a defensive tool against predators.

Interesting Points about Abydosaurus

  1. The Abydosaurus is one of the few sauropods known from skull material, providing unique insights into its physical characteristics and lifestyle.
  2. The dinosaur’s name, ‘Abydos lizard,’ is a reference to the city of Abydos in Egypt, known for its mythological significance.
  3. It had narrow teeth, a departure from earlier brachiosaurids which had broader teeth.
  4. The first fossils of the Abydosaurus were discovered in 2010 in Utah, USA.
  5. It lived during the Early Cretaceous period, a time of significant changes in climate and geography.

Contemporary Dinosaurs

Laramidian dinosaurs of the Early Cretaceous showcase a wide variety of adaptations and lifestyles that hint at the dynamic and changing nature of the world at that time. Besides the Abydosaurus, the Acrocanthosaurus, Nodosaurus, Stegosaurus, and Deinonychus could be found in this region. The differences between these dinosaurs demonstrate the diversity of life and the wonders of evolution.

The Acrocanthosaurus, a dinosaur considerably larger than the Abydosaurus, might have posed a significant threat. It’s towering presence and formidable hunting skills could have made it a predator for our main dinosaur. This potential predator-prey relationship paints a vivid picture of the challenges our herbivore might have faced, adding a layer of complexity to its existence.

On the other hand, the Nodosaurus and Stegosaurus–both herbivores as well–likely had a different kind of interaction with our main dinosaur. They might have been competitors for the same plant resources, yet their significantly different body structures and feeding habits suggest they could coexist without direct conflict. The presence of these contemporaries provides a glimpse into the diverse herbivorous community that the Abydosaurus was part of.

Lastly, the Deinonychus, smaller but agile and potentially dangerous, adds another dimension to the Abydosaurus’ world. While not a direct threat due to its smaller size, the Deinonychus could have been a nuisance, perhaps challenging the Abydosaurus in unexpected ways. This dynamic further illustrates the intricate web of relationships that characterized the Abydosaurus’ environment.

In this rich and diverse ecosystem, this dinosaur navigated its existence, interacting with its contemporaries in ways that shaped its life. Each contemporary dinosaur had its own characteristics that allowed it to play a role in defining the world of the Abydosaurus, contributing to the fascinating story of its life.

Featured Image Credit: Nobu Tamura, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


First complete sauropod dinosaur skull from the Cretaceous of the Americas and the evolution of sauropod dentition – PMC


Abydosaurus: New dinosaur discovered head-first, for a change – BYU News

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. 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, 06-08-2023