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Eocursor (meaning "dawn runner") is an ornithischian dinosaur from the Early Jurassic of South Africa. The genus was described in 2007 by Richard J. Butler, Roger M. H. Smith, and David B. Norman. Eocursor is generally considered to be one of the earliest ornithischians.

Art impression of Eocursor parvus

Description[]

Eocursor was a lightly built bipedal dinosaur with an estimated length of about 1 m (3 ft). The general aspect of the animal resembles that of the early Jurassic ornithischians such as Lesothosaurus and Scutellosaurus. Its large hands resembled those of the Heterodontosauridae, a clade of primitive ornithischians. The morphology of the triangular teeth, not unlike those of an iguana, suggests partial herbivory. The tibia was significantly longer than the femur, indicating it was a swift runner.

Discovery and naming[]

In 1993, the holotype specimen of Eocursor (SAM-PK-K8025) was collected from the Upper Elliot Formation in Free State, South Africa. The skeleton, although only partially complete, is one of the best-preserved early ornithischian skeletons ever found. The fossils include a partial skeleton: portions of the skull, lower jaw, vertebrae, and limbs.

In June 2007, the fossils were formally described by an international team of paleontologists: Richard Butler of the Natural History Museum, London, and the University of Cambridge, David Norman of the University of Cambridge, and Roger M. H. Smith of the Iziko South African Museum. The fossils were named Eocursor parvus, from the Greek word eos (meaning "dawn"), and the Latin words cursor (meaning "runner") and parvus ("little"), "in reference to the early occurrence of this ornithischian, its apparent locomotory abilities and its small size

Classification[]

Eocursor was an early ornithischian, one of the first so-called "bird-hipped" dinosaurs, a group which would eventually give rise to animals such as Stegosaurus, Triceratops, and Iguanodon. Butler et al. consider Eocursor more primitive than Lesothosaurus and Heterodontosauridae, but more derived than the Pisanosaurus, as a basal ornithischian forming a sister clade of Genasauria.

Gallery[]

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