Struthiomimus – Fossils Tell a Tale

Struthiomimus Full Skeleton

Othniel Charles Marsh first discovered Struthiomimus in the late 1800s, and subsequent fossils were discovered in the same location in the early 1900s. Throughout the 20th century, Struthiomimus would undergo many changes to classification as fossils of varying degrees of completion were found throughout Canada, with some of the most important fossils coming from Alberta. Finally, in 1972, the dinosaur was classified as it is today, as its own unique genus.

The first Struthiomimus fossils date back to around 78 million years ago, in the late Cretaceous Period. At this time, North America was positioned similarly to how it is today, with one big difference: the Western Interior Seaway. This was a wide but relatively shallow channel which divided North America in half vertically, on the line of Alberta to Texas. This created two landmasses, Laramidia to the West and Appalachia to the East. Struthiomimus would have lived in Laramidia and the Seaway wouldn’t have totally closed up until nearly the end of their lifetime.

Sea levels were high during the Cretaceous, which meant that the continents, while in the right places, were smaller. The Earth was covered only about 18% with land, as opposed to around 28% today. The climate was warm and tropical, a phenomenon which was worldwide thanks to volcanic activity at the sea floors, and with the Rocky Mountains just being formed, there were plenty of streams and rivers which washed sediments over the bodies of dinosaurs and plants, preserving them well enough to fossilize.

 

Struthiomimus to Human SizeStruthiomimus was a very fast dinosaur. Their legs were strong like an ostrich (the name “Struthiomimus” means “ostrich mimic”) and it is believed that they could run at speeds of up to 40 miles an hour. These strong back legs provided Struthiomimus with their main defenses against predators: speed and possibly the ability to claw at attackers with a claw on their feet. They weighed a little over 300 pounds, nearly 15 feet from nose to tail, and, in a running position, would have been less than five feet tall. Overall, definitely not one of the largest dinosaurs to ever live but not as small as many raptors were.

 

Struthiomimus DrawingBecause there have been found adundant fossils, scientists believe that Struthiomimus was either a herbivore or an omnivore, as in any ecosystem there are more of those animals than predators. Some believe that they could have been filter feeders, scooping fish out of the water with their toothless beaks. Because most other members of their family were carnivores, it is possible but unlikely that Struthiomimus was also a carnivore.

 

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