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The skull of Yinlong (Wikimedia Commons)


Yinlong (Chinese for "hidden dragon"); pronounced YIN-long


Woodlands of Asia

Historical Period:

Late Jurassic (160-155 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 4 feet long and 20 pounds



Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; relatively broad head


About Yinlong:

The name Yinlong ("hidden dragon") is something of an inside joke: the fossils of this dinosaur were found in the part of China where the epic movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was filmed. Yinlong's claim to fame is that it's the oldest ceratopsian dinosaur yet identified, a tiny, late Jurassic precursor of much bigger horned dinosaurs of the late Cretaceous period like Triceratops and Centrosaurus. Tantalizingly, the fossils of Yinlong bear some resemblance to those of Heterodontosaurus, a clue that the first ceratopsians evolved from equally small ornithopods about 160 million years ago. (By the way, Yinlong was portrayed in a National Geographic special as prey for the tiny tyrannosaur Guanlong, though direct evidence for this is lacking.)

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