NOTE: This article was originally posted on April 8, 2020. It was substantially updated on December 14, 2022.

This is Dryosaurus, a 10 foot long plant-eating ornithopod dinosaur from the Late Jurassic Morrison Formation of western North America, and possibly also from Europe and Africa as well, but that’s debatable.

The fossils of this creature were discovered in Wyoming during the 1870s. In 1894, Prof. Othniel Charles Marsh of Yale University named it Dryosaurus, meaning “oak lizard” in ancient Greek because it was presumed that this creature lived in forested habitats. Dryosaurus is identifiable due to its sub-triangular head which is quite small in proportion with the size of its body, its small hands with short stubby fingers (which makes me wonder just how useful these hands were), and its broad tail.

Since the first specimens were found in Wyoming during the so-called “Bone Wars”, other Dryosaurus fossils have been found in Colorado and Utah. In total, over a dozen specimens have been found, ranging from unhatched embryos to fully-grown adults. The fossils found in Wyoming and Colorado were ascribed to the species D. altus, but the specimens found in Utah were ascribed to a separate species, D. elderae. Additionally, fossils belonging to small ornithopods which have been tentatively ascribed to the genus Dryosaurus have also been found within Portugal. However, this identification is uncertain.

Dryosaurus was a basal iguanodontian. It was identified as such, and differentiated from the less-advanced “hypsilophodont” grade ornithopods which it lived alongside, due to the lack of teeth in the front of its mouth and the lack of a small “dew claw” on the ankle – both of which are features that are present within “hypsilophodonts”.

The drawings that you see below were made on printer paper with No. 2 pencil and Prismacolor color pencils, and quite a bit of touch-up on the computer after they were scanned. I wanted to evoke an image of a reptilian antelope or gazelle, because these animals likely occupied a similar ecological niche on the Late Jurassic savannah.

NOTE: The original drawings dated to 2019 which were posted here were afterwards judged inaccurate and were deleted. They have been replaced by the drawings that you see here.

Dryosaurus altus. © Jason R. Abdale (December 12, 2022).

Keep your pencils sharp, everyone.

Categories: Paleontology, Uncategorized

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1 reply

  1. Very cool! I love the colors. It’s very bright for an herbivore, but it’s very reminiscent of gazelles, and I think it looks good. 🙂 My only critique would be that it’s a tad shrink-wrapped, but if that’s what you were going for then it looks good just as it is. 🙂 Keep up the good work!

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