The genus Hypsilophodon belongs to the ornitischian dinosaurs that lived approximately 120 million years ago, at the beginning of the Cretaceous Period.
This genus of dinosaur consists of two species, the one called Hypsilophodon foxii and the species H. wielandi, found later; although different studies found that both species were actually the same, the Hypsilophodon foxii.
Hypsilophodon maintains some of the characteristics of basal ornitisks, such as: long hind legs and pronounced bipedalism. Something very different from what we find in other contemporary ornitisks such as the Iguanodon or the Camptosaurus.
But read on and get to know this Cretaceous dinosaur in more detail.
Taxonomy of the Hypsilophodon
- The specimen belongs to the Animalia kingdom.
- This dinosaur corresponds to the phylum Chordata.
- Its class is Sauropsida.
- The animal belongs to the super-order called Dinosauria.
- Its order is called Ornithischia.
- The Hypsilophodon corresponds to the suborder designated Neornithischia.
- It is part of the suborder Ornithopoda.
- It is located within the family called Hypsilophodontidae.
- Its genus is Hypsilophodon.
- Discovery of Hypsilophodon
the name Hypsilophodon means “protruding teeth” or “chisel teeth” and was first found in 1849, although it was not until 1870 that Thomas Henry Huxley described and documented this new species.
In 1979 Peter Galton and James A. Jensen would release the supposed second species of Hypsilophodon they found and would name it H. wielandi.
But as we mentioned at the beginning it would be shown later that both species are the same.
The remains of Hypsilophodon have been found in Europe, in four countries in particular: Spain, France, England and Romania.
In fact, where most fossils of it have been found is a small island in the south of England, known as the Isle of Wight.
To date, numerous fossils have been found, including three almost complete specimens, which have helped greatly in getting to know him.
In 1882 he was considered to be a tree kangaroo that could climb up trees.
Obviously this theory was dismissed after an exhaustive study in 1974.
Characteristics of the Hypsilophodon
It was not a dinosaur that attracted attention precisely because of its enormous size, quite the contrary, as this one was about two and a half meters long, that is, from the snout to the end of the tail; with a height of about 115 – 120 centimeters and weighing about 70 kilos.
It is believed that thanks to its bone structure, this dinosaur could have been a great runner, even over long distances, and it is estimated that it could reach up to 50 km/hour.
It is supposed that when running he would nail the claws of the four toes that formed his feet to the ground; this fact besides helping him to hold on to the ground and avoid falls would serve to widen the support base on the ground.
On the contrary, the upper extremities were shorter and he would not use them to move and they would have curiously 5 fingers, but also provided with powerful claws.
These short arms would have been used to hold the branches and possibly to grab fruit, pull the leaves off and eat them.
It has a large and short head, which gives the sensation of being slightly elongated when it ends with a beak, where the most striking thing here is that it has teeth, which together with the beak would help it to pull out the most tender leaves, as well as the roots.
Another feature of its skull that attracts a lot of attention is its large, enormous corneas and eyes.
It has small plates covering the torso area, which are very thin and do not represent a strong and resistant armor that would serve as protection against predators.
These tiny plates would actually be a slight protection of the vital organs, something similar to what happened to other specimens such as the Thescelosaurus, in which these plates also served the function of protection, although not very efficiently.
Behavior and feeding of the Hypsilophodon
Like all dinosaurs, the Hypsilophodon was also oviparous and it is also known that it took care of its eggs to protect them from predators thanks to a nest that was found with fossilized eggs inside it.
It was a herbivorous dinosaur with the curiosity that it had front teeth and that these were also triangular; something that for example would not happen with the rest of herbivores of the time, since they lacked front teeth.
In total the hypsilophodon had 30 teeth that served to tear and crush the leaves of the low trees; it is also believed that these teeth were self-sharpening thanks to the vegetation they consumed.
And as we have said, their diet was based on roots, fruits and small plants, bushes, etc.
Its food base reminds us very much of that of the deer, which is why at some point it has been referred to as “the Mesozoic deer”.
Another characteristic of the Hypsilophodon relative to its diet is that it had a kind of bag on its cheeks where it could accumulate the herbs and leaves that it cut up to be chewed and swallowed later.
Something similar to what hamsters have and do today when they are eating.
As for his behaviour, besides taking care of his eggs, it is also known that he lived in herds, where there was, it is supposed, a dominant male that would lead the group; and as in all groups there would be some rules and behaviours to follow for the good of all the individuals of the herd.
A curiosity about Hypsilophodon
Surely, as you were reading the description of the hypsilopodon, you must have stopped to think that in some moments we have described characteristics of a much more prehistoric animal and not of one of the last dinosaurs, as it would correspond to the time to which our protagonist belongs.
But curiously enough, this dinosaur kept characteristics from its ancestors such as:
The five fingers on its upper limbs and the four fingers on its lower limbs.
The triangular teeth in the front part of the jaw.
But it was a very well adapted dinosaur at all times and times when it existed hence no evolution has been seen in the species to exist.