It looked like a dinosaur, ran like a dinosaur, and probably fed like a dinosaur, too—but Effigia was no dinosaur. This Triassic reptile belonged to the same part of the reptile family tree as crocodiles and alligators but evolved a body shape remarkably similar to that of the ostrich dinosaurs (ornithomimids), which were not to appear until 80 million years later.
■ When: 210 million years ago (Late Triassic)
■ Fossil location: USA
■ Habitat: Woodlands of western N. America
■ Length: 5–10 ft (1.5–3 m)
■ Diet: Unknown but possibly omnivorous
Effigia walked on its hind legs, holding up its long tail for balance, and had very tiny arms. It had large eyes and a small, birdlike skull. Reptiles like Effigia were common in the Late Triassic but seem to have been killed by a change in climate caused by volcanic eruptions.
WHO NEEDS TEETH?
Effigia had a beak but no teeth, which makes its diet hard to guess. Perhaps it used its beak to crack pine seeds or eggs. It may also have preyed on small animals.
LIKE A DINOSAUR
Effigia shared many features with dinosaurs, from large eyes and small arms to a toothless beak. Its ankles, however, were much more like those of a crocodile.
DID YOU KNOW…?
Effigia (which means “ghost” in Greek) was named after the Ghost Ranch Quarry in New Mexico, where its fossil was found in 1947. Effigia has lived up to its name—the fossil lay hidden from sight for nearly 60 years, trapped inside an unopened slab of rock in an American museum. That is, until 2006, when the rock was cracked open and Effigia was discovered.