Not every dinosaur was a slobbering, bucktoothed meat-eater or a squat, barrel-chested plant-eater. Some were as adorable as a newborn puppy or kitten. Though that has a lot to do with how these adorable dinosaurs have been rendered by modern “paleo-artists”). Ten real-life dinosaurs that could have graced the front of a Jurassic Hallmark card can be found in the gallery below.
Triceratops and Pentaceratops were related to Chaoyangsaurus in a distant evolutionary lineage. With a diet of leaves and nuts, Chaoyangsaurus may have been able to swim like many other “basal” ceratopsians of the late Jurassic or early Cretaceous periods (which may explain that structure on the back of its tail).
While Brachiosaurus and Apatosaurus weighed as much as 20 or 30 tons, Europasaurus only weighed between 1,000 and 2,000 pounds, making it the smallest sauropod ever discovered. Why was Europasaurus so diminutive and, dare I say, cute? Plant-eating dinosaurs are thought to have evolved down in size because of their limited food supply. The carnivorous dinosaurs living in the area were also smaller than the plant-eating dinosaurs.
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One of those dinosaur’s cuteness is directly proportional to the tastes of the artist who is drawing it. It’s possible that Gigantoraptor had long, tufted feathers (cute) or gnarly, abrasive bristles (creepy) on its body (not so cute). The cuteness of the two-ton Oviraptor relative Gigantoraptor depends on whether it was a vegetarian or occasionally dined on small mammals. However, it was one of the largest feathered dinosaurs to have ever existed in prehistoric times.
Leaellynasaura, a human-sized ornithopod from the middle of the Cretaceous period of Australia, was as adorable as its name is difficult to pronounce (much less spell). As a result of its habitat’s year-round darkness, this dinosaur’s large eyes were one of its most endearing features. Leaellynasaura was named after an 8-year-old daughter of the Australian paleontologist Patricia Vickers-Rich, who discovered it.
Limusaurus was like Ferdinand, the gentle bull, to other meat-eating dinosaurs. Asian dinosaurs like Yangchuanosaurus and Szechuanosaurus are known for their fearsome snouts. But this one may have been a vegetarian with a long, tapered, toothless snout. It’s easy to picture the 75-pound Limusaurus plodding along in a field, dodging the taunts of its theropod relatives while munching on dandelions.
Early Cretaceous China had a tiny feathered dinosaur called Mei (Chinese for “sound asleep”) that was closely related to Troodon, a much larger theropod. The discovery of Mei’s lone fossil specimen, which was discovered curled up in a ball with its tail wrapped around its body and its head tucked under one of its arms, will break your heart. About 140 million years ago, a sudden sandstorm buried this sleeping hatchling in the sand.
After Mei (the previous slide’s shortest dinosaur name), we arrive at a name that’s as adorable as ever. A five-pound pachycephalosaurus known as Micropachycephalosaurus, which means “tiny thick-headed lizard” in Greek, roamed late Cretaceous Asia about 80 million years ago. So even though it’s hard to imagine two Micropachycephalosaurus males headbutting each other, wouldn’t it be adorable?
No, its name isn’t a reference to Minme, Dr. Evil’s tiny doppelganger in the Austin Powers movies. Minmi was a tiny ankylosaur, measuring only 10 feet long and weighing between 500 and 1,000 pounds. What makes this Australian dinosaur adorable is that it had a smaller brain than its body size than most of its armored breed. Minmi is the Cretaceous version of Baby Huey because ankylosaurs weren’t exactly the most intelligent dinosaurs.
Even though it’s a relative of Therizinosaurus, Nothronychus gets the most attention. Because of its Big Bird-like appearance, long, tapered front claws, and presumed herbivorous diet (long, narrow snout, and prominent pot belly). This is the first therizinosaurus ever discovered outside of Asia. And it’s possible that some larger North American dinosaurs visiting Mongolia 80 million years ago brought it back with them as a pet.
One of the earliest prosauropods, Unaysaurus was a plant-eating, bipedal dinosaur. They were similar to the sauropods that walked the Earth millions of years later, but it was never discovered. In comparison to other prosauropods of its genus, Unaysaurus was a gentle and non-aggressive creature. Worthy of its own television series if they had been around in the late Triassic period.
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