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Othnielia (North American Museum of Ancient Life)


Othnielia (after the 19th-century paleontologist Othniel C. Marsh); pronounced oth-nee-ELL-ee-ah


Plains of western North America

Historical Period:

Late Jurassic (155-145 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 4 feet long and 50 pounds



Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; thin legs; long, stiff tail


About Othnielia:

The slim, fast, two-legged Othnielia was named after the famous paleontologist Othniel C. Marsh--not by Marsh himself (who lived in the 19th century), but by a tribute-paying paleontologist in 1977. (Oddly, Othnielia is very similar to Drinker, another small, Jurassic plant-eater named after Marsh's arch-nemesis Edward Drinker Cope.) In many ways, Othnielia was a typical ornithopod of the late Jurassic period. This dinosaur may have lived in herds, and it certainly figured on the dinner menu of the larger, carnivorous theropods of its day--which goes a long way toward explaining its presumed speed and agility.


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