Cedrorestes: Cedar Mountain’s Early Cretaceous Herbivore

Cedrorestes: Cedar Mountain’s Early Cretaceous Herbivore

In the serene landscapes of what is now Utah, a unique dinosaur once thrived. Cedrorestes, meaning “Cedar Mountain Dweller,” roamed the region during the Early Cretaceous Period, approximately 139.8 to 132.9 million years ago. This herbivorous dinosaur, a member of the Styracosterna, offers a fascinating glimpse into the Cretaceous ecosystems of North America.

Discovered in the Yellow Cat Member of the Cedar Mountain Formation, Cedrorestes was first unearthed by dedicated volunteers from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science in 2001. The discovery and subsequent description of this dinosaur by David Gilpin, Tony DiCroce and Kenneth Carpenter in 2006 have provided valuable insights into the diversity and evolution of early ornithopods. Let’s delve into the world of Cedrorestes, exploring its origins, physical characteristics, and the environment it once inhabited.

Cedrorestes Key Facts

Meaning of nameCedar Mountain Dweller
Type SpeciesCedrorestes crichtoni
When it Lived139.8 to 132.9 MYA
PeriodEarly Cretaceous
Length20 to 23 feet
Height6.5 to 8.0 feet at the hips
Weight2.200 to 3.300 pounds
MobilityMoved on two legs or all four
First Discovery2001 by volunteers ofcthe Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Described by2006 by David Gilpin, Tony DiCroce and Kenneth Carpenter
HolotypeDMNH 47994
Location of first findCedar Mountain Formation, Utah

Cedrorestes Origins, Taxonomy and Timeline

The name Cedrorestes, translating to “Cedar Mountain Dweller,” is derived from the Latin word “cedrus,” meaning cedar, and the Greek “oros,” meaning mountain, reflecting the Cedar Mountain Formation where it was found. The suffix “-etes,” meaning dweller, underscores its habitat association. This name beautifully captures the essence of this dinosaur’s environment and discovery location. The name species name crichtoni honors Michael Crichton, the renowned author of “Jurassic Park,” for his contributions to popularizing paleontology.

Cedrorestes: Cedar Mountain's Early Cretaceous Herbivore. Discover Cedrorestes, an herbivorous dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous Period, found in Utah's Cedar Mountain Formation. Learn about its life and times.

Belonging to the Ornithopoda and the Styracosterna, Cedrorestes is related to other well-known duck-billed dinosaurs, though it is more primitive in comparison.

Cedrorestes thrived during the Early Cretaceous Period, specifically in the Valanginian, which spans from 139.8 to 132.9 million years ago. This timeline places Cedrorestes in an era of significant evolutionary development, where diverse dinosaur species were emerging and adapting to their environments. Understanding the timeline of Cedrorestes helps us appreciate the broader context of dinosaur evolution during the Early Cretaceous.

Discovery & Fossil Evidence

Left ilium of Cedrorestes crichtoni (DMNH 47994, holotype).
Left ilium of Cedrorestes crichtoni (DMNH 47994, holotype).
Andrew T. McDonald, James I. Kirkland, Donald D. DeBlieux, Scott K. Madsen, Jennifer Cavin, Andrew R. C. Milner, Lukas Panzarin, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

The discovery of Cedrorestes occurred in 2001 within the top of the Yellow Cat Member of the Cedar Mountain Formation in east-central Utah. Volunteers from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science unearthed the holotype specimen, DMNH 47994, which included partial skeletal remains. These remains provided crucial information about the dinosaur’s physical structure and classification.

Subsequent studies and analyses, led by paleontologists David Gilpin, Tony DiCroce and Kenneth Carpenter, resulted in the formal description of Cedrorestes in 2006. Despite the limited number of specimens, the available fossils have been invaluable in piecing together the anatomy and lifestyle of this early ornithopods. The preservation quality of these fossils has enabled detailed studies of its skeletal features.

Notably, the fossils of Cedrorestes include parts of the vertebral column, limbs, and other skeletal fragments. These remains offer a glimpse into the dinosaur’s anatomy, revealing key characteristics that distinguish it from other ornithopods. The fossil evidence underscores the importance of the Cedar Mountain Formation as a rich source of Early Cretaceous dinosaur fossils.

Cedrorestes Size and Description

Cedrorestes was a moderately sized herbivorous dinosaur characterized by its distinctive body structure. Its elongated body and robust limbs suggest an animal well-adapted to a terrestrial lifestyle, capable of moving on both two legs and all four, depending on its activity. The head was likely narrow with a beak-like mouth, adapted for feeding on a variety of plant material.

The vertebral column of Cedrorestes indicates a strong, flexible spine, supporting its sizeable body. Its forelimbs, though shorter than the hind limbs, were sturdy and capable, likely aiding in foraging and stability. The tail was long and muscular, providing balance and support, essential for its locomotion. While direct evidence of skin is not available, it is presumed to have been covered in scales, similar to other ornithopods.

Size and Weight of Type Species

Diagram depicting the currently named Dinosauria from the Early Cretaceous Cedar Mountain Formation of Utah.
Diagram depicting the currently named Dinosauria from the Early Cretaceous Cedar Mountain Formation of Utah.
PaleoNeolitic, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Cedrorestes crichtoni is estimated to have reached lengths of 20.0 to 23.0 feet and heights of 6.5 to 8.0 feet at the hips. This sizable herbivore weighed between 2,200.0 to 3,300.0 pounds, making it a substantial presence in its ecosystem. Its physical dimensions suggest a dinosaur capable of fending off smaller predators and competing effectively for resources.

Different studies have provided varying size estimates, but the consensus places Cedrorestes firmly within the mid-sized range for ornithopods. Its robust build and significant weight would have required a substantial amount of vegetation to sustain its energy needs, indicating a highly effective foraging capability. The large size also implies a degree of social behavior, potentially living in groups for protection and foraging efficiency.

The size and weight estimates, while based on partial remains, offer a reliable picture of Cedrorestes’ physical stature. These measurements are crucial for understanding its role in the ecosystem, its interactions with other species, and its survival strategies. The impressive size of Cedrorestes underscores its adaptation to the environment of the Early Cretaceous.

The Dinosaur in Detail

Cedrorestes possessed several unique features that set it apart from other dinosaurs of its time. One of the most distinctive traits was its ability to move both bipedally and quadrupedally. This versatility in locomotion allowed it to forage for food efficiently and evade predators with greater agility. Its robust limbs and strong musculature supported this dual mode of movement, highlighting its adaptability.

The dental structure of Cedrorestes was specialized for its herbivorous diet. It had a beak-like mouth for cropping plants, and its teeth were adapted for grinding and processing tough vegetation. This dental arrangement indicates a diet consisting of a variety of plant materials, from low-lying ferns to higher shrubs, reflecting its versatile feeding habits.

Furthermore, Cedrorestes had a well-developed sensory system. Its keen sense of smell and sharp vision would have been crucial for detecting predators and locating food sources. The combination of these sensory adaptations and its physical traits enabled Cedrorestes to thrive in the diverse environments of the Early Cretaceous. These features collectively underscore the dinosaur’s evolutionary success and its niche within the Cretaceous ecosystem.

Contemporary Dinosaurs

During the Early Cretaceous, Cedrorestes shared its environment with several other notable dinosaurs, creating a vibrant and competitive ecosystem. Among these contemporaries were Moabosaurus, Hippodraco, Iguanacolossus, and Falcarius, each contributing to the dynamic interactions within their habitat.

Moabosaurus, a large sauropod, coexisted with Cedrorestes in the Cedar Mountain Formation. Its massive size and long neck allowed it to reach vegetation that smaller herbivores could not access. This difference in feeding strategies reduced direct competition for food, allowing both species to coexist relatively peacefully. Moabosaurus’s presence added to the diversity of herbivorous dinosaurs in the region.

Hippodraco, another ornithopod, was a potential competitor for resources with Cedrorestes. Both dinosaurs had similar feeding habits, relying on the abundant plant life of the Early Cretaceous. However, differences in size and foraging behavior might have allowed these two herbivores to occupy slightly different ecological niches, minimizing direct competition and promoting biodiversity.

Iguanacolossus, a large herbivore, also shared the landscape with Cedrorestes. Its formidable size and strength made it a dominant presence among the herbivorous dinosaurs. Iguanacolossus likely fed on higher vegetation that smaller dinosaurs couldn’t reach. This feeding strategy complemented that of Cedrorestes, which foraged on lower and mid-level vegetation, allowing these two herbivores to coexist and utilize different parts of the same ecosystem without excessive competition.

Falcarius, a smaller therozinosaur theropod, adds another layer of complexity to this ancient ecosystem. Unlike the herbivorous Cedrorestes, Falcarius was likely omnivorous, feeding on plants, small animals, and possibly carrion. The presence of Falcarius indicates a dynamic food web where multiple feeding strategies coexisted. Its interactions with Cedrorestes might have been limited to scavenging opportunities or occasional encounters at shared feeding grounds.

Interesting Points about Cedrorestes

Cedrorestes in its Natural Habitat

Cedrorestes inhabited the lush, varied landscapes of the Early Cretaceous Period. The climate during this time was generally warm and temperate, with distinct wet and dry seasons that influenced the types of vegetation and the availability of water sources. The Cedar Mountain Formation, where Cedrorestes was found, was characterized by a mix of floodplains, forests, and river systems, providing a rich environment for diverse plant and animal life.

As a herbivore, Cedrorestes primarily fed on the abundant vegetation. Its beak-like mouth and specialized teeth allowed it to process a wide variety of plants, including ferns, cycads, and conifers. The dinosaur’s ability to move on both two legs and four legs gave it flexibility in foraging, enabling it to reach different types of plant material depending on its immediate needs and surroundings.

Cedrorestes was likely a social creature, possibly living in herds for protection and cooperative foraging. This social behavior would have helped individuals avoid predators and increase their foraging efficiency. The dinosaur’s sensory adaptations, such as keen vision and a strong sense of smell, would have been essential for detecting predators and locating food. These adaptations not only ensured its survival but also allowed it to thrive and play a significant role in shaping its ecosystem.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does Cedrorestes mean?

Cedrorestes means “Cedar Mountain Dweller,” named after the Cedar Mountain Formation where it was discovered.

When did Cedrorestes live?

Cedrorestes lived during the Early Cretaceous Period, approximately 139.8 to 132.9 million years ago.

What kind of dinosaur was Cedrorestes?

Cedrorestes was an herbivorous Ornithopoda belonging to the Styracosterna.

Where were Cedrorestes fossils found?

The fossils of Cedrorestes were found in the Yellow Cat Member of the Cedar Mountain Formation in east-central Utah.

How big was Cedrorestes?

Cedrorestes was about 20.0 to 23.0 feet long, 6.5 to 8.0 feet tall at the hips, and weighed between 2,200.0 to 3,300.0 pounds.

What did Cedrorestes eat?

Cedrorestes was an herbivore, feeding on a variety of plant materials available in its environment.


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

This article was last fact checked: Joey Arboleda, 06-07-2024

Featured Image Credit: dinosaurpictures.org

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